Great news from Aspen, Colo., where most of the country's best chefs have been seriously partying for days at the Food & Wine Classic. Along with that mega-event, the weekend was also the occasion of the fifth annual Grand Cochon competition, in which winners of the wildly popular — and wildly delicious — 10-city Cochon 555 competitions vie for the grand prize.
And this year Angelenos can be proud.
Chef Ray Garcia of Fig restaurant in Santa Monica won the big prize and last night was crowned "King of Porc" for his "Tacos el Ray" menu. That would be huaraches (with shoulder, legs, fatback, serrano, green garlic and huitlacoche), chilaquiles (belly, head, blood, organs, tortilla, egg, jalapeño) and coctel (loin, heart, cueritos, tomato sauce, Saltines).
I so wish I'd been there to taste all that, especially the coctel, which he has billed as his take on pork ceviche. Pork ceviche?
Garcia had some tough competition from nine chefs from nine cities: Seamus Mullen of Tertulia (New York), José Mendin of Pubbelly (Miami), Dustin Valette of Dry Creek Kitchen (Napa), Jennifer Jasinski of Rioja (Denver), Erik Bruner-Yang of Maketto (Washington, D.C.), Mary Dumont of Harvest (Boston), Tim Graham of Travelle (Chicago), Richie Nakano of Hapa Ramen (San Francisco) and Douglas Rodriguez of STARR Restaurants (Philadelphia).
Just imagine being one of the 20 judges evaluating that lineup, considering that each chef made three dishes and between them went through more than 1,200 pounds of heritage breed pork.
Garcia, who was competing for the second time in the Grand Cochon, plans to put his winning dishes on the menu at Fig. Probably just soon as he gets back from Aspen.
In case you're curious, here's the recipe for his coctel de puerco (not tested by the L.A. Times Test Kitchen):
Coctel de puerco recipe
Pork loin, 1/2 pound
Pig heart, 3 ounces
Pickled pig's skin, diced, 2 ounces
Red onion, diced, 1/3 cup
Serrano, diced, 1/4 cup
Cilantro, chopped, 1/4 cup
Heirloom tomato, grated, 4 cups
Lime juice, 2 cups
Ketchup, 3 tablespoons
Hot sauce, optional as desired
Salt as needed
Dice loin and heart in to one-fourth-inch cubes.
Season meat light with salt.
Mix with half of the onions, serranos, cilantro and 1 cup of the lime juice.
Refrigerate for half an hour.
In a blender puree the remaining ingredients.
Pour over the meat mixture and pig skins.
Refrigerate for an additional half hour.
Season with salt as needed and serve chilled with Saltine crackers.