Eating Nose to Tail


 

It's apparent that I enjoy eating and preparing offal and other less popular cuts of meat but now that it's summer I've been wanting to include more fish and shellfish in my diet.  The reason I've started this blog is to make sure that I integrate ingredients beyond chop/breast/steak into my diet, and hopefully make those other parts of the animal seem less intimidating to those of you nice enough to read this from time to time.

The big question now is how do I include fish and shellfish into this project, and how do these ingredients fit into my goal of eating nose to tail.

What are the fish and shellfish equivalents of chop/breast/steak?  Fillet's of fish, peeled headless shrimp, things like that?

To counter those products should I cook whole fish, and shrimp (complete with eyes and tails)?  Should I try cooking things like fish collar's?  What about ingredients like squid and octopus?  When I lived in Nova Scotia my parents used to get cod tongues and cheeks as a weekend treat, I wonder if those kinds of ingredients are available in a more urban space?

Things like mussels, lobster's, clams and oysters fit into eating nose to tail because by their nature you eat all of them.  That feels a little like a cop-out, but is it?

I need some guidance, any and all thoughts are more than welcome.

 
 

I wish.

Actually I'll be presenting a paper on gender dynamics in professional and domestic kitchens at the Association for the Study of Food and Society Conference at Penn State.  Be back late Sunday.

Due to the distinct lack of kitchen in the hotel room, tripe will have to wait until I get back.  Tripe may actually have to wait a little longer than that, I've really been craving my Mum's pig tail's.  Crunchy and sticky, salty and sweet.  Pig tails seem more in line with the spring season then a big plate of steaming tripe and mashed potatoes.

Both will have to wait.  Back next week.

 
 

This recipe is lifted almost exactly from Fergus Henderson's book The Whole Hog.  Not that roasting a marrow bone is all that difficult, but his advice on how to eat the bone and his recipe for the parsley salad make this a truly special dish.  I highly recommend everyone go out and buy his book.  God bless that Englishman.

The trick to bone marrow is to get a good bone, we're talking about beef bones by the way.  When you look at the bone you want to see as much surface area of bone marrow as possible.  You also want a nice round bone, I find that this helps with even roasting, but I could just be superstitious.  Once you have the proper bones the rest of the recipe is as simple as turning on an oven.

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Those are some good looking bones.  I wrap the bottoms of the bones in foil before they go into a 450 degree oven to prevent seepage.  But it's not a necessary step.
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These bones roasted for around 20 minutes, you want the bone marrow to be jiggly and giving but the marrow should stay in place within the bone and not ooze out.  You'll know it when you see it, I promise.

To accompany this incredibly rich dish a citrusy parsley salad is ideal.  Make a vinaigrette using lemon juice instead of vinegar, chop up some onion or shallot for the dressing as well.  Then simply toss with some roughly chopped parsley, season and serve alongside your bones.
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You'll want to serve your bones with a nice baguette or some toast points and plenty of good salt, and cracked black pepper if you feel like it.  The salt should be added by the diner at the table, salt is a very personal thing.
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Bone marrow is rich and luscious, but does not have a particularly strong flavor.  It's indistinctly beefy, but the it's the texture and vague viscosity that at first confuses but inevitably seduces the palate.  Although this dish is especially good in the late fall don't wait til then to try it.  Serve this with a nice glass of dark beer.
 
 

Feeling a little homesick for my Omi, and therefore the perfect thing for lunch is chopped liver.  The dish is basically a mash up of chicken livers, onions, bacon and hard boiled eggs made into something like a paste and then eaten on toast.  It's way better than it sounds.

Growing up, Omi made lots of dishes with chicken livers, and this is one of my favorites that my Mum also makes really well.  All  of our recipes are a little different and yet I still think of this as my Omi's recipe.  Funny how recipes can change over generations and yet can still be thought of as the 'authentic' recipe.  Makes me wonder how original the Colonel's fried chicken recipe actually is.

Questions for another time.

You need 5 chicken livers, 4 slices of bacon, half an onion, and two eggs.  And salt and pepper to taste.

Before you do anything else put an egg or two in a pot and cover with cold water, bring to a boil cover and turn off the heat.  Let it sit there until you need your hard boiled eggs.

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The two first ingredients are bacon and chicken livers.  Start by washing your chicken livers to remove the excess blood, and clean them of fat and other bits that look like they don't belong.  Then set aside the livers and fry the bacon.
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When it starts to look like this and lots of the precious fat has rendered out take the bacon and drain on paper towels.  Pour off some of the fat, or not.  Whatever is to your taste.  I poured off about half, but I had some fatty bacon.  Chop half an onion and add it to the pan with the bacon fat and cook until soft and just a little brown.  Then add the chicken livers.  I like to keep the liver and onions separate so that I can remove the onions when they get to just the right spot, but still get a little of the liver juice mixed in with them.
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Cook the chicken livers about 5-6 minutes over medium high heat flipping once.  Unlike the dirty rice recipe where I cooked them to just pink, I'm cooking them a little farther because they are not going to get cooked anymore.

