I’ve seen the words before in a few languages: cochon de lait, maialina da latte. I, being so profoundly gifted in other languages (not), thought that this was pig cooked in milk. I mean, pig and milk in the same sentence in reference to dinner would make anyone think that, right? (You all may start laughing at me.)
When planning our European vacation – sounds like a movie, yes? – my friend told me that the best suckling pig is made in Segovia, Spain. Immediately, I started thinking: Mom and Dad went Segovia and liked it; I have never been there; I can go there and like it; I, too, can have my pig and eat it, too! We made plans to go and devour said suckling pig, or cochinillo. I started to do some research, and realized that cochon de lait didn’t mean cooked in milk! It is a suckling pig, which means the delicious little pig only ever ate its mama’s milk. And that is fine by me, because apparently that makes for tastier pig.
My mom and dad wanted to come, too, of course. They have had suckling pig, and so of course they wanted to come again. I left the reservations up to my uncle, because I trust him implicitly, and soon you will see why. We left, very early in the morning, with only a tiny cup of coffee and a little tortilla de patata to sustain us. But we were EXCITED.
Once we arrived and checked into our hotel room for the night, we were ready to eat. My uncle had made reservations at a place that had good reviews online; we headed straight there, wandering around Segovia, looking at the amazing Roman aqueduct, in good spirits because we knew of the pig greatness that was coming our way.
We head over to the restaurant, called Meson de Jose Maria, after we were done gawking at the aqueduct. As we are walking in the scorching heat of midday, we start to discuss how on of my travel companions and friend wanted to eat Segovian cochinillio for about 22 years. He explained when he was 14-years-old, he watched a video on cochinillio in his Spanish class. At the time he swore he would eat it someday.
Now, I knew this story, but my uncle did not, and imagine everyone’s surprise when we showed up and it was the same restaurant! He was positive it was the same place because of the pig statue out front. Now, we HAVE to love this pig. It only has 22 years of anticipation building up to it, right? Once inside, the 10 of us in our group sit at a large, round table, and the feast begins. First, an appetizer of tuna with olives and endive. Then came croquettes of the house, lamb sweetbreads, and tempura fried vegetables. At the time we all thought these were lamb kidneys, and they were good, but now that I know they were sweetbreads, I am proud of myself. (I would have eaten them anyway, but now I have bigger bragging rights!) Then came another salad, resplendent with bright green and deep red from the heirloom tomatoes, and plates of patatas fritas.
Then came the piece de resistance: the pig. During our first few courses, we saw a few pigs come down (we were sitting downstairs) and they were cut unceremoniously. But when our table was served, Jose Maria himself came downstairs. He donned his pimp daddy medallion – to show that he holds the Gold Medal of cochinillio cooking – and proceeded to cut the pig.
With a plate. Not joking. A plate. This pig is so tender and delicious that they cut it with regular old plates.