Watch Chow Bella Make Head Cheese With Chef James Porter of Petite Maison in Scottsdale
We've already showed you where you can find some of the most delicious offal in metro Phoenix, but don't worry, the fun doesn't stop there. This week Chow Bella ventured into the kitchen with chef James Porter of Scottsdale's Petite Maison restaurant as they gear up for their annual Halloween Offal Dinner. As always the menu includes head cheese, a classic dish found in cultures all over the world. And we got to help make some.
Lauren Saria Contrary to what the name might suggest, head cheese involves no dairy.
Though the name implies head cheese is, well, a cheese, it's actually a cold cut -- or more accurately, a meat jelly made from an animal head and other body parts like feet and heart. It sounds pretty yucky (trust us, we know) but at its root this dish is about history, tradition and sustainability.
See also: 10 Best Offal Dishes in Metro Phoenix
As chef Porter explains, throughout history head cheese was a way to ensure no part of an animal got wasted.
"If a farmer raised an pig or a cow, he wouldn't just say, 'I want the short ribs,' and throw the rest away," he says.
Lauren Saria Chef James Porter of Petite Maison
And in most other countries, eating only "the beauty cuts" as Porter calls them, would be an unthinkable and wasteful practice. Plus from a culinary standpoint, Porter says doing so overlooks some of the animal's tastiest parts. Body parts that "move around a lot" (like tails, for example) pack a lot of flavor, Porter says, but require more complex preparation than just being thrown on a grill.
Just because Americans don't tend to think of head cheese as typical sandwich meat, doesn't mean it's a foreign idea to everyone else. Many countries' cuisines include a variation of meat terrine. While France calls theirs head cheese, or fromage de tête, Germany calls their similar dish sülze, schwartenmagen or presskopf. You can find other riffs in countries as disparate as Russia, Brazil, Spain and Sweden.