Choirosphagia might not be a holiday you’ve ever celebrated — whether due to nary an ounce of Grecian DNA, no sojourns to the Cycladic Islands or a no-pork dietary regimen. But the eating that takes place around it could otherwise incite a happy dance. The festival involves the rituals of butchering a pig, breaking down its parts for various foodstuffs and enjoying the traditional dishes that result.
Greek cookbook author Aglaia Kremezi provided a preview of those tastes last week in the kitchen at Zaytinya in Penn Quarter, where she has been invited annually for the past decade or so by chef-restaurateur José Andrés. She lives on the island of Kea, which looks particularly like paradise in light of current local weather conditions. Lamb’s usually the meat of choice at Zaytinya, but executive chef Michael Costa was game to bring in and dismantle a 260-pound Duroc-Berkshire beauty from Papa Weaver’s Pork in Orange, Va.
Kremezi and the chef cooked for one of last weekend’s Sunday Suppers benefiting Martha’s Table, where some of those pig proceeds were directed. Some of it’s headed for a Friday night wine dinner at the restaurant.
The trio of dishes they’re teaching tonight (see details below) are, like Choirosphagia, probably something you’ve never experienced: a jellied head-cheese terrine that’s incredibly light and citrus-y on the palate; a simple and tomato-less version of tigania, made with pieces of sauteed pork shoulder glazed in a reduced mixture of white wine, honey, lemon juice and herbs; and a humble yet luxurious concoction of yogurt-scrambled eggs, roasted tomatoes and pork confit called paspalas (accent on the first syllable) — which is the name of the confit as well.
Paspalas is the kind of food that Keans eat all day, Kremezi says. They spoon it on toasted bread for breakfast and meze. They serve it for lunch and as a side dish at dinner. Keys to a successful batch: confiting bits of pork that have at least a 1-1 ratio of meat to fat; using the richest, tangiest Greek yogurt you can find; obtaining fruity and bright Maras pepper; and turning off the heat under the pan of a pale-orange, herby eggy mixture that looks as if it still has a way to go before it has set. Not to worry; the eggs will be just right by the time you divide them among plates, where forks should be poised in anticipation.
The cooking class is tonight (Jan. 28), from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Zaytina; cost is $55, with some last-minute spots available. Call 202-638-0800. Kremezi and Costa will join forces to cook more pork for a five-course dinner featuring Xinomavro wines. $85. 7 p.m.; call the restaurant for reservations.