Eating Nose to Tail

Some people thought I was crazy, signing up to receive 4-6 pounds of whole fish every week for nine weeks.  I might be, only time will tell.  But my first fish was a delicious resounding success, and I'm looking forward to next week's fish already.
Whole fish means the whole kit and caboodle, except the guts.  Which is nice.  When I signed up I thought they came with guts too.  I am by no means an expert at cutting fish, but by the end of this experience I hope to be better. 

For my first attempt it wasn't too bad, two filets, two cheeks, two pieces of cod belly and a tongue.  Along with a ton of bones to make stock.  I have to say this Cape Anne never disappoints, this fish was swimming that morning and smelled like the ocean.  A total joy to work with.
And there it is (those two pieces actually on the newspaper still have skin) all my bits and pieces.  

The first filet went into fried fish and grits with a spinach salad. the second filet was pan seared and put on quinoa 'risotto' made with fish stock.  The bones went into stock, for the risotto and for a big bowl of noodle soup.
Fish stock.
The soup is seasoned with cilantro and lime, and in it went the two pieces of fish belly and the lovely tender cheeks, a few quickly cooked maitake mushrooms and a heaping pile of yam noodles.  It was during this meal I learned that cod tongues have a bone - who knew?

Possibly my favorite meal of the week.
We got three filling meals out of one fish, at 22$ per week for the CSF that's 3.66$ each per meal.  Which I think is a totally reasonable amount to spend on locally caught, sustainably caught super fresh fish - don't you?
Some of you may know that Ross and I run, an online record shop that specializes in drum & bass.  Through the shop we've been lucky enough to meet a lot of really neat people - one of which was the very polite, very talented UK-based dubstep producer Ramadanman.

One night over the summer we had the pleasure of having Ramadanman and a few local dubstep DJ's over for some late night tea.  We talked extensively about what constitutes a proper cup of tea, and throughout our chat it became apparent that Ramadanman knew his way around a kitchen.  It occurred to me much later that he also has a pretty killer tune called 'Offal.'
Recently I got back in touch with Ramadanman and was lucky enough to get a quick interview with him about offal, cooking and food in general.

ENT - I gather you enjoy cooking.

RAMADANMAN - I'm a big fan of cooking, especially traditional French.

ENT - Traditional French cuisine uses a fair bit of offal - I'm thinking of pâté specifically.  Are there any French dishes you cook frequently or specifically enjoy?

RAMADANMAN -  I do like pâté in fact, and I did get to try some foie gras at Christmas time in France - at a school meal of all places.  By French cookery I'm thinking more French techniques of cooking rather than particular dishes - although all the famous French classics are wicked.

ENT - Do you cook regularly, and are there any offal dishes that pop up in your kitchen?

RAMADANMAN - I cook quite often, mainly simple stuff such as pasta, but generally once a week cook something a bit more special. I've cooked some pork belly before, although I wouldn't really class that as offal. All about slow roasting it for a few hours.

ENT - How did you come up with 'Offal' as a title for one of your tunes?

RAMADANMAN - Think I called the tune that cause it was kinda murky and a bit dark! Then again I might just not have eaten decent offal.

ENT - It's neat that you describe the song as dark and murky like offal.  Is it purely that offal are generally organs, and that there's something a little sinister about eating those parts of the animal?

RAMADANMAN - I think innards and organs are generally quite sorta...well almost taboo in our society.  Maybe some people find it weird eating a part of an animal that had a particular function. Whereas if you're just eating a regular say steak, it was just a bit of flesh, rather than an animal's tongue, which did something specific. I think abbatoirs and butchers can be quite dark places - a lot of references to that in films and novels.
Image courtesy of

I suppose that depends on which side of the knife you're on.

Thanks again to Ramadanman for taking the time to give us his thoughts about offal, cooking and food in general.  We hope to hear more about his culinary exploits in the future.

Pork belly is one of the greatest parts of one of the yummiest (if not the yummiest) animals on the planet.  This cut of pork has the ability to be both luscious and crisp at the same time.  And when you think about it that is a truly challenging thing to accomplish.  The most common product made with pork belly is strip bacon, but it has many possibilities fresh.  This dish is braised, but I've also deep fried it.

After reading many pork belly recipes over the last few days I decided that none of them sounded like exactly what I wanted. I was also unwilling to go to the store to buy any more ingredients to create many of the dishes I'd been reading about.  With this being my situation, and having a pound of pork belly and a napa cabbage on hand, this is what I came up with for dinner.  My fingers are crossed, but if the worst should happen there's a good pizza place nearby that delivers.

The skin and fat gets scored before anything else.
Score the fat on the belly and sliver some garlic.  Cut three slits into the meaty part of the belly and push the slivered garlic into the slits.  The belly gets a good dusting of Chinese five spice and then a few generous squirts of soy sauce.  That whole mess gets put in the fridge for a few hours.
Ready for the fridge
When the pork belly has had a few hours to marinate in the fridge, roughly slice some napa cabbage and chop some garlic scapes (they aren't necessary; you can use a few cloves of garlic instead, but I'd just bought these at the farmers market.)  At this point the oven gets heated to 350 degrees, which is high for braising but my oven is a little cold.
Garlic scapes and napa cabbage.
Now it's time to sear the belly.  Add a glug of olive oil to a braising dish, and  heat it on the stove until shimmery.  Once it's heated sear the belly on all sides.  Keep the container that you marinated the belly in, a little later you're going to need it.  Once all sides are seared and brown remove the belly and add the chopped garlic scapes.
Resting belly.
When the scapes are aromatic, add the chopped napa cabbage and a little water.  Once the cabbage starts to wilt, make two little pockets in the cabbage and nestle a piece of belly in each one.

At this point take the dish that the belly was marinated in and loosen the marinade that's left in it with a quick splash of water, pour it over the belly and cabbage.  For dramatic effect I placed a curl of garlic scape which was left lonesome on the counter in with the belly.  Covered it with the lid and placed it in the oven.
This pound of pork belly took 1.5 hours to cook  It's ready when the meat is tender, the layer of fat is quivering and the cabbage is perfumed with the garlic scapes and coated with pork fat. 

So far so good.

The best part of pork belly is that it can have the satisfying crunch of bacon, but still be tender and juicy like a well cooked pork chop. I've achieved tender, now it's time to achieve the crunch.

The plan is to heat up my broiler and crisp the skin and fat, thereby achieving the much sought after tender/crunchy dynamic.  While the broiler is heating I've made some rice, and also taken some of the cabbage that did not go into the pot with the belly and steamed it.  Normally steamed cabbage doesn't really do much for me, but this is a lovely head of cabbage from the local farmers market and I think it will be really nice alongside my delicious, yet very rich pork belly.
Under the broiler.
It takes a few minutes but eventually the belly will start to make popping noises.  Be very careful because this will go from delightfully crisp to on fire very quickly.
Pork belly, rice, steamed and braised cabbage.
All of my pork belly goals were achieved, tender and crisp, luscious and savory.  Once again this meal has been more than recession friendly; the entire head of cabbage (there's still some left as well) and the pound of pork belly were 2$ and 2.79$ respectively. 

I'm very pleased with how my experiment went, this is a recipe that will definitely be repeated.