Once cooked, take them out of the pan and when they're cool enough to handle roughly chop and then put all the livers in an appropriate sized container so that you can use an immersion blender to give them a smoother texture, you want it a little smooth and a little chunky.
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If you don't have an immersion blender use a knife to chop them and then use a wooden spoon the mash them to a texture you like.

Season with salt and pepper add the bacon (which should be chopped at some point) the fried onions and then peel and chop the hard boiled eggs.  I boiled two but only ended up using one.
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At this point you've got your chopped up liver, fried onion, crumbled bacon and chopped egg in a bowl.  Things should be looking more and more like lunch at this point.  A lot of people do not fold the chopped egg in, but put it on top.  I like it folded in, but up to you. 
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Fold together, taste and season again.  I ended up adding a drop of cider vinegar to cut a little of the liveriness.  If you do this make sure that you don't end up tasting the vinegar, you just want it to balance out other flavours, not be a major player in your mouth.

Once it taste's lovely put it in the fridge for a few hours so that the dish can mellow.  Once you can't wait any more make some toast, and maybe a citrusy parsley salad. 
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This makes an awesome late afternoon snack or even lunch on a hot summer day.  You can also put this chopped liver in a picnic basket with a cold bottle of riesling.  Perfect for a day in the park.
 
 

The next few projects are on their way.  I've got some more chicken livers begging to be cooked, as well as a really awesome roasted bone marrow recipe and something very new to me, tripe!

Now I'm totally confident in the livers and bone marrow, but having never cooked tripe I'm a little nervous.  The first of these will  be up in the next day or so.  Check back soon!

 
 

I love chicken livers.  And I don't mean that I love chicken livers like the guy next door loves pizza.  The feelings I have about chicken livers are deep and profound, and reserved for very few other ingredients.  There's something about their mild rich flavor combined with their creamy texture that simultaneously comforts and excites me. 

Recently I ate dinner at Red Bones BBQ and had the smoked beef ribs, which were wonderful, but instead of beans I substituted a side of dirty rice.  Now I'm sure that it was something about the name dirty that drew me to this rice, but what arrived with my ribs exceeded my hopes.  Nothing really to look at, a light brown coloured rice with lumps of meat in it, but the flavor had all the calling cards of my favorite ingredient.  Meaty and rich, and only subtly liver-y. 

After looking at a few recipes online this is what I came up with.  Probably nothing compared to what a Southern Mama makes, but still very flavorful.  Pretty good for a Canadian.

After defrosting my chicken livers (yes, I have an emergency stash of liver in my freezer) I rinsed them and removed some of the ugly bits.  Then I started frying the chicken livers, there are a few chicken hearts thrown in for good measure.

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Once nice and brown they got flipped.  The goal is to cook them until they are pink in the center.
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When my livers were done they went to rest on a plate.
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Then I added to the same pan half an onion and one piece of celery with its leaves.  Once these were fragrant and translucent I added a half cup of brown rice and a cup of water.
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I had to add more water when it started to look dry, and I seasoned with salt, cracked black pepper and some red pepper flakes.   I brought this mixture up to a simmer for about five minutes, then turned it down and put a lid on it.  I wandered around and did other things while this was simmering away, I think it took around 40 minutes for the rice to cook.  When my rice was cooked I chopped my liver and hearts into pieces.
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Then added my chopped liver to my rice mixture and folded them together.
Tasted it and re-seasoned, it was a little tight so I added a small splash of water and put it back on a low heat so that all the flavors could get to know one another.  Then it was lunch time. 

I spooned my rice into a bowl, brought out a bottle of tabasco and dug in.  The liver flavor was there and had perfumed the dish, but adding that last splash of water and letting everything hang out for a bit before I ate had really brought everything together.  The flavor of the vegetables was there, and because of chicken livers mild flavor none of the ingredients overpowered the dish, but all of them had their place.  The tabasco added a really nice hint of vineager as well as some spice.
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This is very different than the chopped liver of my childhood, but still very yummy.  Chicken livers are incredibly versatile, they can be simply pan-fried and eaten with toast, or made into a mousse and even dirtied up in come rice.  If you're looking for a good introduction into the world of offal chicken livers are some of the easiest to prepare, and in my opinion some of the most delicious.
 
 

After my previous adventures with Pea and PIg's Ear soup, I was left with a bunch of pork stock.  Stopping at the Asian market on the way home and finding the world's smallest pork roast (costing under $3.00) means I'm now ready to begin my first attempt at a headless headcheese.  I'm using a shoulder  to replace all the meat that gets picked off the head after it's cooked in a traditional headcheese and suspended in the stock.

Salt on the roast and then a quick sear on all sides, followed by a good pour of PBR.  My lovely beer soaked roast  then went in a 325 oven for just under an hour and a half.

The next day after it had cooled overnight in the fridge my roast got shredded, I saved the cooking liquid which had solidified into a nice gelatinous mass as well and put it in with my older stock.  Instead of adding brunoise of carrot, as well as chopped up bits of pig ear I decided to keep it really simple.  Just shredded roast, some finely chopped parsley and some salt and cracked black pepper.

