Eating Nose to Tail

Mum was in town to visit last weekend, and at some point during  our shopping we bought a whole tenderloin.  Beef tenderloins are a cut that I have a bit of experience breaking down, thanks in part to one event I catered with Rich Chudy a couple years ago.  I was  really excited/distracted by having my Mum in town and I totally blanked on photographing how one would break down a whole tenderloin at home.  After a quick search I found a site called Great-Grilling who have a good example of how to break down a tenderloin at home. I'm still thinking it may be a good idea (and kinda fun) to go get another one and do a post about it myself.

A tenderloin chain is a piece of the tenderloin that runs along one side.  It's much tougher than the loin itself, and most recipes ask you to "remove and save for another use" but don't give much advice on what that other use is.  If I'm breaking down a lot of tenderloins and have a lot of chains I will grind them (they make awesome burgers) but since I only had one I decided to braise it with dried mushrooms and red wine.
The chain.
While I was an Intern at America's Test Kitchen I was told repeatedly to never photograph meat on a red board, this photo has opened my eyes to why.

The chain has a lot of fat and connective tissue, which in my mind makes it perfect for a braise.  After removing some of the fat and breaking the chain down into pieces I was left with this.
Stew size pieces of chain.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees, and get out your covered braising dish and heat up a splash of oil (I used olive).  Next sear the meat until it's a nice brown colour.
Seared chain.
Chop up some veggies, I used onion, garlic, carrot and celery because that's what I had on hand but leeks, shallots and white mushrooms are other veggies that would also work.  Be creative.  Cook the veggies in the same pan, making sure to scrape up all the beefy bits stuck to the pan as they cook.  Once the veg are soft return the meat with all the juices they've released to the pan and add a handful of dried mushrooms. 
Chain, shrooms and veg.
Pour over some red wine and maybe some beef stock if you've got some, and add a sprinkle of cracked black pepper.  Put the whole thing in the oven for around an hour or until the meat is tender.  Once it's done season with a nice salt.

I prepared this on Monday and we ate it on Thursday, it keeps really well in the fridge.  Reheat, and if you want you can thicken the sauce by removing the meat and adding a beurre manié (aka a paste made from equal parts flour and butter) or any other thickening method you prefer.  I also added a spoonful of sour cream, just to give it some richness.

I served this dish with egg noodles, but boiled potatoes would also be good.
The chain is very beefy, and goes really well with the red wine and mushrooms.  I was in the mood for a hard cider, which went well with the beefy dinner.

One of the best parts of butchering larger cuts of meat is you can really use all of the bits and pieces.  Grilling a perfect filet can be easily taught to just about anyone, but knowing all of the cuts takes a little more effort.  Although that effort is greatly rewarded with meals like this.
I just started my new job today, so I'm adjusting to my new schedule.  Meaning my posts have been/will be sporadic but will settle down to a more regular, and hopefully more frequent, routine shortly.

Also, I've been changing some things around the site after some input from readers.  Primarily darkening the colour of the font from gray to black.  Any and all feedback is, as always, welcomed and encouraged.

Coming soon - Braised tenderloin chain with mushrooms and red wine.
Although I have been a Slow Food Member for the past two years I'm a little ashamed to admit that I have not been an active member.  That all changed yesterday when I attended my first event.  The event that inspired me to finally get off my ass and participate was a dinner hosted by Slow Food Boston at 606 Congress.  The dinner was a whole locally raised lamb, which Chef Gregory Griffie prepared within the nose to tail philosophy.  Needless to say it was an event which I could not miss. 

When I first arrived and got a look at the menu I was surprised by the distinct lack of any sort of offal.  As much as I love lamb shanks and shoulder, I was here to taste all of my lamb.  My darkest fears were averted when servers holding trays of kidney's, heart and testicles began to arrive.  I was pleased to see the Chef's nod to St. John's with deviled kidney's served with little pieces of toast.  The kidney's were especially delicious, although the hearts were tasty as well.
The menu (complete with wine stains)
I have to admit, although I wasn't exactly sure what to expect from a Slow Food Boston dinner.  I was struck by exactly how posh the restaurant was.  The space was beautiful and the staff were  friendly and charming.  The wines (which were paired with each course) worked well with the food and were all either organic or biodynamic.  The man who paired and introduced all the wines was very engaging and had fun with both the wine and the event.  I always breathe a sigh of relief when confronted with a wine person who manages to break free from the stiffness that seems to envelope the wine industry.

