Eating Nose to Tail


 
I've tried a few different pig tail recipes, my favorite are consistently baked or fried and are always crisp.  The pig tails I ate at Craigie on Main were delicious, as were my Mum's the last time I was home.  Now I'm going to try and create my own version.

I like the stickiness of Mum's recipe, but some of the spices are a tad over-powering.  I'm going to use her recipe as the basis for my own.

First I'm going to make a marinade, that's going to double as a glaze.  I love ketchup, so Heinz is the base for this marinade.  To it I'm going to add a shake of smoked paprika, and a squeeze of siracha, salt and cracked black pepper.  I'm also adding some cider vinegar and some brown sugar.  I'm doing all of this to taste, while heating the entire thing on the stove.  This is just a dry run, if this batch works there will be some more tests in the future.
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Marinade/glaze.
For the next step I'm following Mum's recipe and covering the pig's tails with cold water then boiling them for an hour or so.
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Tails just starting to simmer.
After about ten minutes foam began to appear on top of the water,  it's not an issue.  I just skimmed it off.
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Tail foam.
After the hour or so, drain the tails.  I've kept the liquid to see if I can make something out of it.  Maybe a hot and sour soup or something.  You don't have to keep it though. 

Once the tails are cool enough to handle chop them into pieces.  Mine have already been partially chopped.  This is not uncommon if you get them at an Asian grocery like I did.
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Chopping tails.
The chopped tails now go into the marinade, then the fridge to sit for a day, or at least overnight.
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In the marinade, ready for the fridge.
In a day or so once the tails have "gotten to know" the marinade  I'll heat the oven and crisp them.  What I'm going for is crisp but slightly chewy glaze surrounding tender meat.  We'll see how I do in a day or so.
 
 

In January of 2007 I spent a few weeks visiting an old friend in Lima, Peru.  I was lucky enough to spend my time traveling through different parts of Peru, seeing the sites and taking in the cuisine.  Freshly squeezed juices, empanadas, sweet fried dough, with sugary syrups were some of the favorite street foods I discovered.  Not to mention the beautiful scallops with bright orange livers still attached and quivering in their shells and what must be the national dish of Peru, ceviche.  But my two favorite snacks to buy on the street were definitely grilled chicken hearts and hard boiled quail eggs.

Ladies would sit on the sidewalk with small grills selling various  kinds of skewered meats gently seasoned with a little bit of salt, some chili's and a gentle squeeze of lime.  This accompanied with a bag of tiny hard boiled eggs (I'm assuming they were quail eggs) and I could happily wander the streets for hours munching on hearts and peeling eggs.

I'm going to try and recreate some of my favorite flavors of Peru by making a simple snack of hard boiled quail eggs and grilled chicken hearts.

To begin I marinade my chicken hearts in the juice of two limes and some chili flake.  I would have been happier with fresh chili's, but I'm afraid the ones I knew where in my fridge had disappeared.

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Marinading hearts.
These hearts sit in the fridge overnight.

The next day when I'm ready for my snack, I take my hearts out of the fridge and trim off the fat, and some of the more intrusive valves that stick out of the top of the heart.
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Trimmed, marinaded chicken hearts.
Now that my hearts are ready to be skewered, I move on to my quail eggs.
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To my delight, they're Canadian.

I follow the instructions on the package, and boil my quail eggs for six minutes.
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Hopefully they turn out just right.

I use an old trick my Uncle taught me, and soak my skewers in water.  Supposedly to ensure that they don't set on fire on the grill.  Less of an issue when you're grilling inside, but I am a creature of habit.
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The quail eggs are cooked, now all that's left is cooking my hearts.  I heat up my grill pan, it's not quite a charcoal grill on the streets of Lima but I'm afraid it'll have to do.

The grill is heated and oiled; ready for my skewers.
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The grill pan.
 Ideally I want a little char on the hearts, so once I've achieved that after a few minutes and several turns they go to rest on a plate after a quick sprinkle of salt.
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Ready to rest on a plate.
It's time for my snack.  A quick squeeze of lime and the hearts are salty and spicy, with a little bit of acid.  And the tiny quail eggs are the perfect base contrast to the hearts.
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It's not quite Peru, but it's several steps above a snack of crackers and peanut butter.  In fact there is a lot of food here, my quick snack may just turn into an early supper.
 
