Nevin Martell
Nevin Martell

The Dish: Fried Pig’s Head Croquette with Lobster

Price: Market price, usually around $30 

Where to Get It: Oval Room; 800 Connecticut Ave. NW; (202) 463-8700; 

What It Is: Find it on the menu as tête de cochon with butter poached lobster. “But how many people know what that is?” asks Executive Chef John Melfi. “Honestly, a lot of people just see lobster and go for it.” If only they knew. He begins by braising a pig’s head with mirepoix (diced veggies), thyme, bay leaves, and rosemary until the meat is falling off the bone. After picking off the cheeks, ears, tongue and a little skin, the face bits are cooked into a thick ragu spiced up with mustard—whole grain and Dijon—and more herbs. Rolled into a roulade, it’s frozen until it can be cut into discs the size of flattened golf balls, breaded in panko, and pan-fried. It’s piled high with roughly six ounces of butter-poached lobster and carrots three ways—pureed, roasted, and shaved. 

What It Tastes Like: Cutting through the crunchy crust of the croquette reveals a gravied pork mash. Its richness is restrained thanks to the pleasant sharpness of the mustard. The combination of carrots and the lobster add a delicate sweetness, so it tastes indulgent but not over the top. 

The Story: Melfi has been making the dish in various iterations over his career and decided to run it as a special on Valentine’s Day at the Oval Room. It was his top seller that evening, so he added it to the regular menu. To deftly eat it, gather up a bite with carrots, a lobe of lobster, and a chunklet of croquette to enjoy the array of textures and flavors.