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Feb 19, 2005 06:41 PM

The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating...where should I start?!

  • c

Now that I don't flinch at handling raw whole chicken, veal liver, live crab, and beef of all cuts, I thought it was time that I start tackling "the whole beast."

Just bought myself a reissued copy of the book by Fergus Henderson (I admit that the forward by Anthony Bourdain had some influence)--see link. As one would expect, it's filled w/ all kinds of "exotic" recipes utilizing animal parts that make the very American, girly part in me squeamish, the daring cook/wannabe chef in me exhilarated.

Whether or not I actually make one recipe, this book looks to be mentally delicious. However, I do want to attempt a recipe that will be foolproof, revelatory, and a brilliant success so as to encourage me to try more.

First, I'm curious if anyone has attempted any of the recipes in the book. What are your favorites, and where do you recommend that a whole beast beginner like myself start? Looking forward to your responses...


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  1. Try the Roasted Bone Marrow and Parsley Salad. If you can get a good butcher to get you the bones, the recipie is fool proof. Great, dramatic appetizer

    1. Carb Lover, The brined pork belly is terrific. It took me a while to get a pork belly with the rind on, but my butcher came through. I followed the recipe exactly and was more than pleased. I would serve the finished pork belly with a fruit compote to chutney. I'm on to the crispy pig's ear salad next...

      7 Replies
      1. re: Leper

        Mmmmm...the recipe looks easy and delicious. Hardest part is tracking down the specified cut. What goes well on the side? Lentils, spaetzle, beans?

        Good luck w/ the pig's ear post any noteworthy follow ups since I'll be interested. Thanks.

        1. re: Carb Lover

          Carb Lover, glad to see you're a Menudo fan. My local Taquera makes some of the best. (I always suggest taking a thermos of Menudo on the plane for long trips.) Any side dish you would serve with roast pork works well with pork belly. Next time I'm going to add an apricot glaze toward the end.

          1. re: Carb Lover

            Carb Lover, you shouldn't have any trouble getting most of the cuts you need at a good ethnic market -- Ranch 99 will have any part of the pig but the squeal.

            1. re: Ruth Lafler

              Suppose I'll have to hunt for "squeal" elsewhere then. Yes, I would feel more secure w/ a 99 Ranch in Santa Cruz. Wish they were movin' in instead of Home Depot. Oh well, this gives me an excuse to check out the carnicerias I see dotted all over Watsonville. I can supplement w/ Asian markets when I'm in San Jose.

              When I lived in Missouri, I knew people who would literally buy a whole pig that was butchered into its parts and then store in their extra freezer in the garage. Used to think it was it doesn't sound too bad.

              1. re: Carb Lover

                There's a wonderful pig butchering scene in Laura Ingalls Wilder's "Little House in the Big Woods" where she talks about how they used every bit of the pig.

                It's funny that "variety" meat is so strongly identified as being "ethnic," since being rich enough to eat only muscle meat is a fairly recent development in America.

                1. re: Ruth Lafler
                  Caitlin McGrath

                  Heh, that scene was certainly my first exposure to the concept of head cheese, at around 5 years old. Even the pig's bladder was used: Pa blew it up into a baloon for Laura and Mary to play with.

                  Ruth, do you have the Little House Cookbook? Fun reading, though I can't say I've cooked anything from it.

                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                    So much of the variety or specialty meats was an effort to use the whole hog. In my family, all the scraps from a slaughtered hogs were mixed with pin oatmeal to make goetta, which is similar to the scrapple that is made in PA. In my wife's family, the parts were ground up and added to cornmeal to make a product called ponhaus.

                    Two weeks ago, the in-laws slaughtered a steer so that they could can the meat for the next year. They can half a steer which lasts them the better part of 18 months.

          2. I will continue to eschew the cooking of body parts unfamiliar to me as long as familiar ones are available. The only cut of meat that I need to go to a specialty store for is skirt steak from which the original fajitas were made.

            1 Reply
            1. re: ChiliDude

              I'm sure you echo a popular sentiment. But me thinks you might be missing out on a "wild" culinary journey...not to mention more deliciousness in your life. But continue as you'd like...

              BTW, had a chance to look at the book more closely last night, and it's not about cooking w/ "strange" parts to be flamboyant or avant garde. It's really about celebrating ALL parts of a plant (yes, there are some non-meat recipes) or animal in a way that links the cook to deeply historical and soulful culinary traditions.

              Fortunately, tripe is just as easy to find as skirt steak these days, and fajitas aren't nearly as interesting to me as a good menudo. Oh, my poor future children...

            2. You are very brave. I look forward to hearing about your adventures.

              P.S. I'll try anything once. Recently I ate pig's ear at a Chinese restaurant. It tasted like eating soft, sinewy BONE--the worst thing I have eaten to date! (Maybe it needs to be fried???)

              2 Replies
              1. re: Funwithfood

                Thanks for your words of support. My "bravery" is all about searching for a good meal and a stimulating experience in the kitchen. The recipes in the book are really not as weird as the title or buzz may have you believe.

                I've never eaten pig's ears myself, but the pig's ear salad in the book looks great. Ears are first simmered, then sliced thinly, and finally deep-fried. Sounds like fried wonton pieces. Served w/ sorrel and chickory.

                1. re: Carb Lover

                  I've eaten pigs' ears in Chinese restaurants -- they're all cartilege, so it's really just a texture thing (kind of chewy and crunchy at the same time) plus whatever flavors are added in the preparation process.