Items of Interest from around the ‘net: EXTENDED VERSION

This post has been simmering for a long, long time now thanks to my forced break from the Internet.  I’m sure that a few of these links you might have already seen, but hopefully there might be a few rare pearls in there.

I did a radio interview recently with the one, the only, Luna Raven a little while back. Unfortunately, it was posted right as I lost my Internet connection so I’ve been unable to link to it until now.  The interview is up if you’d like to give it a listen, and I mention my next project for Eat Me Daily.

Over at Just Cook It, there is a post about Szechwan Tripe that is just excellent, and the pictures are making my mouth water as I type this.

Sadly, Alex couldn’t get past the rubbery texture of the tripe, but he’s inspired me to give the recipe a shot.  If you like tripe, give this a look!

Lifehacker wants you to consider using some of their Top 10 Clever Kitchen Repurposing Tricks to make things a little easier on you.  I’m curious about using lemonade drink mix to clean a dishwasher. It sounds like it should work, but has anyone actually done it?

One of my favorite columns over at Serious Eats is Chichi Wang’s The Nasty Bits.  Her last update was about Calf’s Liver with Onions, and I think it sounds amazing.  If you fear liver, try her recipe and overcome those irrational qualms!

Eating in a box has a post up about the Edge Pro Apex knife sharpening system that I swear by.  I introduced the writer Jack to the Apex, and he loves it just as much as I do.  Check out his reasons why, and consider picking one up yourself and get your knives razor sharp.

Last year over at The Pleasant House, they too made the braised leg and shoulder of venison recipe that I just posted. I’d be remiss not to share a link to it, as they have video! Thanks Darrin!

One of my top ten favorite blogs is the Belm Blog, and boy has David been busy! Braised Oxtails with Maitake, Caramelized Orange, and Shallots, and finely made Trotter Gear are just two examples of why I enjoy it so.  Now it’s your turn.

Also via the Belm Blog, Mr. Bourdain scored a cameo on Yo Gabba Gabba! as Doctor Tony!

If you watch Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations and you are also a parent of young children (or a tragic hipster), then you recognized a reference he made in his Egypt show. While enjoying the local cuisine, he said “There’s a party in my tummy, so yummy, so yummy,” which is a line from a song about eating vegetables featured in the debut episode of Yo Gabba Gabba!

Click on the link for a video preview.  Mucho respect to Tony.

Delicious Dawn has two very interesting recipes available: Chicken Pate and Veal Heart.  Anna’s pictures are food porn, so check them out!

And finally, I don’t usually go out of my way to recommend things for folks to buy, but I’ll make an exception this time because the product is so well made.  My friend Luna recommended that I try some flavored salt from this little purveyor called Secret Stash Sea Salt out of Seattle.  I’m sure glad I listened.  They have some astonishingly good flavors, and the prices are just right.

Secret Stash is committed to providing premium gourmet sea salts to accentuate your style of cooking. Our salts are made of hand-harvested sea salt, where only the top layer of fine, light crystals are collected from the surface of salt beds. They are rich in minerals and taste of the sea. This is a world apart from sea salts that are chemically-produced, and that merely contain sodium chloride

I recommend the Chorizo Salt…

… and the Truffle salt. Both are packed with great flavors, so you don’t have to use much for the desired effect. Try them out, and then thank me later.

Okay!  I think I’ve hit almost everything I wanted to.  It’s good to be back, and I’m excited that I’m going to be getting down to the last 50 recipes here soon.  Have a great day everyone, and I leave you with my new puppy playing in the snow.  Stay safe!


Braised Front Leg and Shoulder of Venison

Before you embark on this, make sure you have a roasting pan large enough for one leg and whole shoulder of venison.  You can, if you need to, cut the leg at the joint, to make it fit.

Oh kalu kalay!  I’m actually back cooking again!  I had forgotten how incredibly calming and fulfilling it is to stand in front of the stove.  I missed all of this terribly.

