WAMU 88.5 : The Kojo Nnamdi Show

Butchers And The "Head-To-Tail" Movement

The average American eats more than 160 pounds of meat per year. And almost all of that comes from certain desirable parts of the cow, pig and chicken -- fillets and steaks from the loin, the flank and the round. A growing "head-to-tail" movement is extolling the virtues of the other parts of the animal, such as the brains, liver and heart. But you may be hard-pressed to find a local source for those less-in-demand organs. We explore the virtues of "offal," and the economics of modern butchery.

Nose-To-Tail Recipes

All recipes from "Primal Cuts: Cooking with America's Best Butchers" by Marissa Guggiana. The tripe and pig ear are from Jamie Bissonnette at Coppa in Boston. The pig head stew is from Rob Levitt at the Butcher & Larder in Chicago.

Tripe A La Collinsville

Tripe is one of my favorite foods, to eat and to cook. This recipe, from Toro, is fresh and light and very approachable -- a gateway tripe dish.

2 pounds honeycomb tripe (pork or beef)
3 cups white wine
1 cup salt
1 quart chicken stock
1 teaspoon caraway
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon fennel seed
1 teaspoon mustard seed
1 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced carrots
1/2 cup diced celery

Stew Ingredients:
4 shallots, julienned
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves, garlic sliced
1 Anaheim pepper, julienned
1 poblano pepper, julienned
1 red jalapeno, julienned
1 fennel bulb, finely diced
1 cup applejack whiskey
1 (10-ounce) can peeled plum tomatoes, crushed (alternately, if in season, 4 pounds mixed heirloom tomatoes, diced, skin on)
1 piment d'Espelette
1/4 cup fines herbes (blended basil, chervil, tarragon, marjoram, and chives?
Lemon wedges

  1. Soak tripe in the refrigerator in a pot of water with 1 cup of wine for 3 to 12 hours. Remove tripe, scrub with the blunt side of a large kitchen knife and rinse. In a pot, cover tripe in cold water with rest of wine and salt. Bring to a simmer. Turn off immediately and strain. Return tripe to pot and cover with chicken stock. Make a spice sachet with the caraway, coriander, fennel and mustard seeds, and add to the pot. Add onion, carrots, and celery. Bring to the boil, reduce to low simmer, cover and cook for 5 to 6 hours. Cool tripe and let it sit in its liquid overnight in the refrigerator. The next day, bring the tripe and liquid back to a boil, strain and reserve the braising liquid.

  2. In a tall stockpot, sweat shallots in olive oil over medium-high heat until tender. Add garlic and cook until translucent. Add peppers and fennel and cook under tender. Add the tripe, sachet and whiskey, and cook till reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Strain the tomatoes, add to the pot and reduce to simmer. Cook for 45 minutes, rewetting with braising liquid as needed.

  3. Thin to desired consistency with liquid. Add salt and piment d'Espelette to taste. Serve with herbs and lemon as accompaniments. Cooled and refrigerated, tripe stew will keep for a week.

Serves 4 to 6

Pig Ear Terrine

My sous chef, Josh Buehler, created this silky and tender terrine, which is a favorite at Coppa. The layers of ear make it a very visual and impressive dish. Season with fleur de sel, fried garlic and snipped chives. We serve ours with a Yuzu aioli, though any creamy and sour sauce would pair fine. Garnish with mini red shiso leaves and ground sumac.

24 pig ears
Kosher salt
3 quarts chicken or pork stock
3 cups soy sauce
2 cups mirin
1 cup sake
1 cup lemon or meyer lemon simply syrup*

Sachet Ingredients:
1 stalk lemon grass, chopped
2 pieces crystallized ginger
1 fresno chili, chopped
1 tablespoon coriander seed, toasted
1 tablespoon grains of paradise
1 tablespoon fennel seed
4 cloves garlic

  1. Clean ears of any hair. Place in a pan with the spice sachet. Season lightly with salt.

  2. In a saucepot, bring the stock, soy, mirin, sake and simple syrup to a simmer. Pour the hot liquid over the ears, being sure the liquid covers the ears by 1/2 inch. Meat not covered by liquid will get charred and can't be used in the terrine. Cover tightly with aluminum foil. Cook at 200°F for 36 hours. Check periodically that it does not boil. When the meat falls to pieces but does not shred, it is done.

