Headcheese: What it is (and isn’t!)


(Copied from my other blog: http://www.deependothepool.com)

Ever wonder why they call headcheese “cheese”, when there are no dairy products involved in the process?

Okay, first things first, while one of my favorite foods, I will be the first to admit that head-cheese is a victim of terrible branding, perhaps the worst in the food world, right up there with “bird’s nest soup” and “lung pie.”

What it isn’t:

  • Headcheese is not “cheese” in any form.
  • Headcheese is not brains, eyeballs, or any of the “yucky stuff.” 😉
  • Head cheese is not Spam (and vice-versa.)

https://i0.wp.com/i.huffpost.com/gen/1442938/thumbs/o-HEAD-CHEESE-570.jpgHeadcheese is traditionally make from the meat pulled from a whole pig’s head, simmered in a savory, seasoned stock, with a foot or two (for the collagen in the tendons) until falling off the bone.

Cheek meat, tongue, and various other tasty bits from the nooks and crannies of the skull (but never the brain) are used to make up the tureen of meat, then suspended in the collagen-heavy cooking stock, which turns into a solid gelatin when the whole thing is chilled.

This gelatin is called “aspic”.

Okay, so back to the point…why the heck is it called head “cheese?”

This requires a bit of a history lesson. In the 1700’s when this process (tureens in aspic) became popular, the word “cheese” wasn’t used just in reference to diary items, but instead referred to a process of forming ingredients into a loaf, pressing it under weight, and chilling until solid.


This was known as “cheesing.”

Two of the most popular cheesed foods were were “cheesed curds” (what we call now cheese) and tureens of meat in aspic, especially those with the tender and delicious meat from the faces and cheeks of pigs and calves. This was referred to as “cheesed head”, as it was made by boiling the picking off the meat of the cheeks and neck, pressing them in the pan with aspic, and chilling until solid (aka “cheesing.”)

Which eventually morphed into the term we use today… headcheese.

Typically it’s sliced for cold sandwiches, and served on rye bread with mustard and thinly sliced sweet onions…as least at my house! 😉

Chef’s Note: If for some reason that grosses you out (and it shouldn’t, it’s basically the same thing they do with hotdogs, only using higher quality parts) you can some comfort in the fact that the stuff you see labeled “Headcheese” in the supermarket deli counter, is actually just chopped pork shoulder in aspic, NOT meat from the head, as the process for making the real thing is considered too expensive and labor-intensive to be worth it. (Welcome to the tagline of American food…)



Your best bet for authentic headcheese is to visit our local Russian market, which is also a great place to pick up some artisanal rye bread.

Hopefully I’ve eased some suspicions and some contempt prior to investigation, and (even more) hopefully, I’ve encouraged a few folks to get out of their comfort zone and try something new.

Who knows, a “cheesed-head” sandwich might be your new favorite thing!

Chef Perry

Happy Grilled Cheese Day!

 Caprese Grilled Cheese Sandwich

I love all things caprese (tomato/mozzarella/basil), so when I found a lovely block of white cheddar labeled “Tomato-Basil”, it didn’t event require a second thought…(if you can’t find it, a couple of thick slices of provolone are pretty awesome, too!)

Yeah, it rocked.

Oh, and if you can find this “Everything” Italian bread…it was amazing!

Chef Perry

The Ultimate Caprese Grilled Cheese Sandwich
4 thick slices of rustic artisan bread (your choice)
3.5 oz Cabot Tomato Basil Cheddar Cheese (sliced ½ inch thick)
1 firm beefsteak tomato, sliced
10 fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
1-2 Tbsp. butter, melted
Coarse sea salt, to taste

Brush each sliced of bread (both sides) with a little olive oil.

Layer 2 pieces of the bread with cheese slices and chopped basil.

Pre-heat a nonstick pan over medium-low heat, and drizzle with a melted butter. 