A few months back I started sending feelers out in an attempt to find a front leg of venison to make this recipe.  Since we live in the state of Texas, where the deer are plentiful and the locals are good shots, I figured it wouldn’t be too long before someone would be kind enough to either sell or outright give me a whole front leg and shoulder of deer.  A few of the people I talked to were confused.  Why did I want that piece?  Didn’t I know that there isn’t much meat on the front leg?  Even after explaining that I was working my way through “The Cookbook” and that I needed it to be accurate, they scoffed at me.

Thankfully, my father knew some people who had a whole frozen leg of deer available, and were willing to part with it for nothing.  So I’d like to thank Debbie Herry for the front part of the leg, and Dan Juracek for the two gorgeous front shoulders.

Possibly the best part about making this recipe-aside from the eating-was that I got my first chance to remove the skin from an animal part.  I was intimidated as all get out, but the act itself was so much simpler than one could have ever imagined:

A quick slice down the back of the leg, and the skin peeled down like a furry stocking.

A  hack with my bone chopping cleaver and the hoof came right off at the joint.

Easy. Really, jaw-droppingly easy.  Who knew?

I wish I had taken a picture of the front part of the leg without the fur on, because I’d be able to show you a bone covered in pure white tendon.  That tendon is the reason Mr. Henderson asks for the whole front leg.  When braised, it’ll melt and infuse the dish with flavor and body.  One of the hunters I had talked to claimed that he always gave the front legs to his dogs.  Those are some lucky dogs!

But before I could start cooking with the venison, I needed to rehydrate some wild mushrooms.  Mr. Henderson calls for porcini mushrooms, which turned out to be the ingredient that NOBODY had on hand.  Three stores were visited, and each of them were completely out of stock.  So if you were running around Austin recently buying all of the dried porcini mushrooms, I’m shaking my fist in your general direction.  Thankfully I managed to find some dried wild Yuan mushrooms, which claimed on the package that they were grown in a forest.  Desperate for time, the substitution decision was made for me.  Two hours later in a hot bath, the dried mushrooms were brought back to life.

The fungi were drained, but this sexy looking mushroom stock was reserved for later use.

With my roasting pan straddled over two burners I added a big knob of duck fat, some homemade chunks of bacon-with the rind rolled up and tied-carrots, leeks, and onions.  The veggies were sweated until soften, then the re-hydrated mushrooms joined the party.  After a few more minutes it was time to add the front shoulder and leg of venison along with a handful of peeled garlic cloves, a bouquet garni, a whole bottle of red wine, a little chicken stock, and the aforementioned mushroom stock.  Some quick seasoning…

… a covering of aluminum foil and the pan was ready for a medium hot oven for over three hours.  Around the 2 hour mark, the house was filled with unbelievable perfume of venison cooking.  Working in the garage was a form of sanctuary for the last hour.

Eventually enough time had passed for me to return to the kitchen, and I was greeted with the above.  Oh mama, how good does that look?  You can see at the bottom of the leg where the meat has pulled back from the bone, meaning that the leg had cooked enough.  Oh, and that tendon that I was swooning over earlier?

No longer bone white, the tendon has started to melt away.  At the time I was debating whether or not to put the pan back in the oven for a bit longer so that more of it could rendered off.  I was so hungry at that point though that waiting just wasn’t an option any longer.

My fears were unfounded.  This recipe produced the most tender, succulent venison I’ve ever eaten in my life.  Mr. Henderson claims that it’s due to the cartilage and fat found only in this part of the animal.  Served with all of the duck fat infused root vegetables and meaty, musky mushrooms over mashed potatoes, my wife excitedly claimed that this recipe, “tasted like the forest” which I believe is the very best way to describe it.

One forest in a bowl for me, please!

One down, sixty one to go.

Guest Post – Fromage de Tête by Phil Nigash

Welcome to the ninth guest post!  I’m letting anyone who wants to show off an offal dish submit a post with pictures.  Want to show everyone that you’re nuts for the naughty bits?  Are you in awe of offal?  Let me know and we’ll post your hard work here!  This guest post comes from Phil Nigash, and the post originally showed up on his website My life as a Foodie.  He’s also got an excellent radio show that you should check out!

A cold slice of crispy, fresh garden lettuce, a chilled chalet of grassy, spicy IPA, a few miniature pickles thrown on the plate — all an accompaniment to the main event: meat and skin from pigs feet set in its own jelly.

