Snout to Tail Cooking
“If you’re going to kill the animal, it seems only polite to use the whole thing.”
These are the words of Chef Fergus Henderson from his book, The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating (Ecco, 2004). Over a decade ago, Henderson was on the vanguard of nose-to-tail cooking. But today it’s much more commonplace to find chefs rediscovering traditions where each part of an animal is valued, and they’re creating adventurous, inspiring dishes.
Besides paying respect to the animal, nose-to-tail cooking meshes perfectly with the farm-to-table phenomenon, where the focus is locally sourced ingredients.
“It’s thrilling to see nose-to-tail dining in a more mainstream aspect in the current food climate,” says Michelle Donaldson, executive chef of Tallgrass Prairie Table in Tulsa, Oklahoma. “It means diners are more educated, chefs are more educated and our food theology is moving in a more sustainable direction.”
We spoke to chefs specializing in nose-to-tail cooking who shared some of their favorite creations using the underappreciated parts of a pig. And we didn’t forget to have them pair their swine with wine…and beer.
The Dish: Pig’s Ear in a Cilantro/Sesame-Chili Sauce
“[I] love cooking a whole pig. I feel connected with the flavors and show respect to such a beautiful animal. Like my grandpa used to say, ‘Don’t ever waste any part, because it might be the best part!’ ’’
The Pairing: Finca Torremilanos Los Cantos (Ribera del Duero); Tsingtao lager. Guallpa says the tobacco and jammy notes of the Tempranillo match the mix of Chinese and Cuban flavors in the dish. A crisp lager brings down the heat of the chili.
The Chef: Fergus Henderson, chef, St. John, London (pictured left)
“Cook the kidneys until they have a bit of give, but they still squeak when you bite into them. And remember: it’s crucial to make sure that there’s enough liquid to soak into the toast. That’s the best bit!”
- 2 slices of white or wheat bread (white seems to soak up juices better)
- 6 lamb kidneys, suet and membrane removed, cut in half lengthwise, retaining the kidney shape
- 3 tablespoons plain flour
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon English mustard powder
- Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
- A big knob of butter
- Worcestershire sauce, to taste
- A healthy splash of chicken stock
Toast bread, and set aside. Nip out white fatty gristle of kidneys with knife or scissors. In bowl, mix together flour, cayenne pepper, mustard powder, salt and pepper.
Heat frying pan until very hot. Add butter. As it melts, roll kidneys in spiced flour mixture. Shake them in sieve to remove excess. Place kidneys in pan. Cook 2 minutes per side. Add Worcestershire sauce and chicken stock and let all the ingredients get to know each other. Remove kidneys and place atop toast. Let sauce reduce and emulsify in pan (don’t let it disappear). Pour over kidneys and toast. Serves 2.
Pol Roger 2004 Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill Brut (Champagne); Black Velvet (stout and Champagne).
For Beverage Director Trevor Gulliver (pictured above at right), the Pol Roger is “an exquisite choice of bubbly.”
The Chef: Cosmo Goss, chef de cuisine, The Publican, Chicago
“Tasty brains [come from] from happy pigs, and happy pigs come from antibiotic-free farms. Cook brain very gently. If you cook it hard and fast, you’ll overcook it or break it up too much.”
- 5 eggs
- 2 one-inch slices sourdough bread
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons clarified butter (or regular butter)
- 5 ounces pig brains
- 2 tablespoons crème fraîche
- Juice and zest of 1 lemon
- 2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
- 3 tablespoons smoked trout roe
- 2 tablespoons pickled shallots (recipe below)
- 1 tablespoon fresh dill, picked
In bowl, whisk eggs vigorously. Set aside. Apply olive oil to both sides of bread. Toast until golden brown. Cut each piece in half. Set aside.
In nonstick pan, add butter over medium-low heat until just warm. Add pig brains. Once brains begin to cook, approximately 15–30 seconds, add eggs. Stir gently over medium-low heat until eggs start to cook and scramble, taking care not to break up brains too much. When eggs are nearly finished, about 1½ minutes, add crème fraîche, lemon juice and zest. Season with salt. Spread egg mixture evenly over both slices of sourdough. Evenly spread trout roe and pickled shallots over both toasts. Garnish with dill. Serve immediately. Serves 4.
- ¾ cup Champagne vinegar
- ¼ cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 sprig thyme
- 1 teaspoon chili flakes
- 1 cup thinly sliced shallots
- Combine ½ cup water and all ingredients except shallots in saucepot. Simmer over high heat. Once sugar dissolves, pour mixture over shallots. Let cool. Can be stored in refrigerator up to 3 weeks.
“The Prosecco cuts the richness of the egg and brain, and the bitterness of the Kölsch is amplified by the smokiness of the trout,” says Goss.
The Chefs: Richard Knight, executive chef (left), and Daniel Blue, chef de cuisine, Hunky Dory, Houston
The Dish: Housemade Cavatelli with Bratwurst and Mustard Greens, topped with Shaved Pig’s Head and Parmesan
“I have sold everything from rabbit liver and kidney on toast, bone-in beef cheeks (a whole roasted cow head), to warm fat on toast and deviled bones,” says Knight.
The Pairing: Pierre Guillemot 2012 Savigny-les-Jarrons Premier Cru (Savigny-lès-Beaune); Old Speckled Hen English pale ale. Sommelier Taylor Mundy pairs red Burgundy with the dish’s earthiness. The ale’s subtle, hoppy notes refresh the palate.
We asked chefs to take a page out of their wishlist and tell us what nose-to-tail dish they’d most like to cook for diners on the go.
“I’d love to open a pork nugget stand next to Shake Shack in Madison Square Park.”
—John Ratliff, founder and head butcher, Ends Meat, Brooklyn, New York
“I would love to make my Deviled Bones as a street dish. It’s basically a mixture of bones that can be chicken backbones and wings, or rib bones of beef or pork.”
—Richard Knight, chef, Hunky Dory, Houston
“I’d serve buffalo-style pig tails with a chipotle glaze.”
—Robert Phalen, executive chef, One Eared Stag, Atlanta
“Khao Ngiew [Garlic Oil and Blood Rice Bundles] is a pretty old-fashioned dish, and one of my favorites. The taste is simple and clean, and the banana-leaf wrapping means it’s easy to handle on the go!”
—PJ Stoops, chef, Foreign Correspondents, Houston
- 1The Part: Ears
- 2The Part: Kidneys
- 3The Part: Brain
- 4The Part: Head
- 5Offal Dreams