Wooly Pig Comes To America

It's big, it's hairy--and it's delicious

Since the Mangalitsa pig's arrival in the U.S. in 2007, chefs have rolled out the red carpet for this Hungarian breed, which is revered for its intensely marbled flesh and deep, porky flavor (not to mention its shaggy coiffure, which earned it the nickname Wooly Pig).

Unfortunately, there wasn't enough meat to go around, and Mangalitsa became a once-in-a-blue-moon special. In the meantime, an increasing number of American farmers have begun raising the pigs, giving chefs more pork to play with.

Many have made Mangalitsa the star of their charcuterie programs. The French Laundry–the first American restaurant to feature Mangalitsa–built a special room for dry-curing Mangalitsa sausages, hams, bellies and loins. Chef Spike Gjerde of Baltimore's Woodberry Kitchen serves Mangalitsa lardo on flatbread, (he also keeps the leftover blood in the freezer for making morcilla).

Others give it the whole-hog treatment: The Herbfarm in Woodinville, WA, raises its own Mangalitsa pigs, then features the pork in a dish of blood sausage with lentils and seared squab; in addition, it uses braised shoulder to fill Chinese pork buns.

In New York, Klee Brasserie chef Daniel Angerer serves Mangalitsa-inspired tasting menus, which have included crispy ears on a dandelion and arugula salad, and head schnitzel with pickled red cabbage and fig mustard. At Resto, chef Bobby Hellen makes a black kale salad with Mangalitsa bacon and Mangalitsa rillettes with grilled bread.

And now, thanks to Washington-based Foods In Season, even home cooks can get in on the action. If you need recipe inspiration, here's a good place to start.

Editor's note: Klee Brasserie has closed.