Frenched Wild Boar Chops
I passed through the woodcock, grouse, elk, pheasant, venison, steelhead, and walleye before I got to the bottom of it. Lying there in Sub-Zero slumber was a side of wild boar from a Texas hunt awhile back. With Whitetail season in the rearview mirror, and a nice pair of 2017 wild jake turkeys already tagged and needing room in the icebox, it seemed a perfect opportunity for a How-To on breaking down feral hog into sub-primal cuts. In particular, Frenched, bone-in chops. "Frenching" chops simply means cutting away the meat from the rib to expose the bone. In camp, the method makes a nice handle for utensil free, caveman-style eating. (Think ubiquitous tomahawk beef steaks, only mini versions.) Frenched chops also make for schmancy plate presentation when overcome with a aberrant bout of upper-crust civility.
While the exploding population of feral hogs has justifiably earned a “whack ‘em and stack ‘em” mentality among avid boar hunters, other folks venture into the Texas mesquite scrub in search of a single animal to put on the table. My personal experience was such a hunt; a young feral hog about the size of a domestic goat. It yielded one of the best eating wild meats I’ve harvested and prepared in my wild kitchen. (You can see how to break one down into primal cuts here.)
From a culinary point of view, wild pig can best be described as “porkier” pork. It’s lean, and very good eating. It’s how domestic pork used to be 100 years ago before we started dramatically altering a hog’s caloric and chemical intake.
After breaking down the hog into the 5 North American primal cuts, Frenching involves further breakdown into fabricated sub-primal chop cuts. Here’s how to do it, along with a super simple cast iron seared recipe for cooking them.
Step 1: Start with the loin of the animal, along with an assortment of sharpened knives and a meat saw, and a scraper.
Step 2: Find the spot along the loin where the rib bones start. While it’s probably obvious, the ribbed part of the loin will produce bone-in chops, and the rib less part will be boneless loin chops. Instead of chops, you could keep the loin (also known as the backstrap) intact and prepare in a different way.
Step 3: Stand the loin upright and make a downward cut where the ribs end separating bone-in and boneless chops. You wont be able to cut all the way through with your knife because of the chine. (backbone.)
Step 4: There are a few ways to completely sever the loin. You can saw through it, or give it a hearty whack with a cleaver. Since my wild pig was small, I simply hung it over the edge of my work surface and gave the chine a snap.
Step 5: Here you can see the snapped backbone with the loin still attached. Once the chine is removed, this section will produce boneless loin chops.
Step 6: Take the meat saw on the ribbed section of loin and saw through the chine.
Step 7: Even when using a meat saw the backbone can be pretty stubborn and may need some persuasion. This is a good time to stand the section on end and give it good blow with the cleaver. Watch your fingers though!
Step 8: Now you could just cut between each of the ribs and be done with the bone in chops. However, since wild boar is a bit of a delicacy, I like “Frenched” chops. Basically it means removing the membrane and extra tissue on, and between, the bones to expose a clean little bone handle. This is often done with lamb, too. Frenched chops look very nice on a platter when serving to guests.
Step 9: Following a knife cut to mark how much bone you want exposed, pull back the tissue and membrane. This is a putzy step, and may require a little extra time with a small knife to really get the bones clean. You might note that on this animal two of it’s ribs were fused creating a bit of a knucle. (4th rib from the left.)
Step 10: Once you are satisfied with the bones, cut between the ribs to create the bone-in chops.
Frenched bone-in and boneless wild boar loin chops ready for a cast iron sear.
Heat up a cast iron skillet, sprinkle the chops with a smidge of salt, and sear over a medium/medium high flame for 3-5 minutes.
Flip the chops and sear for another 3 minutes. Time on these is variable depending on chop size and intensity of your flame.
Once chops are done, remove to a cutting board, drizzle with a good olive oil, and sprinkle with a good sea salt like Maldon. Let the chops rest for a couple minutes to absorb the olive oil.
Grab and go! Serve with a crusty loaf of bread spread with sweet creamy butter!