Faggots

Ingredients

For the cheeks:

1 ½ pound pork cheeks, trimmed of excess fat

About 1 teaspoon kosher salt

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

½ pound medium shallots, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced

3 large garlic cloves, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced

1 teaspoon thyme leaves

1 fresh bay leaf, or ½ dried

1 medium carrot, peeled and finely chopped

1 teaspoon four spice (recipe below)

3 cups sticky chicken stock

½ cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc


To finish the faggots:

¼ cup farro

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

¼ pound pork or chicken liver, cut into 1-inch chunks

A small handful of small, delicate flat-leaf parsley sprigs

1 tablespoon thyme leaves

1 teaspoon Maldon or another flaky sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 pound caul fat, thawed if frozen

1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter

Directions: 

The day before you plan to serve the faggots:

Season the cheeks all over with the salt. Set a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat and add the olive oil. Once the oil is smoking, add the cheeks—in batches if necessary to avoid crowding in the pan, though once they shrink up a bit, you can probably fit in a few more—and cook them, turning them over now and then, until they’re dark golden brown on both sides, about 10 minutes. As they finish, put them on a plate and set aside.

When all the cheeks have been browned, add the shallots, garlic, thyme, and bay leaf to the oil remaining in the pan (you might need to add an extra glug) and cook, stirring frequently, until the shallots and garlic have begun to brown and sweeten, about 3 minutes. Add the carrot and cook, stirring and scraping the pan to get all those nice, sticky bits, until golden brown and sweet, 10 to 15 minutes.

Add the four spice and cook, stirring, for a minute or so. Put the cheeks back into the pan and add the stock and wine. Cover the pan and bring the liquid to a simmer over medium heat, then turn the heat to low and cook the cheeks at a gentle but steady simmer until they’re spoon-tender, about 1 hour and 45 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and let the cheeks cool a bit, then transfer them, and the liquid to a container, and pop into the fridge overnight.

The day you plan to serve the faggots:

Combine the farro with 1 ½ cups water in a small pot and set it over medium heat. Let it come to a boil, then turn the heat to low and cook the farro at a very gentle simmer until it’s tender but still has a nice chew, about 20 minutes, adding a little more water as necessary to keep the farro covered. Drain the farro and set aside.

While the farro cooks, pour 1 tablespoon of the olive oil into a medium pan and set it over medium-high heat. When the oil begins to smoke, add the liver and toss until it starts to brown, about 2 minutes. The pieces should be medium-rare. Scoop the liver onto a cutting board and chop it into a coarse mush.

Remove the cheek meat from the gelatinous liquid and break the cheeks into roughly ¾ inch pieces. Combine the cheeks, chopped liver, and a packed ½ cup of the cooked farro in a large bowl. (If there’s any farro left over, munch on it.) Finely chop the parsley and add it to the bowl, along with the thyme, ½ cup of the cheek broth, 1 tablespoon olive oil, the salt, and a couple twists of black pepper. Toss the mixture together until everything’s well distributed, then pop it into the fridge for 20 to 30 minutes to let it firm up a bit.

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Put the remaining cheek broth in a medium pot, bring to a boil and turn off the heat.

Remove the meat mixture from the fridge. Use your hands to form the mixture into 8 equal balls. Grab a large square-ish piece of caul fat that doesn’t have any big tears and lay it flat on your counter or cutting board. Place one of the balls about 1 inch from the corner, fold the corner over the ball and roll the ball over two or three times. Trim off the excess caul fat and tuck the loose edges underneath the ball to make a neat, tight package. Repeat with the rest of the balls. You’ll have some caul fat left over; reserve it for another day.

Heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and the butter in a large pan (nonstick is nice here, because the faggots have a tendency to stick) over high heat. When the butter starts to go brown and nutty, add the balls seam side up (work in batches, if necessary), give each one a gentle press, and cook until their bottoms have turned light golden brown and some of the caul fat has rendered, 2 or 3 minutes. Flip each one, cook for 20 seconds or so and transfer them seam side down to a large baking dish or two smaller ones. (When you add the cheek broth later, it should come a quarter of the way up the side of the balls.) Make sure there’s some space between the balls so you can baste them as they cook.

Pour the remaining cheek broth (there should be about 3 cups) over the balls. Pop them into the oven and cook, basting them every 10-15 minutes, for 40 minutes, so the faggots are warm inside, the liquid has thickened slightly, and the flavor of the faggots and the liquid have a chance to mingle.

Four Spice:

½ tablespoon white peppercorns

½ tablespoon black peppercorns

½ small cinnamon stick, crushed with the dull side of a chef’s knife

10 whole cloves

2 ¼ teaspoons whole allspice berries

1 small nutmeg, grated

1 teaspoon ground ginger

Put all the whole spices in a large spice grinder and grind them to a fine powder. Combine with the nutmeg and ginger in an airtight container and give it a good stir. Store in a cool, dark place for up to a month.