It has many names – Brawn, Head Cheese, Farmhouse Brawn, or Fromage de Tête. I prefer the latter.

There are a number of reasons why I titled this post the way I did. For one thing, Fromage de Tête sounds – I don’t know . . . much classier than “Head Cheese.” Everything sounds nicer in French to begin with. Add to that, the words “Head” and “Cheese” seem downright loutish when put together.

The real reason, however, is that I failed a little in collecting all of my ingredients. The one key ingredient to the dish, the one thing that gives the dish its name (that would be the head) never made it home.

When I decided to make this dish, the first thing that I knew would present a challenge was acquiring the head of a pig. This isn’t something you just walk into a grocery store and buy. You have to go to the right place, and they’re rarely that easy to find. Add to that my preference to sourcing ingredients like this from someone I know, and it gets a little harder. I didn’t really know too many butchers who did the whole hog. That problem was solved by a simple phone call. My wife called her friend, whose uncle René owned a Carnicaria (Spanish for ‘meat market’), who had fresh pigs delivered each day that he butchers in the morning.

Problem solved, right? Yeah, not so much.

A call to her uncle René presented one unexpected problem – the heads on the pigs he’d received the previous day were (as he put it) humongous. Now, this guy butchers pigs on a daily basis. If he says the heads are humongous, they must be pretty big. But, having read a few recipes for Brawn, including the one that gave me this idea in the first place – Fergus Henderson’s “The Whole Beast” I noticed most called for the addition of pig’s feet. Why not try making this with the feet, and nothing but the feet?

When I arrived at René’s Carnicaria, I was swept into the butcher room in the back of the restaurant where he and his staff were butchering whole hogs. Nice operation, lots of split open whole pigs on stainless steel tables — these guys were butchering pigs back here. And yes those heads were massive. It was a good idea skipping on something I literally had no cooking vessel to prepare it in. René had cleaned and prepped four really nicely sized feet for me that I knew would be perfect.

So to start — 4 whole pigs feet. René was so thorough at what he does, he even split them for me. This would make it easier for the disassembly that came later.

Place the feet in a large pot, then cover with the following:

4 Shallots
1 large Leek, chunked
couple sprigs of fresh parsley
sprig of fresh rosemary
sprig of fresh thyme
10 Black peppercorns
2 Cloves fresh garlic
4 whole Cloves
1 tablespoon Salt
1 large Onion, chunked
2 Bay leaves
2 Carrots, chunked

Well, that was difficult. Here’s where it got tricky. I had to fill the pot with water, just to cover everything.

OK, maybe that wasn’t that hard after all. I turned on the heat, brought the whole thing to a boil, then reduced the heat to low and simmered for close to three hours until the skin and meat were literally falling off the bones. Every 15 minutes, I’d lift the cover off the pot and skim the protein scum off the top with a hand strainer. This step is important as it helps keep the stock as clear as possible.

I turned off the heat and allowed the pot to cool for a bit. This one lone pig’s foot floated to the surface. I took it as a sign that he was ready to leave the hot tub.

Now it was time to do some surgery. I removed the feet from the broth, being careful to leave any peppercorns and herbs behind.

Delicious. Am I right?

I removed the meat, skin and fat from the bones, separating as I went. I minced the meat and skin into very small pieces and placed them in a large bowl.

The bones ended up in another pile. They say a human foot has anywhere from 26 to 28 bones. I was hoping the pig’s foot wouldn’t be anywhere near this, but I wasn’t so lucky.

Now that’s a pile of bones.

Next, I strained the vegetables and herbs from the broth with a strainer.

Here’s a critical step. Taste your broth. Seriously, taste it. It should still be warm, so grab a spoon and give it a taste. How is it? It had better be seasoned well enough, because this is how the “head cheese” is going to taste. If you feel you need more salt at this point, it’s best to add it now.

Next, I lined the pan I was using for the mold with plastic wrap. I made sure to be liberal with the wrap, so there was plenty hanging over the edges. I wanted to ensure that the finished mold would be easy to remove from the pan after it had set.

