Rewind: Cochon 555

How many ways can you cook a pig? Last night, five chefs engaged in a friendly whole-hog competition.

For us, the smoky smell of bacon on a Sunday morning makes for a perfect start to the day. Yesterday, we had to wait until 5 PM to get our fix. That’s when scores of Washingtonians swarmed the Mandarin Oriental hotel’s ballroom for Cochon 555, a benefit that’s been traveling around the country since September. The event, intended to raise awareness for Heritage Breed Pigs Nationwide and ICompassion—an organization that works to prevent kidney disease—was a friendly competition among five chefs, who each cooked a local pig. Five California winemakers offered at least two types of wine each.

Photographs by Catherine Andrews. 

The participating chefs—Brian McBride of Blue Duck Tavern, R.J. Cooper of Vidalia, Nicholas Stefanelli of Mio, Jamie Leeds of CommonWealth, and John Manolatos of Cashion’s Eat Place—each received a pig from Virginia’s EcoFriendly Foods last Wednesday. Last night, they served the animals in countless ways, using everything from the head to the feet. Here are some of the porcine highlights:

Most ubiquitous use of pork:
Head cheese, a terrine made from, well, the head of the pig. R.J. Cooper’s version was more like a salami, smooth and sliced thin. Jamie Leeds of CommonWealth put together thicker, more rustic slabs, and Mio’s Nicholas Stefanelli made one that was somewhere in between.

Best use of the whole hog:
How many ways can you cook a pig? If you’re R.J. Cooper, there’s no limit. His five plates included no fewer than 12 incarnations of pig parts, from liver to shoulder to head.

Best breakfast-for-dinner dish:
Cooper served a poached quail egg over grits mixed with bacon and eggs, with a bacon sandwich—smoked bacon flanked by two pieces of raw bacon—on the side. The garnish? Hollandaise sauce made with pork fat. Holy pork!

Favorite Asian-inspired pork dish:
John Manolatos dished out pork confit with pickled vegetables, cilantro, orange mint, and pickled watermelon rind; topped it all with sambal, a spicy Asian sauce; and rolled everything in lettuce leaves.

Best cocktail:
Blue Duck Tavern created bourbon-peach shooters with bacon foam.

Best use of pork as dessert:
Nicholas Stefanelli served a spoonful of bacon ice cream garnished with peanut-butter powder and crumbled bacon bits.

Most delectable garnish:
At the cocktail reception, Cowgirl Creamery added a pork crackling to its plate of cheeses.

More>> Best Bites Blog | Food & Dining | Restaurant Finder