The courses were all lovingly prepared, but the one that I continue to think of the following day was the lamb breast au gratin.  The meat was braised and pressed and ended up tender with a perfect amount of fat still clinging to the meat.  The lamb breast was served with white beans and kale it was a dish I know I will be thinking about on my next crisp New England evening.  Although the weather yesterday was warm and even balmy this dish was still the highlight of the evening. 

The event has inspired me to get more involved with my local chapter of Slow Food.  Beyond the food and setting the people Ross and I sat next to were lively and charming and made the evening even more memorable.  The rest of the table were all from Allandale Farm and although I didn't get to chat with them as much as I would have liked the snippets of conversation we exchanged are still with me today (brief conversations about tattoos, and the sex appeal of male farmers).  Hopefully I'll be able to get over to their farm this weekend with my Mum (who is visiting) and Ross.

It warms my heart to see people getting excited about nose to tail eating, I'm looking forward to more of these events in the future. 

A great night all around.
The fat has been curing for a month.  It's slightly hard, and smells like, well, fat.
Cured back fat.
I don't have any walnuts, nor do I have and nice fresh bread so I have not tasted it yet.  I've put it in a ziploc bag, with it's non-wet salt and dried spices and placed it back in the fridge.

I'm more than willing to entertain advice about how exactly I should consume this lovely fat.  I've heard that sometimes lardo replaces pancetta or guanciale in carbonara, so that's on my list.  And of course grilled on bread, and wrapped around walnuts.  But this is a rather large piece of fat, so any creative suggestions forways of using it are very much welcome.
As I've mentioned many times before, I love chicken liver.  Last weekend we had our lovely friends Tobi and Mandy over for dinner, and for an appetizer I decided to make a quick version of chicken liver mousse.  Because of the season I had an abundance of apples in my fridge and the idea of apples sauteed with butter and nice fresh chicken liver seemed like an ideal pair.
First I sauteed a finely chopped onion and a whole peeled and grated apple. 
Apple and onion.
Once they were soft I removed them from the pan and quickly fried the chicken livers until they were still pink in the center.  Then I simply chopped the liver into smaller pieces and used my immersion blender to finely combine the liver and apple/onion mixture together until smooth.  If you want this to be velvety take this mixture and press it through a fine mesh sieve, or not, up to you.  I did not.  I seasoned my version with salt and pepper and a few drops of rye whiskey (in honour of Canadian Thanksgiving).

In most mousse's people choose to fold in some cream whipped to medium peaks, I think with this recipe that would really dull both the flavor of the liver and the apple, so I left it as is.  Which means this is more accurately a "very, very finely chopped liver". 
Done. I resisted the urge to throw on some chopped parsley for colour.
After a few hours in the fridge I served it with some nice crusty bread and a crisp white wine.  Some good accompaniments would also be a nice apple jelly and cornichon if you want to get fancy.

Happy (Canadian) Thanksgiving!
Recently, while on a hunt for calves liver, I came across some good looking fresh sweetbreads.  The calves liver was MIA so a small package of sweetbreads came home with me instead.  I grew up with my Omi making breaded, deep-fried sweetbreads for my Mum's birthday.  I think Omi's recipe is an especially good way to serve sweetbreads, the crunchy breading coating the soft tender sweetbread.  The issue is that lately I've been trying to be a little more fat consciousness, my solutions was to try a simple pan seared sweetbread.

After some searching online I came across this recipe for grilled sweetbreads at and decided to use this as a basis for my pan-seared version.
Following the epicurious recipe, I blanched the sweetbreads in acidulated water until they seemed cooked.  I didn't follow the cooking times, so I followed the cook "until it's done" logic.  When they were done I removed the tougher bits and separated the little sweet bread knobs into smaller pieces.
Blanched, separated sweetbreads.
From this point on I stopped using the formal recipe and just used common sense.  I heated up some olive oil until it just began to smoke and added my sweetbreads.
Golden brown.
The sweetbreads rolled around the hot pan until they took on that nice crunchy looking texture and brown colour. 

The sweetbreads went onto a plate, followed by a quick sprinkle of salt and crushed black pepper.  And just for a little colour some parsley that hadn't yet ended up in my stock pot.
A nice mid-afternoon snack.
Sweetbreads are really delicate in both taste and texture, and the quick searing method really let the flavour of the sweetbread come through.  If you're looking for a good intro-offal I would highly recommend sweetbreads because they are undeniably organ, but totally mild and inoffensive to a sensitive palate.

This pan-seared version of my childhood favorite are a good mid-afternoon treat, but in my mind lacks the festivity of Omi's deep fried version.  Although if you paired them with a nice white wine and served it with some fluffy mashed potatoes these have the potential to be a lovely week night dinner.