This is a post that I've been mulling over in my mind for about six months now, and I'm still not sure if it'll come out the way I want, as it's a very messy, gray area.

I came across a post by Bob del Grosso in which he takes a New York Times article to task for promoting a less-than-complete image of the nose-to-tail food movement.  The article is worth reading, and it's important to know Bob teaches raw milk cheese making classes at Trent Hendricks' farm, cooks offal, makes sausage, and doesn't shy away from a whole pig head.

In short, he vents his frustration that the Times article promotes the consumption of some offal, like feet, the head, and the tail.  But missing from the photo and article is the blood, internal organs, and sex organs.  He feels that the current nose-to-tail movement pushes the consumption of some offal, but much is missing, and those missing parts get trucked off to a rendering plant or processed into pet food.

The part that gets me is "I've seen enough on-farm slaughter to know that no one utilizes all of the parts of a pig -or any other animal- better than the big, vertically integrated slaughter house factories. You want true nose-to-tail cooking? Have lunch at a Smithfield Pork factory. [...] in it's current form, the nose-to-tail cooking movement is at worst, yet another feel-good inducing campaign by chefs et al out to exploit a market for artisanal food or, at best, an aesthetic movement peopled with folks who derive pleasure and a sense of empowerment from taking charge of a part of the food web that has, for better part of a century, been under the aegis of specialists" 

Which is where Pig 05049 comes in.  Created by Dutch designer/artist Christien Meindertsma, this is a photo collection dedicated to "pig #05049," who was processed in a large-scale slaughterhouse.  She spent three years researching all the various products that can be sourced from a single pig.  It's a beautiful and thought-provoking book.  I had no idea a pig's bones could be turned into bone protein and used in cellular concrete for roads, or in making drugs like Heparin (sourced primarily from a pig's intestinal mucus), or the blood is used in cigarette filters.  And that's just three of the 185 entries.

When I worked at a slaughterhouse, all the organs (except those we could sell, like liver and heart) were put in 55 gallon buckets and picked up weekly by a company that would turn them into pet food.  A small plant of six employees including myself, we did not do the volume to send the bones to plant A, blood to plant B, and hides to plant CBut it makes sense that a huge processor like Smithfield could separate and direct truckloads of various parts to different companies who could process them into new products, like pig bone fat becoming fabric softener.

But I just cannot get past the fact that these pigs are living terrible, short, truncated lives and producing meat that's better off being turned into soap than food.  Plus I imagine the transmogrification of these cuts require a large amount of energy and chemical solvents.

I agree with Bob that as a society we can be so so so much better about eating all parts of the pig.  But if that NY Times article gets someone to try a pig's hock, tail, or a slice of headcheese, isn't that a start.  I think a hard-line, all-or-nothing attitude will scare away more people than it will convert. 
This was my first time cooking a bull's testicle; they're exceptionally hard to find.  When I went out to Wyoming a few years ago, I couldn't a single place that sold them or recommend a restaurant or store that did.  I did get the one odd remark that, "'[they're] more of an Oklahoma thing."  Surprisingly, I found a supply much closer to home.  These came from a Scottish Highland cow raised on pasture by North Woods Ranch, who do not castrate any of their animals, cow or pig.

Not to be unexpected, they came in a pair, so I wanted to try two different recipes.  This is my first, an adaptation of Jennifer Mclagan's recipe from Odd Bits. Although she just kept the salad as a light first course with just onions and peppers, I filled it out with some baby kale and a pickled egg to create a more substantial entree.
Panko-Crusted Bull Testicles with Baby Kale, Capers, and Peppers
Prepping a testicle isn't too hard - if you've peeled an orange your can skin a testicle.  Not that they're covered in skin, but three layers of membranes.  Take a sharp paring knife and slide it length-wise down the testicle.  You can actually see the slit membranes retract and peel back as you cut, so it's easy to see where you've cut through completely and where you need to slice a bit deeper.

