Items of Interest from around the ‘net

I hope you had a nice relaxing weekend filled with family and friends. I’m still editing my next Sacramento post, so here are a few top quality links for you to check out as I tweak and re-write:

Over at the always fabulous Serious Eats Chichi Wang tackles the snout.

Also at Serious Eats is an in-depth, even handed piece on the true evils of foie gras. The verdict? Foie production isn’t evil at all. An excellent read.

One of my favorite blogs has a new post up on making the delectable Roast Bone Marrow and Parsley salad.

I can’t stay away from snouts! Meet the Nasone.

The Butcher’s Apprentice makes guanciale.

Gastronomical Me visits the St. John’s bakery and tells all!

Nowness.com has an exclusive recipe from Mr. Henderson up on their site. Roast Partridge? Yes please!

Merry Christmas!

I just wanted to say Merry Christmas to everyone! I’m going to have the time to write on Sunday, so I’m going to sit down and finish off the Sacramento trilogy then.

I feel terribly blessed with all that’s transpired this past year. Here’s hoping next year is just as awesome!

I hate you guys so much...

Guest Post – Kopchik s apelsinami, or a tale of an Ox by Katrina Kollegaeva

Welcome to the Fifteenth guest post! I’m letting anyone who wants to write about an offal dish submit a post with pictures. Want to show everyone that kidneys are kick-ass? Are you an offal advocate? Let me know and we’ll post your hard work here. This guest post was originally posted at the newly started Gastronomical Me which is written by Katrina Kollegaeva, who incidentally has guest posted here before.

In my house, bums/arses/backsides/rears are valued high. So it should not have come as a surprise when having cooked a cow’s bum – the tail, to be precise – we found the taste and texture very much to our liking.

There was something primal, almost cannibalistic about eating meat of a creature’s tailbone.

Ox tail is in fact a cow’s coccyx–in case you weren’t sure about its exact body part location. The tail is long, both muscly and bony (imagine a spine, how it is sectioned off into discs). You eat the top bit, where the tail is connected to the cow’s..mmm…bum, hence my naming of it as a kopchik, Russian for a coccyx. The tail is always sold already cut into sections, disc by disc, I suppose so that not to terrify punters by its real tail-like appearance.

The tail in the pictures has recently been ordered from Rother Valley Organics in Sussex (previously mentioned) and so it had enjoyed a lot of exercise in shish-ing flies attracted by green grass and open pastures full of dung. This is a tail of an ox who’s had a long tale (Saturday morning puns, sorry!)

There is something both comforting and hair-raising in flaking off strands of meat from cavities of each bone, and then sucking out the left-over bone-marrow from inside each disc. You feel like a caveman who’s just hunted his prey and now greedily eating up every bit of it. Admittedly, this particular tail has been cooked for good four hours, but I believe the tail, with its curvaceous contours and hidden juices, can not compete with the boringly expensive fillet-slicing or common roast. Even though oxtail is often sold as offal, the flavour is not at all gamey and a lot more traditional, if you like. Because of all the bone marrow inside (which is the most delicate type of fat in a cow), when the whole thing is cooked long and slow, the result in tender and almost sweet.

Arse is definitely best.

I used the recipe from my favourite ‘Fat’ by Jennifer McLagan, slightly adjusted of course (where would we be without a healthy dose of individualism?)

Kopchik s apelsinami, or a braised oxtail:

Note: this recipe takes 2 days to make, but only about 15 mins of attention on the actual preparation.

serves 3-4

1.3 kg oxtail, cut into pieces

2-3 tbs of beef dripping (or oil or butter, but dripping is so much better)

2 onions, chopped

2 carrots, sliced

1/2 orange, zest an juice

200 ml red wine

3 cloves of garlic, crushed

squirt of tomato paste

2 bay leaves

1 tsp of toasted cumin

1 clove

1/2 star anise

1. pre-heat the oven to 150 C. Season each oxtail piece with salt and pepper, brown off in beef dripping on a medium heat, in batches. Transfer onto another plate.

2. In the same casserole pan, saute your onions and carrots for about 5 mins.

3. Pour the wine into the pan where the veg were sweating and bring to the boil. Deglaze (make sure all the brown bits stuck to the pan come off). Stir in garlic, tomato paste, zest, bay leaves, cumin, clove, star anise. Add about 500 ml of water or beef stock.

4. Return the oxtail pieces into the pan with all the juices that have accumulated in the plate by then. Cover the pan with a close-fitting lid and braise in the oven for about 2.5-3 hours.

5. Take out of the oven. Pour all the liquid into a separate jug, and when cooled, put the liquid and the meat into fridge overnight.

6. The following day, pre-heat the oven to 150C. Take off the fat layer from the top of the jellied gravy (there’ll be good cm or so), plus any visible fat from the meat pieces (you can use this fat later to fry potatoes or other such!).

7. Pour the jellied liquid into the pan where you cooked the tail originally. Bring to the boil and continue to boil until it’s reduced by about half (about 10 mins). Add the juice from the squeezed orange, put the oxtail pieces back in.

8. Braise in the oven for another hour until completely coming off the bone.

9. Important – serve with buckwheat and slightly crunchy stewed red cabbage.

Thanks Katrina!

Guest Post – Pressed Pig’s Ear Terrine by Iliana Filby

Welcome to the Fourteenth guest post! I’m letting anyone who wants to write about an offal dish submit a post with pictures. Want to show everyone that ears can taste electric? Are you bullish on brawn? Let me know and we’ll post your hard work here. This guest post was originally posted at the newly started The Butcher’s Apprentice which is written by Iliana Filby. Go take a look!

