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Cooking with your head

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I was thinking the other day about my legacy in the culinary world. I was raised up north, learned the craft through classic training and then when I moved down South all that was said was, “Can’t he cook anythin’ normal?”

But I persevered, and eventually I made inroads in Southern cooking, tropical flavors and bayou N’Awlin’s cuisine. I used my head, adapted and soon blended in with the local landscape.

Anyway, I thought to myself, “Hey, using your head can’t be all that bad when trying to accomplish something!” I often use my head when performing simple tasks, so why not cook using head?

Okay, here’s the rundown on this whole head and cooking thing.

First there is the classic Rolling Stones album, “Goats Head Soup”. Something macabre that Keith Richards came up with while stuck in a tree? Not a chance. Goats head soup is alive and well in Jamaica and other parts of the Caribbean and has been around for centuries. It is commonly referred to as Mannish water on the island and is believed to be a highly effective aphrodisiac.

Then there is Barbacoa, which is not quite a dish but rather a form of cooking. Barbacoa has also been around forever and it is where we get our word “Barbecue”.

The concept is simple. Dig a pit, get some good hot wood embers going, wrap up a cow’s head in foil, hang it in the pit and cover it with banana leaves. Eight or ten hours later, viola! Barbacoa.

Finally there is Head Cheese. Say what? I’ll tell you what, it’s not cheese but it is made from cow’s head.

No, it’s a terrine, or maybe even Jell-O made from cow cheeks, the brain, tongue, ears and eyes. There’s always room for Head Cheese!

Scroll down the list and I’ll guide you through making these goodies, and maybe someday your friends and family will say “Can’t he/she cook anything normal?”

Baya con Dios amigos.

Goats Head Soup
Goats Head Soup internet/Rus Pishnery

Goats Head Soup

The Stone’s album “Goats Head Soup” was recorded on the island of Jamaica and released in 1973.  The hit single was “Angie” but several other tracks, like “Heartbreaker” and “Can you hear the Music?”  became standards.  It is said the band stayed up for a few days at a time recording, surviving on reefer and Goats Head Soup.

Goats Head Soup-The Recipe
Goats Head Soup-The Recipe internet/Rus Pishnery

Goats Head Soup-The Recipe

1 Goats Head

5 Cloves Garlic, Smashed

5-6 Scallions, Trimmed

Handful Fresh Thyme

1 Cup Pimento Seed

Sea Salt/Freshly Ground Black Pepper

1 Green Pepper, Seeded

½ Cup Chicken Base

3-6 Green Bananas, Chopped

½ Lb. Yams, Chopped

2 Chochos

1 Whole Scotch Bonnet Pepper

Wash goat head and place in a large stock pot.  Cover with water.

Add garlic, scallions, thyme. Pimento and season.  Add chicken base and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook until head is tender.

Peek chochos
and add bananas and yams.

When goat head is fork tender add pepper and simmer another half hour.

Barbacoa
Barbacoa internet/Rus Pishnery

Barbacoa

Barbacoa is popular in the U.S. along the Mexican border and in Florida.  The cool thing about this barbecued cattle head is that when it is done, the meat is pulled apart, chopped and served on warm flour tortillas with onion, cilantro and a squeeze of lime.  Head Tacos!

Head Taco
Head Taco internet/Rus Pishnery

Head Taco

1 Cow Head

Sea Salt/Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Cayenne Pepper

2 Bottle Dos Equiis

Banana Leaves

Sprinkle the salt, pepper and cayenne all over the cow head

Completely wrap the cow head in several layers of banana leaves, securing it with kitchen twine.

In a banana-leaf-lined hotel pan, pour two bottles of beer.

Set the banana-leaf-wrapped cow head into the pan, and fold over pan-lining leaves.

Cover cow head and bottom pan with another hotel pan. Secure tight with kitchen twine.

Smoke for 24 hours, remove meat from head (will have to peel the skin off of the tongue), pull apart and make tacos!

Head Cheese
Head Cheese internet/Rus Pishnery

Head Cheese

Eat head cheese cold or at room temp.  It is important to save the stock and reduce it or add pectin to it.  This is what forms the mold and keeps the head cheese together.  I usually can find cows head at the grocery store in the meat section between the ground chuck and the whole briskets.

Head Cheese-The Recipe
Head Cheese-The Recipe internet/Rus Pishnery

Head Cheese-The Recipe

1 Pigs Head

1 Cup Water

1 Cup Chardonnay

1 Onion, Quartered

6 Celery Stalks

½ Cup Parsley

1 Carrot

1 Bay Leaf

Sea Salt/Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Have the butcher clean the head, removing the snout and reserving the tongue and brains.

Scrub the head well and place in a deep kettle. Cover with equal parts water and wine. Add the reserved tongue and the onion.

Tie the celery tops, parsley, carrot, bay leaf and peppercorns in a cheesecloth bag and add. Add the salt, bring to a boil and skim the surface carefully. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer very slowly until the meat is so tender that it falls easily from the bones, about four hours. Remove the tongue from the water after it has cooked one and one-half hours. Remove the root portion and skin from the tongue.

After four hours' cooking, lift the head onto a large platter. Strain and reserve the liquid in the kettle. Carefully remove all the rind from the head and cut the meat and tongue into pieces the size of large walnuts.

Drop the brains into a
little of the cooking liquid and simmer, covered, about fifteen minutes. Drain
and place in a mixing bowl, together with the meat and tongue. Season lightly
with cayenne, nutmeg and sage. Toss thoroughly until well mixed.

Pack the mixture into a loaf pan or a mold, pressing it in firmly.
Pour over it one-half cup of the cooking liquid, cooled to lukewarm.

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