Then, in went some of the broth, followed by a couple scoopfuls of the meat and skin, followed by more broth, followed by more meat and skin.

When the mold was full, I covered it with the over-lapping plastic wrap, slammed it against the counter a few times to knock loose any air bubbles, and slid it into the refrigerator.

I allowed it to set for a full 24 hours before pulling it out and slicing it. I was amazed at how gelatinized this was. These ingredients made their own aspic, their own gelatin. And it set up as firm as a meat loaf, making slicing it a breeze.

I served it on a lettuce leaf with a few cornichons on the side. Cornichons are mini French pickles, and they go well with sandwiches or on their own.

The “foot cheese” was just what I’d hoped it would be. The texture – fun, firm, easy to bite into. The flavor was that of pork, rich with the aromatics from the broth, and a slight hint of the cloves. In fact, had I not added them myself, I would have had to guess what that flavor was. It had a great balance of flavors, and I was really happy this turned out as well as it did. Very filling, however. So take note.

How much better would this taste had I actually picked up a pig’s head I could fit into a pot? Probably a lot porkier, richer in flavor, and perhaps even more gelatinized than it was. Some day, I’ll do it again and let you know how it turns out. For now, I’m content having made something this cool, this easy, and this fun.

I continue to be inspired by the magic and science behind cooking, and I’m happy to close another chapter in my life as a foodie.

Thank you Phil!

Guest Post – Pot Roast Pig’s Head by Russell Everett

Welcome to the eighth guest post!  I’m letting anyone who wants to show off an offal dish submit a post with pictures.  Want to show the world that tripe can be tremendous?  Are you enamored with ears?  Let me know and we’ll post your hard work here!  This guest post comes from Russell Everett, and the post originally showed up on his website Everett Cellars.

I say only half a head, as it is a perfect romantic supper for two. Imagine gazing into the eyes of your loved one over a golden pig’s cheek, ear and snout.

Yeah, Fergus Henderson is a strange guy. But apart from the recipes it is his little comments and mannerisms that make Nose to Tail and Beyond Nose to Tail so entertaining to read. So here is Part One of a two part Pig-head Project: his recipe for Pot-Roast Half Pig’s Head from Beyond Nose to Tail.

This isn’t my first time taking a crack at one of his more “heady” recipes, har har. A year ago I used his recipes for Brawn and Trotter Gear, which were my first introductions to both pig heads and trotters. I ended up putting the trotter gear in just about everything over the next few months. So I figured it was time to do some more projects with heads and feet.

It begins with a pig head. As typical for these sorts of projects I ordered one from Seabreeze Farm out on Vashon Island. A week later I showed up at the market and waiting for me was 16 pounds of pig head and trotters. Most pig heads you find come split, so I technically had two half-heads, and I’d ordered four trotters. Hefting it over my shoulder in a mighty sack I carried it about the market, like Santa Claus with presents for some very naughty children.

Once home it was time to get cooking. Step one is cleaning the head. This is by far the worst part. See, the pig gets scalded to help remove the hair and clean it up a bit for butchering. This does a pretty good job. But not a perfect job. So step one is shave your pig. A disposable razor works great for this.

Or you could do what I did and use your wife’s razor. A word of caution: only do this if you know your wife/girlfriend/sister/mother/etc. really well. When she got home she was not upset, and was actually quite happy to swap out the blade for a clean one. But pig got deep into the workings and despite my best attempts I couldn’t quite clean it out satisfactorily, so I had to get her a whole new one.

Anyhow, it’s totally gross, but piggy had some whiskers and eyelashes that had to go. This was probably the only point in the project where I was a little freaked out by the pig head. Shaving is a bit personal isn’t it, and it made this meal far more visceral than most. Once done I gave it nice wash in the sink. Time to cook it.

