The next time you’re thinking of having a party, follow in Chef Eric Hulme’s (see photo) footsteps and make it whole animal themed. On the last Sunday of every month from May to October, Tender Greens hosts a community event called Whole Animal Roast. Event goers can enjoy some of Hollywood’s best pig, goat, lamb, boar, and game bird. Each roast is hosted by a chef from one of the various Tender Greens southern California locations features a different animal. The Whole Animal Roast allows the chefs to showcase their one of a kind method for capitalizing on the unique flavors that each animal has to offer.
Hulme has been preparing whole animals for decades. When asked which whole animal is his favorite to cook, Hulme ranked pig as his first choice, followed by lamb. At the Whole Animal Roast held just recently in May, Hulme used a La Caja China to prepare a pig supplied by Re-Ride Ranch. Caja chinas are roasting boxes that are amongst the most popular commercial methods used for roasting whole pig and can crank out the perfect pig in 3 to 5 hours.
If you get your pig from the right supplier, your Whole Animal Roast is on the right track. Hulme likes those supplied by Re-Ride Ranch. “They are all raised with love and fed a very good diet,” he says. To ensure that he has the perfect pig for a roast, Hulme sources his months in advance. “Because I source early, the farmer brings me only the best,” remarks Hulme. He likes to “keep it clean and basic,” when seasoning a pig and uses only olive oil, garlic, herbs and salt and pepper ” letting the succulent flesh be the talk of the party. Hulme’s extensive experience with preparing whole animal has taught him that seasoning can be one’s greatest asset or one’s greatest enemy. He warns, “Don’t over season; only season to enhance, not overpower.” If endeavoring to cook your own pig, he suggests complementing it with smoked cherry gastrique.
Upwards of sixty people can feast on a seventy-five pound pig at one of Tender Green’s roasts. “It’s always amusing when people go for things like eyeballs and brains,” says Hulme. The cooked pig is a fan favorite among guests who eagerly snap pictures of the animal before it is served. Guests can even bid on the offal, bones and parts such as the tongue, brain and eyes portions that not every group of roast goers are enthused about.
So what happens when you have sixty or more guests that are eager to tear open the caja china and you find that the pig somehow turned out less than perfect? In Hulme’s case you won’t find a second pig roasting in the woodwork. “In my career as a chef, I have always gone by the motto of I will get it done.’ I will get that animal cooked deliciously one way or another!”