Do you get the feeling that the centric point of this epicurean essay might just happen to be about...pork? If so, then welcome to Cochon, at 930 Tchoupitoulas Street, where Executive Chef Donald Link oversees the creation and preparation of the traditional Cajun Southern dishes he grew up with. Cochon works with locally sourced pork, fresh produce and seafood, "focusing on traditional methods, creating authentic flavors of Cajun country."
We Piglets paraded into Cochon on our second night in New Orleans. We had made reservations a couple of weeks in advance so we were promptly guided to our table and presented with menus. There was so much porky goodness on that menu that our minds became boggled. We needed something to steady our nerves. A pint of Tin Roof Bandit Blonde beer for my lady, and a pint of Chafunkta's Voo Ka Ray IPA for moi.
Once we were properly medicated we were ready to place our orders. First off, how 'bout a couple of appetizers? Well, all right then, we'll have the smoked pork ribs with watermelon pickle and fried eggplant with liver cheese and cured pork belly. I don't believe we could have made better choices...more choices, of course, but we needed to save some space for our entrées.
Those ribs were so tender, juicy, and flavorful with the sauce and watermelon pickles adding a perfect contrast between sweetness and piquancy. The meat seemed to melt away from the bone.
Eggplant is not one of the veggies I would normally order when dining out, but I couldn't resist this eggplant, liver cheese, with pork belly. Let's get real here - everything tastes better with a bit of belly, and liver cheese has been a southern staple since - well, forever - and, it's usually made with pork livers, pork, pork fat, salt and reconstituted onion. My bride, who is not a liver fan, even commented on how porky good this dish was.
For my main dish I requested the Louisiana cochon with turnips, cabbage, pickled peaches and cracklins. Oh my, more delicious pork with a daily helping of vegetables, and I love cracklins.
The cracklins were good and crispy, the veggies and au jus was pleasing, but for me, the meat was too overcooked to rave about.
My bride had chosen the evening's pork special as her main dish; slow roasted ham, red pea and turnip stew with roasted cherry tomatoes. She wasn't real happy with the ham. It was just too fatty for her, but it wasn't the cured ham that people who don't like you make you eat around the holidays.
Whoa! One dish was too done and the other too fatty, you say? Well, the Belle prefers meat cooked past medium and I like fatty pork. We swapped dishes and both of us were happier than two piglets had a right to be. The evening was saved!
I could have walked out the door a fat, happy piglet, but then our server just had to bring the dessert menu. Other than me, there is little in life that pleases my bride more than something with chocolate, so there was no exiting the building without a chunk of heavenly German chocolate cake.
While the Belle polished off that cake, I had another pint of the Chafunkta. We were both mellow as Jello on the way back to our hotel, and just as jiggly.
There were some hits and misses at Cochon, but we couldn't complain about the bill - $108.66, plus we tacked on a 20% gratuity.