Grill sandwiches until golden brown, add tomato, and sprinkle with coarse sea salt, to taste.

Top both pieces with remaining bread, flip and grill until cheese has melted.

DO NOT cover the pan with a lid to melt cheese, it will make your bread soggy!


The Roast Beef Po’Boy


The Roast Beef Po’Boy
Recipe by Emeril Lagasse

When it comes to these tradition New Orleans sandwiches, I usually go straight for the oyster po’ boy, but sometimes you just get a jones for something different.

Today, it’s a gravy drippin’ roast beef!

If you’re going to smoke a brisket, you learn from Aaron Franklin. Nasty Bits? Fergus Henderson. And, if you’re needing some Mardi Gras in you mouth, (in my opinion)… you find out how Emeril does it.

Prep Time: 15 minutes Total Time: 4 1/2 hours Yield: 6 servings

Warning: bring napkins!

1 boneless beef chuck roast (3 to 4 pounds)
10 cloves garlic, cut in half lengthwise
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cups strong beef stock, plus more if necessary
Six 6-inch lengths po’boy bread or Italian or French bread
Mayonnaise, homemade or store-bought
10 ounces provolone cheese, grated
Thinly shredded iceberg lettuce
Very thinly sliced tomatoes
Thinly sliced dill pickles
Louisiana red hot sauce (optional)

Using the tip of a sharp paring knife, make 20 evenly spaced small slits, about 1 ½ inches deep, all over the pot roast. Insert the garlic cloves as deep into the slits as possible.

Season the roast on all sides with the salt and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 300°F.

Heat a 6-quart Dutch oven over high heat. Add the oil, and when it is hot, sear the meat until it is very well browned on all sides, 4 to 6 minutes per side (don’t be afraid to let the roast get very brown—this is where a lot of the flavor comes from). Then carefully add the stock and cover the pot.

Transfer the pot to the oven and cook, turning the meat once or twice during cooking, until the roast is falling-apart tender, 3 to 31/2 hours. Check occasionally to make sure that there is always at least 1 inch of liquid in the bottom of the pot, adding additional stock as necessary.

Remove the roast from the oven and let it rest briefly. Increase the oven temperature to 375°F.

Using two forks, pull the meat apart into thin shreds, mixing the meat with the accumulated drippings in the bottom of the pot. Allow the meat to cool slightly and absorb the juices before making the po’boys.

(The meat can be cooked and shredded up to 1 week in advance and refrigerated until ready to serve; if prepared in advance, it will need to be rewarmed—covered and in a low oven—before assembling the sandwiches.)

Halve the po’boy bread lengthwise, and spread both sides of the bread liberally with mayonnaise. Place the bottom halves of the bread on a baking sheet, and spoon the meat filling over them, drizzling it with extra drippings.

Note: I like to whisk a little roux into my drippings, and cook them down into a thick gravy before tossing it with the meat.

Then top the meat with the grated provolone. Bake in the oven just until the cheese is melted, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the oven and top with lettuce, tomatoes, and pickles.

Sprinkle with hot sauce, if desired, and top the po’boys with the top halves of the bread.

Serve immediately.

Laissez les bon temps rouler!

~Chef Perry



In the late 1800s fried oyster sandwiches on French loaves were known in New Orleans and San Francisco as “oyster loaves.” They were hugely popular.

The most accepted local theory says that the name “po’ boy”, was adopted in New Orleans restaurant, “Martin Bros.,” which was owned and operated by two former street-car conductors. In 1929, during a four-month strike against the streetcar company, the Martin brothers, in a sign of solidarity, served their former colleagues free sandwiches.

The Martins’ restaurant workers jokingly referred to the strikers as “poor boys”, and soon the sandwiches themselves took on the name.

In Louisiana dialect, this is naturally shortened to “po’ boy”, and eventually can to refer to pretty much anything stuffed into a bread roll.

Yes, the story might be apocryphal…but I like it!