Eating Nose to Tail


 
Another one from the master - Fergus Henderson's recipe for deviled kidneys.  I'm using lamb kidneys that I got from my meat CSA, Stillman Farm, they do this wonderful thing where they give away all the off bits and offal for free to members.  My meat CSA is amazing - everyone should join one.

The recipe is very simple.  Remove the sinewy bit from the center of each kidney, roll them in seasoned flour and fry in butter in a very hot pan (2 minutes each side).  Add a large shake of worcestershire sauce and some chicken stock, once everything has 'gotten to know each other' take the kidneys from  the pan and put on a piece of toast to rest.  Continue to reduce the sauce, and when ready pour the reduced sauce over the kidneys on toast.
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Deviled kidney on toast with Brussels sprouts tossed in grainy mustard.
This recipe reminds me of my Dad - I can see him eating these  for lunch on a cold day in Nova Scotia with a pint of dark beer.

The kidney's are simple and salty and the toast soaks up the gravy in just the right way.  If my cholesterol weren't already high I would eat this for lunch everyday.  Or maybe breakfast.
 
 
This weekend we hosted a Cowboy Brunch at our house.  Two of our dear friends came over and were kind enough to cook a bunch of cowboy themed brunch foods.  It was delicious.  One of the guys cooked for the meat-eaters, and the other cooked for our darling vegetarians.  We also had a few vegans so I contributed some vegan baked beans, and because I had a slightly freezer-burnt chunk of tenderloin in the freezer I decided to cure it following Fergus Henderson's recipe from The Whole Beast.
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Basically, the tenderloin is cured int he fridge for three days in a combination of sugar and salt, and nestled in rosemary stalks.
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After three days remove your tenderloin (making sure that it has taken on a firmer texture) and rub it with cracked black pepper, slice and serve.
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This was one of my most successful cures ever, there was a subtle rosemary flavour, along with a salty sweetness.  And because it was not a full cure the meat was very soft.  Fergus Henderson suggests a celeriac salad, but I think it would be excellent on some bitter greens as well.
 
 
When I first started down my nose to tail path, I called my Mum to tell her all about my new project.  How nose to tail eating is a more exciting and delicious way to approach food, and how I wanted to eat the foods that she and my Grandmother prepared for me as a child.  As I jabbered on I started telling her how nose to tail eating was less wasteful because all of the animal is used, and because of that it's a much greener way to eat.  Without hesitation Mum says "what do mean less waste, when I worked at a hotdog factory as a teenager there was no waste - trust me."

This brings me to the other side of eating nose to tail.  The kind a lot of people grew up doing, totally inadvertantly.  There are always those kids in the school yard who are just desperate to ruin hotdog day for everyone.  Whose older siblings have no doubt told them about the gross bits (noses, bums and feet) that get ground up and put into hotdogs - yeah that one, the one you're chewing on right now.

And it's true.  In fact many of the bits I've cooked here could otherwise be ground up and slipped into your hotdog (I hate to think of all the world's offal and odd bits being ground up into unrecognizable mush, but I love a good hotdog).  While hearing about it on the school yard may make some of us turn vegetarian for a few hours or so, using all parts of the animal is just good business practice - always has been.  That's not to say we should start blindly grinding up every cut of pig that's not a chop.  What kind of world would we live in without a gloriously stuffed trotter, or perfectly roasted cheek?  A dismal one is the answer.  But let's face it, there's always room in the pantry for some highly seasoned, very salty preserved pork.  Whether it's guanciale, leberkäse, sausages, pâté, bacon, hotdogs or SPAM.
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Now I love hotdogs, but I've had this can of SPAM in my cupboard forever (not literally) and I've been dying to make SPAM musubi since my friend Gab from culinary school made them for the class.  And if we're going to delve into the world of kinda weird industrial meat products, let's face it - SPAM is the king.

SPAM musubi is a quintessential Hawaiian dish.  I think of it as a sort of onigiri, meets maki, meets sandwich.  Very basically SPAM musubi is fried SPAM and sushi rice wrapped in nori.  The version I've made also has a sprinkle of togarashi (a chili, sesame seed, nori condiment).

Make sure your sushi rice is ready to go.  Use whatever recipe you're comfortable with.  When your rice is ready, slice the SPAM into 10 slices and fry them.
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Once they begin to crisp, add a combination of soy sauce and sugar.  The exact mixture is up to you, I surprised myself with how much sugar I added (a lot), and I was really happy with the result. 

Reduce this mixture while flipping the SPAM - it's going to get very sticky looking.  Which is a good thing.
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Unless you have a musubi maker, take both ends off your SPAM can and use it to shape your musubi.  Split each nori sheet in half,and place SPAM can in center.  Fill bottom of SPAM can with a layer of rice, sprinkle with togarashi, top with SPAM and then cover with another layer of rice.  Next gently remove the can while keeping each layer in place.
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Finally, dampen the ends of the nori and wrap around rice/SPAM stack.
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You can slice it into smaller pieces, or not.  They keep really well wrapped individually in plastic.  I love SPAM musubi, it's salty and sweet and fatty and porky.  Delicious.  Take these on a nice long hike, or road trip or just keep in your fridge for a midnight snack.
 
 
My stock boiled away for several hours, smelling delicious.  Eventually I plucked out the head to see what I'd been left with.  As with most heads there was a good amount of meat, and all the hours of boiling had actually done very good things to the tongue, but the brain was mush.  Very close to the texture of wallpaper paste.
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I picked the meat, and peeled the tongue.  The broth was very strong, my thought is that they killed the lamb by inserting something into its head, which bled quite a bit (I discovered that after I cleavered the head open) so there was quite a bit of blood in the stock.  Not something I thought about.
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The scotch  broth I made had loads of flavour, but to me seemed a tad gamier than it normally is.  And I'm admittedly disappointed about not getting to try some yummy fried brains, or cold brains on toast. 
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I did, however,  get a very flavourful (if maybe a tad gamey) bowl of soup.
 
 
Thanks to my new meat CSA (Stillman's Turkey Farm) I've managed to get my hands on a lambs head.My grand plan was to break down my lambs head into it's various parts (skull, brain, tongue) and use each of those elements in different dishes.  This pan was derailed when I realized that in order to break down this head I needed a saw.  And I do not have a food safe saw. 
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Trying my best to break it down, this didn't help at all.
The obvious solution to my dilemma is soup.  I'm hoping that if I keep my stock boiling really low then my tongue and brain wont get overcooked.  We'll see how I do.
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Fingers crossed my plan works!
Worst case scenario is a really killer batch of scotch broth - and all things considered that's a pretty awesome worst case.