Now, the first two membranes came off very easily for me.  I slit down the side and pulled away the white membranes, which feels like Saran wrap, if  saran wrap was 1/8" thick.  The final, internal membrane didn't come off as cleanly, but it seemed very thin and delicate.  I decided to leave the final scraps of membrane on for the time being.
Testicles are wobbly when uncooked, so usually they're usually poached to firm them before they're breaded and fried.  After poaching for about six minutes, I removed the testicle and found the remnants of the third membrane were much easier to peel off.  To continue the peeling an orange analogy, this would be like picking off the strands of pith.
Left to Right: Discarded Membrane, Poached Testicle, Fiddly Scraps of Membrane
Next, I sliced the testicle into medallions, lightly floured the slices, dipped them in egg, and rolled them in panko breadcrumbs.  Fried up till golden brown, the testicle medallions had a very mild flavor with a texture like tongue.  Very dense and chewy, there was no gamey flavor or liverish notes to them.  I see now why Jennifer's recipe paired them with a piquant mix of capers, onions, and peppers.

I'm not quite sure what to try next with bull testicles.  Part of me is curious if poaching at a super low temperature for an extended period of time would give you a tender final product?  Some recipes suggest pounding the testicles after poaching, which I suppose would give you a more tender meat, as well as a schnitzel-type of look.


I've been practicing my sauce making lately, and when I came across fresh yuzu for the first time, I thought they would be wonderful to replace the lemon juice traditionally used in a Hollandaise sauce.  Yuzu is a citrus fruit grown throughout Eastern Asia and used heavily in Korean and Japanese cuisine.  I've had prepared yuzu products, from bottle yuzu juice to jams and sauces, but this is the first time I had the opportunity to work with the fresh fruit

First, yuzu is not at all like a lemon or lime, and not nearly as user-friendly.  Two yuzu the size of large limes will give you about 1 scant tablespoon of juice and around 40+ seeds.  With a thick rind and tons of seeds, there's not a ton of juice.  But what makes this variety of citrus so special is hidden in that rind.  Zesting the pebbly rind released wildly intense aromas of lemons and limes, but also grapefruit, pineapple, and super floral cantaloup.   The juice carries these flavors, too, but with a muted intensity when compared to the rind.

Lots of Seeds per Fruit!
As hollandaise sauce is so rich with eggs and butter, I thought a nice, thick cut of white fish would be perfect.  The market was advertising some beautiful Alaskan halibut under the peculiar title "America's Favorite Steak," While I found that slogan rather...odd...I went with two 3/4" thick filets.
Whisking in Yuzu Zest to the Hollandaise
 The one thing I've found about making a hollandaise or bernaise sauce is to have everything prepped and ready to go.  Once you start whisking those eggs, you don't want to have to mince herbs, poke around for a serving bowl, or fiddle around with a side dish.  If the eggs overcook, all is lost.  Everything should be prepped, measured, and ready to go.  Then, you can just focus on getting the eggs cooked perfectly and slowly adding in the butter.  So I whisked together 3 egg yolks in a double boiler until thick like sour cream, then slowly incorporated butter.  Finally I added in the juice of two yuzu, some salt, and lastly, the zest.
Seared Halibut over Asparagus with Yuzu Hollandaise
Before getting the sauce on, I blanched the asparagus and seared the halibut, then popped the halibut to finish cooking in the oven.  Once the sauce was finished, I piled up the asparagus to top with the halibut, then poured over a generous dollop of hollandaise.  I've also found that prewarming the plates, although a bit fussy-sounding, really helps to keep the hollandaise from chilling and gumming up.

I don't know when I'll get a chance to work with fresh yuzu again, but I would remake this recipe in a heartbeat.  Granted, anything topped with hollandaise is going to taste good, but the exotic flavor of yuzu really made this dish stand out.  But those exotic flavors are very fleeting.  After dinner, I took a taste of the leftover yuzu hollandaise and found those volatile oils in the zest had lost their vibrancy, leaving me with a sauce that had a bland, cooked-lime flavor.
Frosty weather has descended upon central Pennsylvania, so our house was in need of a winter warm-up.  I spotted a recipe for a Tourtiere du Shack in the Au Pied du Cochon Sugar Shack cookbook.  At first glance, this recipe looks like a pot pie gone ballistic.  And that's pretty much was this dish is; a tourtiere is a name for a Quebec cooking vessel, but now is more of a generic name for a meat pie covered in a crust.
Tourtiere Overflowing with Goodness
A recipe like this is a perfect example of why I love Martin Picard's recipes; he takes a simple recipe and makes it completely over-the-top.  Granted, some of his recipes can be pretty complicated, but this one is just a simple savory pie with a last-minute show-stopping garnish.
The filling of the pie is pretty simple: saute bacon, then onions, then button mushrooms, then some lovely ground Berkshire pork from North Woods Ranch, and then a shredded potato.  To moisten the filling, I added the gelatinous stock from a Berkshire pig's foot.  This took the longest amount of time, as the trotter needs a long time to break down the skin and collagen.  But one large (2lb) pig foot will provide you with plenty of excess trotter stock to use in future recipes.  Some garlic, thyme, and black pepper completed the seasoning for the filling.
Mixed together, this filling gets loaded into a pie crust, covered with the top crust, and brushed with egg.  Baked for an hour until golden brown and bubbling.  Now, at this point, the Tourtiere looks and smells awesome.  But this is where Martin turns the volume up to 11.  Take the pie out of the oven, and slice off a big circle of the top crust.  Use your largest spatula to lift the top off the pie in one large round.

