Eating Nose to Tail


 
Having a few good oysters when the mood strikes you is one of the best parts of living in New England.  After picking up a dozen or so at a reputable fishmonger, I pop open the first one to find this.
Has anyone ever seen anything like this?  For those that don't have the best eyesight that's a tiny, vaguely see-through crab inside my oyster.

Oysters by nature are a all-or-nothing creature.  Anything that's not the shell goes down that hatch - I'm not too sure about this little guy though.  Glad I noticed him before I got an extra crunchy bit in my oyster.
 
 
Some news from over at SeriousEats - I have a new column!  British Bites will go up every Wednesday, and will have recipes for all sorts of fantastic British food.  Bubble and squeak and Eccles cakes have already gone up.    Head on on Wednesdays for some British recipes!
 
 
Some of you may know I'm also over at SeriousEats currently doing their Sunday Brunch and Supper columns (some changes happening soon!).  Occasionally there is some crossover between my columns and this blog, and although this post hasn't gone live yet (so I'm not naming this dish) there is something awesome about putting a piece of fois gras on anything.  And as it turns out, it went especially well with this recipe.
So there's a sneak peek at what will be over at SeriousEats next weekend, with some liver on it.
 
 
If I could have this everyday for breakfast I'd be happy.
Chicken livers cooked in butter and finished with port, tucked into a soft egg blanket.  Total cooking time, 17 minutes.  Fantastic.
 
 
A good friend recommended a hotel for us to stay while we were in London, and while St John Hotel is fantastic it is not inexpensive.  When we arrived we went to the first hotel, dropped our bags and went for a walk, and not 100 feet from our doors we stumbled onto St John.  My friends know me very well.

Needless to say, we stepped inside for a glass or two and some oysters.  The appearance of the restaurant is striking.  White walls, high ceilings, plain and sturdy furniture, chalk board covered in menu items.  If I'm being honest, it was intimidating and exciting to just stumble, unprepared, into a restaurant that's been on my mind for years.

When our much anticipated first morsels of food arrived I picked up my oyster and tried to slip it gently into my mouth but to my surprise it did not slip, the abductor muscle had not been cut.  A few pokes with a fork and it was released, but it was a jarring first bite.  Whether it was a mistake from the kitchen, or an aesthetic decision to not interfere with the food I can't say.  I can say it was embarrassing, sitting at the bar at a Michelin Star restaurant unable to out smart my mollusc.  It took a minute or two and another glass of wine to compose myself, but I did. 

Roast grouse (my first), lamb shank, eccles cake and cheese, lemon sorbet and vodka - the rest of the meal went smoothly, and was delicious.  The grouse was challenging, rare and meaty.  The area of the bird where it had been shot was a bit bitter from the pool of blood, but my dining partner (an experienced grouse eater from Wisconsin) ensured me that this was part of the grouse experience.  This will not be my last time eating grouse.

Anyone who has the chance, please go eat at St John.  The aesthetic experience, the service and the food are all worth the trip.  I plan on going again, hopefully soon. 
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Photo courtesy of stjohnrestaurant.com
 
 
While flipping through the Escoffier cookbook looking for culinary insight I came across a recipe for a simple omelette filled with kidneys.  Being the sort of person who keeps a few lamb kidneys in the freezer for just this sort of occasion, one was immediately placed in the fridge to defrost.

Gently fried kidneys, nestled inside a fluffy egg omelette.  I cannot recommend this dish enough, the kidneys are meaty and a little crisp from a dusting of flour and a quick sear in a pan and the eggs are soft and fluffy.  A piece of toast, a cup of tea and you are well on your way to starting your day in a wonderful frame of mind.
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Lamb kidney omelette.
Lamb Kidney Omelette

Makes a one person omelette

-1 lamb kidney
- 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon butter, divided
- 2 eggs, beaten
- kosher salt and cracked black pepper
- finely chopped parsley, optional

Clean lamb kidney by removing fat and interior sinew, cut into 1 inch pieces.  Season flour with salt and pepper and toss kidneys in seasoned flour.

Heat 1/2 tablespoon butter over medium high heat, once foam has subsided add kidneys and cook tossing often until all sides have browned, about 5 minutes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Remove from pan and reserve.

