The Food Chain

Philly Chef David Katz Is a Fan of Peasant’s Spit-Roasted Pig and Creamy Potatoes

Spit-roasted pig and potatoes cooked over a fire at Peasant.
Spit-roasted pig and potatoes cooked over a fire at Peasant. Photo: Melissa Hom

On the Food Chain, we ask a chef to describe a dish he or she recently enjoyed. The chef who prepared the dish responds and then picks his or her own memorable meal. On and on it goes. This week, chef David Katz of Mémé in Philadelphia reveals where he goes in New York for creamy potatoes.

Who: David Katz, chef-owner of Mémé, Philadelphia
What: Spit-roasted pig and potatoes
Where: Peasant, New York
When: June, 2009

“As far as New York goes, there are a lot of dishes that I like, but I have to say the pig dish at Peasant is memorable. They cook everything on wood there. I’ve been there two or three times and almost every time, I get the spit-roasted pig with creamy potatoes. It’s pretty ridiculous. The pig is spit-roasted, wood-flavored, high-quality pork — maybe Berkshire? — and it has that crispy-ass skin that’s kind of salty. The potatoes are really, really, super creamy. They’re new potatoes or maybe baby Yukons and they’re cooked slowly and you can tell they’re cooked in some fat — I don’t know, but I’m assuming it’s pork. When it comes on the plate, the pork fat and drippings are spooned on the potatoes and they’re served with a nice big crispy piece of skin. Potatoes seem like they’re really easy to cook, but they’re not — you can go to 100 restaurants in Philly and only find three that cook creamy potatoes properly. I’m not picking on Philly — it’s the same with any city, really.”

Chef-owner Frank de Carlo responds:

“This dish represents Italy. In particular, Sardinia, an island off of Italy. My wife and I were visiting wineries there about eight or nine years ago. These guys build fires, put stones around the circle, and rig a spit. They have wild pigs running all over. What we had was a young suckling pig right on the fire, and it’s probably the best thing I’ve had in my entire life. I have a farmer upstate who raises my pigs for me. He just has enough for me, really. I get asked all the time by friend chefs and I still don’t tell them. I don’t adapt the dish. It’s done the real way. It’s stuffed with herbs and I build a wood fire under the pig. I’m getting twelve pigs a week, between seventeen and eighteen pounds on average. I’m not going to mention names, but I’ve seen suckling pig on menus; I’ve ordered the dish; and you’re getting ribs from a 60-pound pig in your plate. My restaurant is the only one in the city that really does suckling pig, as far as I know. It’s fresh as can be, white, white. They’ve had nothing but their mother’s milk. Not to sound too cruel. The potatoes are organic fingerlings from a local guy upstate, simmered in milk. It ties the whole thing together: The suckling pig drinks only milk; and the potatoes are cooked in the milk. It’s a very honest, simple dish, but it makes perfect sense.”

Read about a recent dish Frank de Carlo enjoyed.

Philly Chef David Katz Is a Fan of Peasant’s Spit-Roasted Pig and Creamy