Here’s Henderson’s Recipe:

  • a dollop of duck fat. I was fresh out of both lard and duck fat, but I did have some chicken fat and a bit of olive oil.
  • 8 shallots, peeled and left whole
  • 8 cloves of garlic, peeled and left whole
  • 1/2 pig’s head
  • a glass of brandy
  • 1 bundle of joy – thyme, parsley, and a little rosemary
  • 1/2 bottle of white wine
  • chicken stock
  • a healthy spoonful of Dijon mustard
  • 1 bunch of watercress, trimmed, or other greens – a case of Liberty Hall. Since I was free to spit on the mat and call the cat a bastard I used some kale, as it was in season and is one of the few greens at the farmer’s market in January. Cut the stalks out, roll up the leaves, and slice.
  • sea salt and black pepper

I had trouble finding the right size roasting pan for this. My 9×13 was too skinny. My pots and dutch oven were too round. I settled finally on my large roasting pan. Set it on the stove, melted the fat and oil and added the shallots and garlic until they had some color. Covered the pig’s ear in foil so it wouldn’t “frazzle”, then nestled it into the pan. Poured a glass of VSOP over it “to welcome it to its new environment”, then nestled the bundle of joy in, and poured a half bottle of WA Chardonnay in.

Here Henderson has you add chicken stock according to what he calls his “alligator-in-the-swamp theory”, in which the head is supposed to lurk in the swamp like an alligator. Well I just spent the last five years living in Miami, so I think my idea of what alligators lurking in swamps looks like is maybe a bit different than his, and in this roasting pan it would take a lot of stock to get there… But I get what he’s hinting at. So I just added chicken stock (made from an awesome truffle-roasted chicken I’d cooked the week before) until I was out of stock. The size of the pan will dictate the amount needed, but use good stock.

Season with salt and pepper. Henderson says cover the pan with grease-proof paper, but I used aluminum foil as it wrapped around the pan’s handles more easily. Then into a Medium oven for 3 hours. I set mine to 350. With about a half hour to go I took the aluminum off the top to give the skin some color. In retrospect I might have cranked up the oven too, it could have been a bit browner.

Once it was out of the oven, I moved the head to the serving platter. Then whisked in the dijon and added the kale to wilt in the hot stock. Dished the kale, shallots, and garlic around on the plate and ladled a fair amount of stock around it. Served up with something red and delicious, a King’s Estate Oregon Pinot.

Moon, January, Spoon.

It was pretty darn excellent looking. But Henderson doesn’t mention one very important part of this dish: how the hell do you carve it? We sort of stared at it for a bit, trying to plan our next move. Fortunately I’m fairly familiar with pig heads from last year and my guanciale experiments, so here’s the top three places to go on the pig head.

First, the cheek. There’s a lovely bit of meat in there and a whole lot of fat. Second, the tongue. Peel the skin off and it’s excellent. Third, the back of the neck has some great pockets of meat.

Otherwise, there’s the brain. It’s a texture thing, you’ll love it or hate it. Here some crusty bread goes well. I might be a little wary if it were a commercial hog. “Mad Pig Disease” isn’t rampant (or even an actual disease), but there are some concerned scientists out there and I’m always distrustful of commercial pork industry practices. But I know where this pig came from, how it was treated, fed and cared for. Which, of course is why I bought it from them. So the brains are fair game, though personally I’m not a huge fan anyway. There’s also the ear and snout, that depending on how well you roasted them (and how clean they were before!) you may want to go for. Eventually we had it flipped over and my wife was happily excavating away. Biologists… I married a very special lady.

It looks like a really big amount of meat, but really there’s a lot of bone and a head this size would probably feed 3-4. We finished picking over the head, then saved all the leftover meat, kale, shallots and stock. This became lunch for the next few days and it was outstanding. Really, the head was great but the pot-roast soup made with it was the real winner. What’s not to like? Wine, brandy, garlic, herbs, shallots, excellent chicken stock, unctuous pig goo.

So it was fun, and visually stunning, but I think that’s my head for the year. It’s quite impressive but in terms of economy I’d rather use the cheeks for guanciale and the rest of the head for headcheese.

Or soup dumplings, as we did with the other half of the head…

Thanks Russell!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

We’re back!  I wanted to say Happy Valentine’s Day to you and yours, and that I’ll be updating every day next week to make up for the unexpected break.  It’s so darn good to be back!

I’ll leave you with this picture I took recently.