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A second recipe from Fergus Henderson’s Beyond Nose to Tail has been wooing me with its siren call (the first was trotter gear, which I’ll post about another time), and I had finally gathered enough pig’s ears together to give it a try. The dish is a pressed pig’s ear terrine, and Fergus describes it thus: “What you should have now is joyous piggy jelly, within which there is a beautiful weave of ear.” He promises that “when you bite into it, you should have that splendid textural moment of the give of the jelly and the slightest crunch of the ear cartilage.” That sweet description is spot on, and since many culinary cultures eschew both jiggly mouth-bouncy foods as well as the crunch of cartilage, be aware that the jiggly and crunchy bits are the whole delicious point of this dish.

I started by cleaning the ears thoroughly. To this task I brought a Bic razor and a thin-edged small spoon (think of the spoons meant to eat soft-boiled eggs with, a bit smaller than a teaspoon) to bear. It was a good deal of work, but finally the ears were all respectably clean and into a ziplock bag with four liters of good brine consisting of water, salt, sugar, juniper berries, peppercorns, bay leaves, and whole cloves. My fridge is full of pickles, preserves, and condiments, and it’s a small fridge, so I decided to keep my bag of brining ears in the cab of my truck. Luckily the weather has cooperated by remaining between 30F/1C and 45F/7C degrees.

When the ears had been brined for four days, I took them inside to the kitchen, rinsed them off, and soaked them in a large bowl of cold water for around 6 hours, changing the water whenever I went to make tea, maybe three times in all. I made one last inspection of the ears, shaved off a few stray bristles that I’d missed the first time around, and then I used a very sharp knife to score each of the ears a few times on the inner surface. I did this because some of the ears were more curled up or funnel-like, and I found that 3 or 4 vertical (with the tip of the ear being up and where it was attached to the head being down) scores just barely into the cartilage was enough to persuade the ear to flatten out a bit.

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Then into my 13.25 quart enameled cast-iron pot they went, along with the following aromatics: celery, carrot, onion, leeks, bay leaves, rosemary, French savory, and a bundle of parsley stems. Fergus’ recipe calls for thyme rather than savory, but I had no thyme “at the time”. Ahem.

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Then I added enough light chicken stock to cover the ears and a dozen or so peppercorns.

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..and then into a 275F/135C oven. Notice how the oven rack sags? I need to find sturdier racks for this tiny & ridiculous efficiency-sized oven. Any ideas where I can find such a thing?

should note here that I diverged inadvertently from Fergus’ recipe: I was meant to include three trotters in the pot, but I forgot! I didn’t discover this until three hours later, and I panicked for a moment, but then I remembered that I had lots of lovely trotter gear in the freezer, and if I needed more gelling action, I could add some of that to the pot liquor. In fact, I ended up having a lot of pot liquor, and it was more than adequately full of gelatin, and rather than needing to add trotter gear, I’ve ended up with enough fantastic pot liquor with which to make a nice soup, which I intend to do as it is really cold outside, and I’m feeling a bit of a sore throat sneaking up on me.

Onward: I fished the tender and floppy ears out of the pot and layered them as neatly and evenly as I could in my new enameled cast-iron terrine mold (which I’m completely smitten with). Fergus’ recipe calls for 14 ears, and I’d only had a dozen, but in fact I could only comfortably fit eleven into my terrine mold. Being both hungry and curious, I just ate the twelfth ear as it was, soft and sticky and warm, with the crunchy thin cartilage in the middle; it was delicious and promised a successful and yummy terrine once it was all pressed and cold.

I followed Fergus’ recommendation to cut out a rectangle of cardboard, wrapped it in two layers of cling-film, and pressed it atop the ears. It looked to me as if the terrine was already pretty juicy, so I decided to place the weights (tinned tomatoes and a medium-sized cast-iron pot) on top of the cardboard for an hour or so while the terrine cooled and then add more pot liquor if necessary. In fact I did add around 3/4′s of a cup more, though some of that spilled over the edge of the terrine once I reapplied the weights, but only a few tablespoons worth.

An hour or two later, the terrine was cooled to room temperature, so I removed the weights but left the cardboard cut-out in place, put the lid on the terrine, and into the fridge overnight.

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This morning at 7:00 I lifted the pressed pig’s ear terrine out of the mold and just marveled at it. It was wonderfully solid and dense, and with a sharp knife I cut a thin slice off the end and popped it into my mouth. Delicious!

Another half-dozen slices on a plate with a few cornichons, and I was curled up on the sofa with breakfast.

I wonder if to a connoisseur my jelly might be a tad too firm or rubbery, but to me it tastes and feels wonderfully giving and bouncy. The delicate cartilage is really quite surprisingly crunchy, and agreeably so. I wondered if I’d salted the dish enough, and I think because I had to add so little reduced (and salted) pot liquor at the end that it didn’t get quite as much salt as I would like next time around. But all of these are very minor quibbles; I love this dish and will make it again next time I’m rolling in pig’s ears.

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A few observations: these ears came from six Hampshire pigs, and some of these pigs were black and white, and therefore some of the ears were black (well, more of a dark grey). I scrubbed both versions very well, but some of the grey-black pigment remains and makes for a slightly darker cooked ear. One interesting consequence of this is that where the pig’s skin is white or pink, the bristles are white-blond, and where the skin is grey-black, the bristles are black. Though I did a very thorough job of shaving all the bristles off, each bristle has a follicle which penetrates into the flesh, and while this sub-skin bristle is entirely invisible in the pink ears, you can, when you slice into the terrine, see a few bits of black bristle between skin and cartilage. While this may be visually off putting to some (it didn’t bother me in the least), you can’t actually feel them either with a fingertip nor in your mouth. But if you wanted to make this dish for friends who are doubtful, I’d stick with pink pig’s ears.

Thanks Iliana!