Wipe out pan, return to heat and add remaining butter.  When foam subsides add eggs.  Once eggs have begun to set add kidneys (and parsley if you're using it) to one side of the omelette.  When eggs are set to your liking fold omelette in half and serve immediately with tea and toast.
 
 
The hotel itself is a lovely place to walk into on a rainy afternoon.  The lobby is small, mostly a receptionist's desk, entry to the restaurant, elevator and stairs.  The receptionists were all friendly and polite. Upon arrival we were told that we had been upgraded from a post-supper room to a room.  The difference as far as I can tell is that the bathtub isn't in the bedroom, which is a quirky aesthetic choice I was looking forward to (not that the upgrade wasn't a wonderful surprise).  The room is sparse, with a bed, table and a few stools.  It's very white and bright with bright green floors.
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Photo courtesy of www.stjohnhotellondon.com
Once we were settled I investigated the minibar.  It was without a doubt the most amazing minibar I have ever come across.  Far beyond the expected Coke and peanuts, there was a wide array of digestifs (Fernet Branca and Poire William being my two favorites)  as well as what looked like some very good scotches and half bottles of both vodka and gin.  There was also Champagne, cider from Normandy and Italian beer.  The half bottles of gin and vodka were the most thoughtful addition. Honestly, who finds one evening cocktail satisfying?  Especially when traveling.
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An early morning shot of the minibar.
After dinner at the hotel restaurant we took a stroll around Leicester square and headed to bed for the night.  A few hours later I was feeling a twinge of hunger, so after taking a look at the room service menu anchovy toast was on its way.

Simplicity is the essence of what St John is about.  There are no decorations on the wall and there are no garnishes on the plates; simple, clean, minimal.  There were a few experiences where this simplicity was almost aggressive.  The feeling was of butting up against a wall, the wall being a firm aesthetic choice.  The anchovy toast is a good example.
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Anchovy Toast
Full disclosure, there is one slice missing.  The smell was hard to resist.

A large piece of toast, what I'm assuming was one slice from the full length of a sandwich loaf, toasted on a grill with some sort of fat and spread with what the staff calls 'gunge'. 

It's brown.  Gunge on toasted bread.  There's nowhere to hide any sort of flaw - this dish must deliver on every level.  And, happily, it does.  The texture of the toast is given something extra from the fried texture it gets on the griddle, and the gunge itself tastes of more than anchovy (garlic for sure, maybe another spice or two) and has an appealing emulsified consistency.

Salty, savory and crisp.  This anchovy toast is exactly what I wanted at 2:30 in the morning. The room, minibar and room service were all truly memorable and lovely experience.s  Everyone who can make the trip please go spend a night or two at this unique, aesthetically thrilling boutique hotel.
 
 
During the Halloween season nose to tail eating gets a few choice moments in the sun.  Food TV seems to trot out heads, tongues and trotters at the same time as they whip out the cotton cob webs and witch hats.  Eating all the less desired bits of animals conjures something sinister in many minds, as if there is something unnatural about happily munching on pig tails, chicken feet and liver.

For the last year I've been writing a couple recipe columns for SeriousEats, and in honour of Halloween I thought I'd post a few links to the more nose to tail inspired posts that the benevolent Editors in SE headquarters have let me sneak through.
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Some bloody, tasty chicken insides.

Hope everyone has a happy and safe Halloween, filled with many delicious, scary meals.
 
 
A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to spend a few days in London, and a couple of those nights were spent at St John Hotel and St John Restaurant. 

I'm a fan, I'll admit it.  My copies of both the first and second cookbooks are worn and covered in food.  But up until this point I'd spent no time with the actual food or restaurant.  I was a fan in concept, but I had no experience with how that concept was executed.

The next few posts will be about my time at St John.  The things that exceeded my expectations, as well as an instance or two where I was surprised or disappointed.

I'm looking forward to getting to relive my pilgrimage to St John, and maybe trying to recreate a favorite dish or two while I reminisce.
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A peak at what the cooks are reading at the St John Hotel kitchen.
 
 
This Friday we're embarking on a two week European adventure.  First stop London - and we're staying at Fergus Henderson's new hotel!  To say I'm excited is an absolute understatement.

There will be much to follow, but I'm off to pack.
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Photo courtesy of London Design Guide