Eating Nose to Tail


 
Every year Ross and I go to Madison WI for American Thanksgiving to visit the Tiefenthalers and old friends.  I've gone on about my love of Wisconsin here before so I'll save you - but it's truly a fantastic state.

While we were there we had the opportunity to go the farmers market.  I bought some cheese curds, a ten year old chedder, jalapeno cheese of some sort, a few emu sticks for our bloody mary's and a nice piece of bison braunschweiger. 
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Bison braunschweiger on toast, green salad and the bigged cheese curd I've ever seen.
The liver is strong, but perfectly seasoned so that it's not overbearing.  The texture is coarser than the liverwurst I'm used to, almost closer to a country pâté.

One of my favorite things about Wisconsin is how feverishly they hold onto their Eastern European roots, while making those traditions undeniably mid-western.  This bison braunschweiger (a smoked liverwurst type sausage) is such a wonderful example of that.  An Eastern European classic, made with bison - it's just so awesomely Wisconsin.
 
 
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.