 
One of the real reasons behind my recent visit to Canada was my Uncle Bunny's 63rd birthday.  The party was planned a few days in advance.  Schnitzel, fried chicken and pig tails were just a few of my favorites on the menu.

The pig tails are prepared by Mum, who boils them and then marinades them in a sugary spicy mixture for a few hours.  She then places them in a hot oven to crisp them.
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Pig tails waiting for the oven.
There are always some bits that get burned, but that's a small sacrifice for these fatty, crisp, almost rib like knobs of pork.  Unfortunately I was flipping schnitzel when they came out of the oven, and although I did get a plate of these brought over to me by a few caring souls, I did not get a picture of the final product.

It did however inspire me to go get some pig tails of my own, and try and make my very own version of this childhood favorite.  My pig tails are sitting in my fridge as I type, waiting for my next moment of porky inspiration.
 
 
I spent last weekend in Toronto visiting family.  Upon arriving home I was told that dinner that night was a mixed grill, to celebrate my homecoming.  Apparently Mum and Dad had eaten a lot of mixed grills when they were in the UK, and because of my love of all things offal (and my new blog) she wanted to make it for me.  Having never had a mixed grill before Mum explained that it was traditionally kidney's and lamb chops and we were going to serving it with baked tomatoes and sauteed mushrooms.  We were including liver because it's my favorite.  I love liver, and I've been dreaming of a good plate of liver and onions for months; apparently I  mentioned that once or twice.  We had calves liver and kidney's as well as pork kidney's.
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Pig kidney
It was Mum's job to prepare the kidney's, and my Uncle's job to prepare the liver.  Mum got side tracked and my Uncle Bunny ended up preparing the liver, and the calves kidney's for the frying pan. 
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Liver waiting for flour, and a nice hot pan.
Mum did step in to prepare the pig kidney's
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Mum removing the chewy bits.
We had some of my best, oldest friends over as well. Not all of whom like offal, so we also served a sausage from the St. Lawrence Market as well as the lamb chops.  Because this was my party all I had to do was the tomatoes and mushrooms, which was fine with me.

Once the kidney's and liver were about to go into the pan everything began to move fast, so I was in the way no matter where I was standing and trying to take pictures.  I have no idea what Mum and Bunny seasoned everything with, outside of flour, but these kidney's were much better than the kidney's I made earlier this summer.
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Liver on the left, kidney's on the right.
Both the liver and kidney's were cooked perfectly, and I'm not 100% of everything that went on, so I'm not sure if I could replicate it.  There was beautiful crisp bacon, and sweet caramelized onions.  The tomatoes were roasted with a bread crumb top and the mushrooms were cooked slowly in red wine.  The lamb chops and sausage were also good, but were second tier compared to the liver and kidney's.
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My plate.
We ate out in the garden, and it was dark so excuse the lighting.  In front there's the liver covered in onions and a piece of crispy bacon.  Behind the liver is the lamb chop, sausage and kidney's.  The tomato is at the back next to some fried potatoes and the red wine mushrooms.

Lots of wine and really good friends made the absolutely giant pile of dishes  all over the kitchen seem less daunting.  It was great to be back in Toronto among good friends and family.  And I just happen to be doubly blessed with a group of people who really know how to cook up a kidney.
 
 
Over the weekend we had a beer can chicken, that old camping recipe where you stick a tall boy of beer up the chickens rear and cook it standing up.  We weren't camping so our bird went in the oven not the grill but it was delicious nonetheless.
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Chicken about to go in the oven.
You can just see the beer can poking out of the chicken's bum.  Before we stuffed the beer into the chicken we removed that weird paper bag filled with the chickens giblets.  Generally the neck, a heart, liver and sometimes lungs.  We did not make gravy so now I've got a pouch full of the insides of one chicken, and I'm not sure what one does with a single chickens worth of giblets.

