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Meat, fish and fire: Copper Hog heads to Burning Beast

Jun 30th, 2012 | Category: Community, Food

by Brent Cole

Held in mid-July at Smoke Farm in Arlington, Burning Beast is carnivore heaven – over a dozen chefs (many from the Seattle area) cook a variety of locally sourced meats and fish – and veggies – in unique ways. Last year, Bellingham’s Copper Hog restaurant was invited to the event, and will return this month. Copper Hog owner Aaron Matson and crew will cook locally sourced bison, likely using a contraption called a moustache ride.

The Copper Hog crew cooked a pig from Heath Putnam Farm during last year’s event. COURTESY PHOTO

Burning Beast began in 2008 by well-known Seattle chef Tamara Murphy. As the story goes, she had not been to Burning Man, the annual arts festival in the Utah desert, so she created a carnivore version – a place for local chefs to show their culinary creativity while using locally sourced meat.

The annual event is a fundraiser for Smoke Farm. Participants begin cooking on Saturday, and doors are opened to the 500 attendees on Sunday morning, when they can sample the different foods (tickets for this year’s festival are sold out). Each chef cooks some kind of meat or fish, and all use humankind’s most basic tool: fire.

The final product is judged with a winner named at the end. While style doesn’t determine the winner, creative cooking methods are most certainly applauded.

Matson, who attended the event’s second year to enjoy the food, returned in 2010, and then contacted Tamara to ask if the Copper Hog could be involved. She approved, and after a visit to the Hog a little while later for brunch, they were ready to represent the area by cooking a pig in a la caja china style cooker (also known as a Cajun microwave). At Burning Beast IV, Matson along with his day and night sous chefs butterflied the 225-pound pig, injected it with mojo (a Cuban marinade), placed the stainless steel box in the ground (to insulate it) and put hot coals on top, letting it cook overnight. However at 3 a.m., Matson realized they had a problem when the coals melted through the lid. “We put tin foil through that spot and kept going,” he said with a chuckle.

Along with the pig, which was sourced from Lynden’s Heritage Lane Farms, the Copper Hog crew made a ham, using a Mangalitsa pig from Heath Putnam Farms in Auburn. Bread from Bow’s Breadfarm and homemade pickles accompanied the ham.

This year, the Copper Hog crew will prepare bison from Rockin R Bison, of Bow. Bison sausage will be made from the front quarters, with the hind end cooked using a rotisserie (the sausage will be hung over the rotisserie for added flavor). Ahead of time, they’ll be making bresaola, an Italian air-cured beef (what prosciutto is to ham, bresaola is to beef).

This year, the Copper Hog team is working on using their famous moustache ride (a metal sculpture located inside the restaurant), that will be altered to help turn the rotisserie. “I think we’re going to… to convert the hub so when you teeter totter it’ll turn the rotisserie.”

For more information, including participating restaurants and chefs, visit burningbeast.com/.

Published in the July 2012 issue of Grow Northwest magazine

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