Chef's Choice Recipe: Jennifer Pensoneau's Cochon de Lait and Cherry Cobbler

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This is part two of Robin Wheeler's Chef's Choice profile of Jennifer Pensoneau of JFires' Market Bistro. Part one can be accessed here. Part three, a Q&A with Pensoneau, is here.

This little piggy looks delicious! - ROBIN WHEELER
  • Robin Wheeler
  • This little piggy looks delicious!

The cochon de lait at J.Fires' Market Bistro reflects the Louisiana education of both Jennifer Pensoneau and her executive chef, John Sewell. Pensoneau was introduced to wonders of fire-roasted suckling pig through a Cajun friend while in culinary school.

"My friend invited me to her house, and I just remember gnawing on the backbone. It was some of the best pork I'd ever eaten," she says. "I designed our oven so that instead of just pizzas I could fit whole sheets in there and do roasting and baking."

Served as a small brick of pork atop an olive-studded pile of creamy whipped potatoes, the meat of the young pig is sandwiched between a piece of bacon and its own crisp skin. It's topped with mushroom-laced gravy and surrounded with oyster mushrooms, battered and fried. With a gentle twist of the fork, the square of pork shreds. The flavor's delicate and buttery.

ROBIN WHEELER
  • Robin Wheeler

Fire-Roasted Suckling Pig 1 30-pound pig, cleaned 4 large onions, large dice 6 stalks celery, large dice 6 carrots, large dice 1/2 bottle white wine 5 sprigs parsley 4 cups pig rub

1. Set pig on a full sheet pan and pour the wine over the pig to wet the skin.

2. Generously rub the pig with the spice rub and stuff its belly with onions, celery and carrots. Turn the pig onto its stomach with the arms and legs facing forward as if it were lying on its belly.

3.Wrap entire pan in foil and roast in wood-fired oven overnight at about 250 degrees F.

Pig Rub 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper 1 cup paprika 1/2 cup chili powder 2 tablespoons garlic powder 2 tablespoons allspice 1/2 cup salt

Mix together spices in a bowl.

Cochon de Lait 6 quarts pulled pig meat, or 2 pork butts pig skin reserved, or 1 pack bacon 3 tablespoons salt 1-1/2 tablespoons chipotle chile powder 6 cloves garlic, minced 1 cup butter

1. Melt butter and garlic together.

2. Place pork in large bowl and add salt, chipotle and garlic butter.

3. Line a hotel pan with plastic, then enough skin or bacon to cover the bottom of the pan.

4. Mix pork well and pack on top of skin. Wrap the top with plastic, then place the other hotel pan on top and weight down.

5. Refrigerate for 6 hours. Cut into squares. Cook to order.

If you don't have access to a means of fire-roasting a whole 30-pound pig, Pensoneau says her cochon de lait can be made with any pulled pork. Whatever means you choose, a cobbler made with fresh-picked sour cherries is the perfect conclusion (recipe follows...).

ROBIN WHEELER
  • Robin Wheeler

Cherry Cobbler Filling: 4 cups sour cherries, pitted 3 cups sugar 1/2 cup water 1/4 cup cornstarch

1. Mix pitted cherries with sugar.

2. Mix water with cornstarch, then mix with cherry-sugar mixture. Set aside. Can be used as a base for cobblers, pies, syrup for fruit salad or desserts or poured over cakes.

Dough: 3 cups flour 1/4 cup sugar 3 ounces cold water 6 ounces butter splash of pure vanilla

1. Mix together flour and sugar. Cut in water and flour with the vanilla. Do not overmix. Let rest, then roll.

2. Fill single serving dishes or use in a pie pan with cherry filling. Top with rolled dough.

3. Bake at 375 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes.

{Robin Wheeler's Q&A with Pensoneau is posted here...}

JFires' Market Bistro 725 North Market Street, Waterloo, Illinois 618-939-7233