For the sake of full disclosure it's really hot here in Boston (and there is no AC in my apartment) so just the idea of turning on the stove makes me break into a sweat. I'm also leaving for Toronto tomorrow morning so it's looking like my giblets are going into the freezer along side the leftover bones (being saved for stock) and the huge pile of leftover meat we didn't manage to eat.

I'm still looking for some inspiration.  Ross wants to throw all the giblets into the stock, and a friend on Twitter suggested making gravy.  The gravy is sounding like a good idea. I can use the chicken meat and giblet gravy to make my favorite poutine with shredded chicken and peas when I get back from Canada.  My other idea was to try and make dirty rice again.  Make a quick stock with the neck, take off the meat and fry it up with the rest  of the giblets to add body to the rice.

If anyone has any creative ideas for what to do with a one chicken's worth of giblets I'd love to know.  If I like your suggestion I'll make it when I get back from Canada, and if no one is feeling creative I'll see where my whims take me.
 
 
Recently I picked up a pound and a half of beautiful white pork fat.  I wasn't sure what I was going to do with it but it looked to good to pass up.  After looking around on the internet I decided to render the fat and use if to make confit, or maybe a pastry, sometime in the future.  From what I can tell as long as I keep my rendered pork fat (aka lard) in the fridge it would last three months, and if I froze it it would keep for a year.
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I took my fat, which had some little bits of meat attached and chopped it into small pieces. 
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My chopped fat as well as a few spoonfuls of water were added to my dutch oven and placed over low heat.  I expected this whole process to take an hour and a half, maybe two.  This turned out to be a total underestimate.
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Just added to the pot.
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One hour.
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Two hours.
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Three hours.
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Four hours.
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Five hours.
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Six hours.
Because I had never done this before I was nervous about leaving a pot of fat unattended on my stove.  I was held hostage by pig fat for more then six hours.  Once it seemed like all the fat was rendered I drained the contents of my dutch oven through a strainer lined with cheese cloth.
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I ended up with two distinct products.  A lovely yellow lard, as well as little bits of crisp, fatty, piggy deliciousness also known as crackling.  Why I hadn't thought there would be such a lovely by product is astounding.  But I ended up having almost as much crackling as lard.  The cracklings got laid out on a sheet and sprinkled with salt, yum.
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Salting the cracklings.
After six hours of watching fat melt I'm happy so say I have half a jar of beautiful fat, and a tray of deliciously sinful cracklings.  If I attempt this again I will be sure to use a lot more pig fat to make my hours of fat watching seem more worth it.
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Lard!
For the six hours it took to get this half a jar, I really hope that my lovingly rendered lard makes the best damn pie I've ever had.
 
 
Last Thursday I had dinner at Craigie on Main.  It had been highly recommended by many people whose opinions I respect.  Once I looked at the menu online and saw that they served pig tails I knew I had to visit.  I was not disappointed.

All of my previous pig tail experience had been through my Mum.  She makes a broiled pig tail that comes out crisp with a sweet and spicy glaze, and she makes a pepper pot soup with pig tails, callaloo, scotch bonnets and various root vegetables.  Both are favorites of mine, so these pig tails had a lot to live up to.

I was not disappointed, they were delicious.  The tails were cut into small segments, not served whole. The serving was large for one person but probably a good size for two.  Although I ate all of them pretty much unaided.  They were well seasoned and served with crisp fried onions and chili's on top of a puddle of nuoc cham.  The tails were tender but also had a bit of crunch.  Totally different than what my Mum makes, and in my opinion just as good (sorry Mum!)

We also ordered the much talked about burger and the potato galette.  The galette was described by our server as 'potato crack',  which turned out to be a very apt description because I could have easily gone back for seconds and thirds  The galette was served with crisp bits of bacon, salmon roe and a flavored cream.  The burger was as good as any I'd ever had, but cost $18, and for my money I'd definitely rather have the pig tails which cost $11.

The restaurant itself is definitely upscale, but the bar food was high quality and reasonably affordable considering the quality and atmosphere.  For an upscale nose to tail experience I would happily recommend Craigie on Main. I will be taking my Mum to try the pig tails the next time she visits.
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Photo courtesy of craigieonmain.com