Out of everyone (anyone?) in town embracing the concept of “nose-to-tail” eating, Southern-fusion gastropub The Parish stands tallest.
While other restaurants have dipped their toes into the whole-animal concept – some more deeply than others – bringing the oft overlooked pig tail onto the center of the plate is unique in Tucson.
Pig tails are roughly half fat and half meat, which wraps around a chain link-like skeleton of bone and tendon encased in pig skin. Unlike oxtail, where the skin would have been cut away in the processing of the animal, you get all the benefit of crispy skin with pig tails.
Executive chef Travis Peters is a self-proclaimed lover of three day cooking processes, and the BBQ Tail Confit ($10 during dinner) at The Parish takes about that long to prepare.
Starting with a salt dry rub and between a 12 and 24 hour rest to draw out the moisture, the tails are then confited (slow-cooked in fat) in uncured bacon fat. To finish, they’re grilled for a charred flavor with wonderful crunchy bits of skin and meat.
The confit method ensures the meat is tender and moist once you peel back the layer of skin and fat. Since the tails are rich in gelatin and meant to be eaten like ribs, you’re left with a trace of sticky butteriness that coats your lips and the roof of your mouth.
To balance the richness, the tails are drizzled with a Carolina gold barbeque sauce that’s more mustardy than spicy. Two types of house-made pickles top the tails: pickled red onion for a vinegary bite that cuts through the fattiness, and lightly pickled peaches which provide a subtle sweetness to balance acidity.
Peters was originally inspired by a walk through Lee Lee Oriental Supermarket, just up the street from The Parish. The premium Duroc breed tails are currently sourced from Compart Family Farms and are easy to come by according to Peters, as there isn’t much demand for them. They may transition to local farms and breeds once it’s available.
So what makes a chef think pig tails are going to work in his restaurant? Peters shared a charming story of bringing them to a friend’s Super Bowl party.
Peters described a group of overly manicured and made up women at the party, the type that screeched a prolonged “ewwww” when pig tails were placed in front of them. One of them went for it and didn’t stop eating. Within a few minutes, the remaining women devoured the pig tails with a mess of barbecue sauce all over their faces. That’s when Peters knew he struck gold.
Guests at the Parish can look forward to a fried dinner entree version of the pig tails coming soon. Also, we’d like to be invited to his next Super Bowl party.
Meat Beat is a new series that explores Tucson’s unique meat-centric culinary offerings. For more information regarding The Parish, visit theparishtucson.com.