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Review: The Reader's Mulefoot Pig Dinner at Blackbird

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Oct 20, 2008 4:28PM

Last night we attended the sold out mulefoot pig dinner at Blackbird sponsored by the Chicago Reader. Reader food critic Mike Sula has been chronicling the progress Dee Dee since he persuaded the paper to buy her last year, bringing attention to this rare endangered breed of swine in the process.

Mulefoots are distinguished for their non cloven hooves, which resemble, well, mules. They also reach a weight of 400-600 pounds by the age of two, with a rich texture to the meat and good fat content. Sula frequent filings for the paper and the Reader's "Food Chain" blog have charted the growth of Dee Dee under the care of farmers Linda Derrickson and Mark Kessenich, who were in attendance.

Instead of being served some of Dee Dee last night, diners were served dishes prepared from three separate mulefoots by an all-star lineup of chefs assembled by blackbird's Paul Kahan. With the exception of Jason Hammel and Amalea Tshilds of Lula Café, the menu was created by a veritable family tree of chefs working under Kahan. The other featured chefs were Justin Large of avec, Blackbird's Mike Sheerin and Tim Dahl, Brian Huston of the reaching-overhyped-status Publican, and Vie's Paul Virant (a former chef under Kahan). the dishes ranged from Hammel and Tshilds's simple and elegant pork belly with house cured sardine to Virant's roasted crepinette, delicately layered with pickled onion, country bacon and a pinot noir jam. Wine pairings were donated by a board member of Slow Food Chicago, which also was the beneficiary of the dinner