  3. Cool the ears in the liquid to room temperature, then remove from the liquid. Reduce the liquid in the pot by one third. Line a terrine mold or loaf pan with plastic wrap, leaving enough overhang to cover the top when the mold is filled. Layer the ears to 1/2 inch from the top. Pour the reduced liquid and shake the mold to cover the ears. Fold plastic wrap over the top to seal. Press with 2-pound weight in the refrigerator overnight.

  4. Remove the terrine from the pan, change the plastic wrap and store in cool place until ready to serve. Slice with a very sharp knife 1/4 inch thick. The terrine will keep up for up to 10 days in the refrigerator.

Makes 1 mold
* Heat 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Add juice of 1 lemon and stir.

Pig Head Stew

Guests often ask us, "What are the delicious little white noodles in this fabulous stew?" They look at us funny when they hear "pig ears." Everyone should make this at least once.

Pig-Head Meat Ingredients:
1 pig head (preferably with tongue, ears and jowls intact; butchers tend to leave the jowl on the shoulder), all hair removed
1 head garlic, cut in half
1 onion, quartered
10 sprigs thyme
10 springs marjoram

Sauce Ingredients:
3 tablespoons olive oil or lard
1 onion, medium dice
3 carrots, cut into 1/4-inch rounds
1 bulb fennel, medium dice
1 teaspoon red chili flakes
Pinch of salt
2 cups crushed canned tomatoes
Reserved pig-head cooking liquid

Polpettini (little pork meatballs) Ingredients:
1 pound pork shoulder, cut into 1-inch chunks
3/4 pound country bread, cut into 1-inch chunks
3 tablespoons salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon red chili flakes
1 tablespoon finely chopped rosemary leaves

Stew Ingredients:
3 cups chickpeas
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus a pinch
3 bunches black kale
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
Dash olive oil
1/4 cup marjoram leaves
Red chili flakes

  1. Cooking the pig head, sauce and polpettini can all be done up to 2 days prior to serving. Place the head, garlic, onion, thyme and marjoram in a heavy-bottomed pot. You could also use a roasting pan over two burners and cover with foil. Add water to cover. Bring to a boil, reduce to a gentle simmer and cook the head for about 4 hours, or until the meat is just starting to fall off the bone. Carefully remove head from pot.

  2. Strain the liquid and reduce by half. When the head is cool enough to handle, pull off all the edible parts. Besides the obvious cheeks and other exposed meaty bits from the back of the head, there are big chunks of meat under the eye sockets and along the snout. The snout, too, is quite delicious in a lip-smacking, gelatinous way and should be coarsely chopped and added to the mix. The tongue needs to be peeled and then coarsely chopped along with the ears. Left-over skin, fatty bits and the skull can be discarded. Refrigerate.

  3. To make the sauce, place the oil, onion, carrot, fennel and chili flakes in a heavy-bottomed pot. Add a generous pinch of salt and cook over medium heat until the vegetables are tender but not brown. Add 1/2 cup of the crushed tomatoes and cook until all the liquid has cooked out and the tomato begins to caramelize. Add the remaining tomato and pig-head liquid, and simmer for 20 minutes. Cool, cover and refrigerate.

  4. For the polpettini, preheat oven to 350°F. Make sure the temperature for the meat is 36°F or lower so that it mixes well. Combine meat with all other ingredients and grind through the coarse plate of a meat grinder or a food processor. Mix well. Form mixture into 1-inch meatballs and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for about 20 minutes, to about 137°F internal temperature. Cool and refrigerate.

  5. The day of: preheat oven to 250°F. Place chickpeas and a pinch of salt in a pot; cover with water to 1 1/2 inches above the beans. Bring to a boil, then transfer to oven, checking once after 45 minutes to make sure they remain covered in liquid. Add boiling water if they are dry. Cook about 1 hour and 15 minutes.


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