This is where things really get intense.  Take a small wheel of stinky cheese and cut off the top and bottom rind.  I used a small wheel of Munster d'Alsace.  Leave the rind on the sides of the cheese to act like a girdle and keep all the rapidly melting cheese from spilling out.  Place the cheese in the center of the piping-hot tourtiere, give it a few turns of the pepper mill, then load on the toppings.
A Small Wheel of Munster d'Alsace Melting into the Pie
Toppings?  Yup!  Saute up some small cubes of potato, a few ounces of foie gras, and plenty of fresh parsley.  Load all that up on top of the cheese and put the tourtiere back in the oven to melt the cheese.  Now, if that sounds crazy, I actually scaled back Martin's suggested toppings, which included the potato and foie gras, but also sweetbreads, brains, more bacon, and arugula.
Trimming off the Scrag Ends of a Lobe of Foie Gras
The result is a pie just spilling out with goodness.  Crispy crust, warm savory center, gooey cheese melting over everything, and all the delicious little nuggets added at the last minute.  It's totally extravagant, but also simple.  All he did was cut the top off and add extra garnishes to give it this overflowing appearance.  You could do the same thing with anything on hand.  A chicken pot pie garnished with cheese curds and cubes of sauteed ham.  Or go cajun with crawfish tails and andouille sausage.  For the holidays, you could do a venison meat pie topped with chestnuts, cubes of roasted butternut squash and red currant sauce.  A recipe like this really leads itself to lots of imagination and personalization on the cook's part.
Bluefish gets a bad reputation as a "fishy fish," so I was surprised to see it as a reoccurring feature on the menu for a chef I work under.  Bluefish is a great canvas for robust sauces, he explained, especially ones involving black pepper, lots of acidity, or strong spices. While talking to him about his affinity for bluefish, he gave me the wonderful idea to try curing it.  Really? "Bluefish has a similar fat content to salmon, so it takes to cure really well."

My father-in-law, Carl, was also a big proponent of eating bluefish.  Whenever we would go to the Outer Banks, Carl and Matt would catch a mess of small bluefish.  Cleaned and cooked that day, they were perfect served plain with salt and pepper.  Carl would always smirk when people gave him odd looks for saving the bluefish, rather than tossing them back in hopes of something fancier.  "They don't know what they're missing," he mused.

As I approached this recipe, I felt encouraged by my past experiences cooking bluefish...but those were small North Carolina bluefish.  For curing, I had a larger New Jersey blue with an oval body the size of a small Coho salmon.  Still, the meat smelled clean and fresh, despite its dark, ruddy-colored flesh.  I cured it simply, with salt, brown sugar, and dill.  I added a bit of caraway and white pepper for seasoning, wrapped it up, and stashed it in the fridge for three days, flipping once a day to distribute the cure.
Cleaned Bluefish and a Head for Stewing
Opening the package, the fish smelled nice, but looked a little lumpy.  It didn't have that nice, sleek, smoothness of  salmon.  After rinsing off the spices and excess cure, I let it dry out in the fridge for a night to firm up.
When it came time for a brunch of bluefish on toast points, I was excited but hesitant.  Slicing into the fish, it came off in a nice little rosette.  The meat was savory, tender, and not anymore fishy than cured salmon.  Granted, if you don't like smoked salmon, I don't see this converting you.  But it was surprisingly mild, especially considering how strong large bluefish can get if not cooked right away.  I served it with slices of pickled beets, which added a nice acidity to cut the richness of fish.  I would definitely do this recipe again, possibly side-by-side with cured salmon as a duo to compare and contrast.