Eating Nose to Tail




It's important not be afraid of new things.
Especially when they taste like duck soup.  Thanks so much to Lucia for sharing her balut with me, and Kellie for giving it a try.
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?
Thanks to an old friend from graduate school I recently had the privilege of teaching a nose to tail eating class at Newbury College.  The students were all seniors, excellent cooks and enthusiastic about food.

We cooked a lot of food - grilled pig tails, chili beef heart, snapper collars, sweetbreads, marrow bones and as a special treat Jamie Bissonette left us a pig head from his butchering demo.  It was an awesome day and I really hope they invite me back next year.

Here are a few pictures from that class - and if any of those students read this and want to cook some more offal sometime soon, definitely drop me a line!
Ham is always beautiful thing - but there's something especially special about a nice leftover ham bone.  Unless you're a compulsive ham eater ham bones only come around a couple times a year, and it's a big decision picking out the recipe to use it in.  A simple pot of beans is one of my favorites.

Here's my simple recipe for beans, if you've got one I recommend using a slow cooker - if not just simmer it away over a low stove.
Two bones, and some beans.
Ham Bone Beans
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1/2 lb dried navy beans
  • 1 ham bone with plenty of meat
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
Fry onions in a knob of butter until soft.  Add dry navy beans, ham bone, ketchup, water, brown sugar, maple syrup and smoked paprika.  Simmer over very low heat until beans are soft but not falling apart adding more water as needed, 3-5 hours.

Or, put everything in a slow cooker and cook on low.

Serves 4-6
Community Supported Agriculture has been around for a few years, it's an excellent way to support small farms as well as eating local.  Those of us who live on the coast also have access to community supported fishing (or CSF).  The community supported fishing that we participate in offers whole fish shares as well as fillets.  And although scaling, and sometimes gutting fish may not be everyone's idea of a great time on a Monday night, the quality of fish is awesome (and way cheaper if you get the whole fish share) and the practice with a knife is worth the time (at least that's what I keep telling myself).

So far I've gotten pollock, haddock and monkfish.  This week it was redfish, along with a special share of Northern shrimp that I ordered a few weeks ago.
Whole redfish.
These are a smaller variety of fish, so these guys came with guts and all.  The fisherman process the larger fish varieties so they come gutted (and the monkfish came headless), these were the first small fish we've received so it was the first time I've had to gut anything with this share.

The three smallest fish I scaled, gutted and filleted.  Some of the fillet's I put in a marinade for later this week and the heads and bodies I saved for stock.
Heads, tails and fillets.
I sautéed onion, celery, carrot, garlic and ginger in butter until tender then placed some shrimp bodies on top (leftover from last night's dinner) followed by the fish heads.
Followed by the fish bodies.
Tails on heads.
I covered all of it with a kettle of boiling water and then simmered for one and a half hours with a few peppercorns and a bay leaf.  Be sure to skim often, I ended up straining it twice through two different sized strainers.
Strained out shrimp and fish.
Dinner tonight will be some of the fillet's poached in the stock, I haven't decided whether to add tomatoes and some of my whole shrimp for a European fish stew kind of thing, or to simmer some lemongrass in the stock and add soba noodles shrimp, veggies and a few dumplings for a totally different meal.
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. 
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.
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.
Even though my roasted duck didn't turn out as well as I'd hoped that's no reason I can't create a masterpiece out of the leftovers.  A big pot of duck soup with some fresh veggies and soba noodles.

Homemade stock is one of the coziest things that can ever come out of a kitchen.  The smells and the warmth totally engulf the entire house, and you get another entire meal out of the carcass of last nights supper.
I put the leftovers from last night straight into a pot, which sat in my fridge all day waiting for me to come home.  Once I got home I simply added the veggies I had on hand (a chili pepper, a sweet pepper, some celery, a few garlic cloves, a few peppercorns, half an onion, a sad piece of ginger and the daikon sprouts off my plate from last nights supper) and covered the entire mess with cold water.

Turn the heat to medium-high and wait an hour or two.  Generally the longer you simmer the stock the better it will be, but I've really only got the wings and carcass of my duck.  The legs are going to go in later to loosen up, then I'll shred the meat and add it to my finished soup.
When the stock is done I drain and discard all the veggies and the bones.  If you're feeling particularly zealous you can strip the meat from the neck, and also test the gizzards to see how tender they are.  If they're really tough you can slice them thin and poach them in the stock again.  This is also the point where you want to taste and season your stock - don't be afraid, it can take a lot of salt.
Sliced gizzards, bottom right.
I love to add a few nice crisp veggies to my final dish, so I also like to poach some broccoli and peppers (or whatever you've got) in the broth before I add my noodles.
Once your stock is drained and seasoned, your veggies are poached, and all your meat is shredded and ready you've just got to cook the noodles and assemble the soup.
The flavour is wonderful, much richer than chicken stock.  And I seem to have stumbled onto something excellent with the combo of veggies I used.  I think it's the lack of carrot, a totally over rated stock veggie if you ask me.  This is some seriously rich, complex, ducky goodness.  A completely new, awesome, meal made out of what's in the fridge and the bones of Sunday dinner. 
Tonight I got home from work and felt a little fragile.  My husband Ross, being the saint that he is, let me sit at my computer watching trashy TV and took care of dinner.  Complete with my favorite - roasted bone marrow.
Dinner tonight consisted of a bottle of wine, some nice cheese, a niçoise salad and a few knobs of roasted bone marrow with scallions and buckwheat walnut toast.

While Ross was compiling all his salad ingredients he preheated the oven to 425 degrees and put in the bone marrow (on a foil covered tray) - twenty minutes later the marrow was perfectly jiggly.  Ross sprinkled each bone with some coarse gray sea salt and a generous pile of sliced scallions.

The coarse gray salt cuts the rich beefiness of the bones perfectly.  And the scallions managed to add a little bit of summer to what I normally think of as a rich (fall or wintery) dish.

Thanks for a fantastic dinner Ross, I'm a very lucky lady.
The weather here has been beautiful all week, which made me crave ribs.  The grocery store answered with some big, luscious, fatty, beef ribs. I must confess, I prefer grilled beef ribs but these  were oven baked (still haven't gotten a real grill for the new house.)  The best part of beef ribs is feeling like a Flintstone chewing on a giant brontosaurus bone.
Beef ribs.
Ribs always remind me of my Uncle Bunny, so I used some of his secret rub.  It's a lovely bright red colour, which makes me think it has paprika in it, maybe cayenne.  Either way it's my favorite for ribs.
Beef ribs with Bunny's rub.
The rubbed ribs sat in the fridge overnight, and then went onto a rack, on a tray onto which I poured a can of PBR.
After a night in the fridge.
Covered with foil and then into the oven at 300 degrees for forty minutes, followed by another half hour at 400 degrees basting it with my favorite BBQ sauce of the moment (Fighting Cock) every 10 minutes or so.
Feeling like Fred Flintstone.
Nice tall glass of beer, some rice and peas and dinner is ready.  I made way too many ribs.  The leftovers (once stripped from the bone) made a really awesome hash with fried eggs for breakfast the next day.

And yes, if you're wondering, that is BBQ sauce on my camera lense.

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.

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.
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.
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.
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.