A terrine dish lined with plastic was the perfect thing to set my headcheese.  First a sprinkle of parsley, followed by the shredded seasoned meat and then another sprinkle of parsley.  I then melted my stock and gently poured enough stock in the terrine dish to just cover my meat mixture.

The dish went into the fridge to set again.  The next day I removed my plastic wrap blob to reveal my jiggly headcheese.  In fact my headcheese was a little more jiggly than I wanted it; ideally I wanted something that was more sliceable than spreadable.  What I ended up with was something more spreadable, but it did have a nice pork and parsley flavor.

Even with its shortcomings in texture my headcheese still tasted good, and I learned a few good lessons.  Reduce the stock further to get an even more gelatinous texture, and shred my pork a lot more to help with my texture issue.

My headcheese was served with a splash of vinegar, crusty bread and some dijon mustard.  And not being one to focus on shortcomings I decided to have a celebratory beer along side my headless headcheese.

 
 

Having a container of leftover stock from my pig's ear soup leaves me with a world of possibilities.  This stock has the exciting ability to stay gelled at room temperature, which makes the possibilities far more interesting than a simple soup.

As I've said throughout, this stock has been in my freezer since I last made headcheese, so although I have no pork to suspend in it I think I'm going to make something like a headcheese.  A headless headcheese.  Decapitated headcheese.

I only make headcheese when I have a head.  And I usually find myself with a pig's head after I roast a pig.  Which I did when I first moved to Boston.  I managed to roast a seventeen pound pig in the tiny domestic kitchen.  My Mum was very proud.

There's the pig.  Many thanks to my dear friend Naomi who took this photo and then left it on facebook for me to find two years later.  Unphased by not having a pan big enough to fit my pig I simply placed my porcine lovely directly on the oven rack, lined my oven with foil and prayed.  The smoke detector went off multiple times, and I managed to set an oven mitt on fire.  No one was hurt.  The oven also managed to stay remarkably clean throughout the entire process.

The plan for this stock today is to get a small piece of pork shoulder if I can find it, or some other fatty piece otherwise . Then braise it, shred it, season it and suspend it in my  gelatinous stock.  Making something close to a headcheese.

I'm trying to figure out how to incorporate my leftover fried ears into this as well.  And possibly use some leftover soup, provided it can stay gelled.  Ideally making a multi-layered, multi-coloured terrine/headcheese type thing.

With a good viscous stock the options seem endless.

 
 

Raining again today, the weather is begging for soup.  After a day in the fridge I brought out my pot of pea soup, put it on the stove and lifted the lid.  Looking up at me was a pot of totally congealed green goo.  So thick that a heavy ladle stood straight up in it, and I was able to slice it like cake.  Which I did.

It's really rather pretty, just not exactly soup-like.  Note to self: when making soup with headcheese stock, make sure to water it down.  My soups solid nature was easily fixed by being placed back on the stove over a low flame.  While my soup was slowly returning to a liquid state I got busy slicing my cooked pig's ear.  The ears were sticky, with a mildly gelatinous exterior over a hard cartilage that gives the ear its structure.  I had four ears but only sliced two in case I needed to adjust the width of my slicing.

With my soup melting and my ears sliced I needed to heat my oil and fry my ears.  Now, my recipe warned me that ears tend to spatter when they fry even when they're dry.  This is very, very true.  I'm fairly sure that there is oil on my ceiling, and I have several little burn marks from badly chosen moments of stirring.  Frying pig's ears is not a dull experience.

When they were all fried I had a beautiful pile of crunchy and chewy pigs ears to top my soup with.

I seasoned my soup with salt, fresh black pepper and a little cider vinegar.  With a few more tastes I determined that a little hot sauce was needed so some of that went in the pot, and then it was ready.  With bowl and spoon in hand it was time to taste.

The soup was very thick and viscous, and the crispy pig's ear topping was a little chewy and had a lovely salty falvour.  All in all an exceptionally filling bowl of soup full of hearty flavors and a lots of texture.  An excellent beginning to my nose to tail eating experience courtesy of Fergus Henderson's The Whole Beast.

 
 

Today it was a little rainy in MA, so it seemed to be the perfect day to start making my soup.  I did not have a ham stock like the recipe asked for, but I did have some pork stock left over from when I made head cheese last.  Also, I had four pig's ears and not two like the recipe asked for, so all four went in the pot.  I used almost double the liquid the recipe called for so I'm guessing it's going to be alright.  It's really a simple recipe; pig's ears, onions, stock and split peas go into a pot for three hours.  Then the pig's ears are removed, sliced thinly and deep fried to what I'm hoping will be a delightful crisp and placed on top as a garnish.

I'll just be making the soup tonight, and taking the pigs ears out to cool and slice tomorrow.  Hopefully this will be my lunch at work all week.  I have very high hopes for this recipe, although the pig's ears have turned a mildly disturbing dark colour while they simmer away with the peas and onions.  I thought about putting a picture up, but I'm having some technical difficulties.  The pig's ears are no longer the pleasant pink colour they were in the photo above, enough said.  Anyway, high hopes.