Monday, July 16, 2012

One Bite: Ecuadoran roast pig

Posted By on 07.16.12 at 03:39 PM

hornado, Cuenca's Bakery
  • Hornado, Cuenca's Bakery

It's an ironclad statistical rule that during the summertime, photographs of pig roasts are tweeted and posted to Facebook 28 percent more than at any other time of the year. Like many pleasurable things we're forced to witness vicariously, this can inspire resentment in friends, followers, and acquaintances who aren't invited to the party. It's sort of incredible that more enterprising restaurateurs around town don't try to exploit this imbalance by setting up dedicated hog-roasting operations and offering solo portions of pig glistening with fat, with perhaps a crystalline shard of skin on the side. This sort of thing actually exists in magical places like Rome, central Tennessee, and the mountains of Ecuador, where it's called hornado.

weekend menu, Cuencas Bakery
There it's a particular specialty of the city of Cuenca, which also happens to be the name of a bakery and grocery in Irving Park. On most weekdays it's just the pastry case and a smattering of domestic and imported sundries, but on weekends the house mounts a bustling takeout operation (there are a few tables inside) offering an assortment of meaty Ecuadoran specialties, like the national dish, a tripe stew called guatita, and its goatish cousin seco de chivo. There's also a milky corn drink known as morocho and papas con cuerdo, potatoes and pigskin stewed in a peanutty sauce.

You can get your pig fried too (fritada), but the main draw is the hornado, which is dished out in ample portions. For $8.99 you get it and a generous, crackly sheet of skin, plus a healthy serving of mote (hominy), slaw (curtido), a tub of vinegary yellow hot sauce, and a pair of llapingachos, achiote-seasoned, griddled mashed potato cakes. It's quite a deal for such a substantial plate, though you won't be taking any photos of the pig itself since it's dished out from behind closed doors. But if you've a mind to sponsor your own, the folks at Cuenca's will do the hard work and roast whole ($265-$275) and half ($160-$170) pigs to order—or just a leg ($70-$90).

Cuencas Bakery

Cuenca's Bakery, 4229 W. Montrose, 773-777-2105

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