While at the grocery store the other day, I came across something rather unexpected in Pennsylvania in November: galangal root.  Granted, it wasn't grown here, but it's an ingredient I've only been able to cook with a few times.  Similar to ginger, galangal is used throughout Thai cuisine.  It's stronger, and more pungent than ginger, in the way a habanero pepper is exponentially stronger than a jalapeno pepper.
The Galangal is the one on the Right
Snatching up a large root from the display, the thick, overlapping bands of the galangal's skin felt like the smooth scales of some enormous fish.  Fish soup?  I thought about that idea, then remembered the beautiful orange hubbard squash Carla's mother had given us from a farmer's market.

Sauteing the Squash and Sliced Galangal
 I decided to keep with the Thai inspiration and make a coconut milk based soup.  I cubed the squash and sauteed it until it was beginning to brown.  In the meantime I peeled and chopped the galangal into large rings.  Another difference between galangal and ginger?  Galangal feels like you're cutting through a piece of wood.  It's really, really dense.  Chopping it up, the galangal released a sinus-clearing, zesty aroma.  It felt quite refreshing on a cold and frigid day.  I kept them in large rings for easy removal from the soup later, then added the sliced galangal to the pan and sauteed them along with the squash.

For the broth, I added a pint of homemade chicken stock, two cans of coconut milk, a dollop of spicy sambal chile paste, and a splash of fish sauce.  I let everything simmer for about 35 minutes until the squash was tender.  It tasted good, but it could use some added texture, so I cubed up a block of tempeh and added it in.  The soup was at a low simmer, so I just turned off the heat and let it infuse for another half hour.
Spooning up a bowl of the soup, I garnished it with a small handful of chopped cilantro and a few slices of fresh red fresno chilies.  It was really good - rich and creamy like a classic pumpkin soup, but with bright Thai flavors of heat, herbs, and a deep savor from the fish sauce.  Carla especially liked that there were tender cubes of pumpkin and firm cubes of tempeh, as so often squash soups are pureed smooth and baby food-esque.

One note on the galangal:  while it's flavor was present, it was a bit muted in the finished soup.  I'm curious if the heat and spice was tempered by the fat of the coconut milk, or if I should have grated it for better flavor release?  I've still got a large knob of galangal left, which will give me plenty for further experiments.
Wow, the title for this post may be the most unappetizing thing I've written.  So let me give some explanation:

Over the summer, Bon Appetit had an image in a side column on chefs doing in-house fermentation.  It plotted different chefs' experiments on a scale ranging from mild to super funky, with David Chang's pork Butabushi and Chris Cosentino's Roman-style fish garum at the far end of the spectrum.  Nestled in the middle was the idea to ferment vegetables as you would sauerkraut, then juice these fermented veggies to create a sauce for fresh veggies.
Fermenting Chioggia Beets, Carrots, and White Turnips

It sounded so cool, I had to start my own batch.  In making saurkraut, you're creating a salt water brine and pickling the veggies with lacto-fermenting bacteria.  These good bacteria happily exist in a saline environment, which is inhospitable to bad bacteria.  Now, I've usually got a crock of cabbage slowly turning into sauerkraut, so I used the juice from that to kick-start the fermentation.  Cabbage cannot be beat as a source for naturally occurring lactobacillus that collect on their leaves.  So shred, add salt, and the cabbage and bacteria will basically take it from there.

So I did this first with carrots, adding a cup of raw sauerkraut brine to the chopped up carrots, then topping up the jar with plain salt water brine.  Four weeks later, I juiced them to sauce fresh roasted carrots.  It turned out so well, I did a second batch, along with a jar of chioggia beets and a jar of baby white turnips.  Oddly the beets lost their pink color and now seem white.  Perhaps regular red beets would have been more color-fast.

Theses photos are from the second time I made roasted carrots.  I scrubbed and trimmed a bunch of fresh carrots, tossed them in olive oil and roasted them at 400 F until they were tender and slightly brown.  While they roasted, I juiced a little more than a cup of fermented carrot chunks, and added a half cup of fresh carrots to the juicer for a fresh, sweet flavor.  Roasting carrots can dry them out in the oven, so I added an almond-sized knob of butter to the fermented/fresh carrot juice mix and poured it over the roasted carrots.  Back in the oven for five minutes, the carrots seemed to plump up with the added juice, although that could just be some of the pulp from the juice coating the surface.
Out of the oven the carrots have a really intense flavor.  Not very sour or tart, but savory, salty, and just barely pungent, as if a dab of horseradish was in the mix.  I've very excited to keep going with this and see how different vegetables respond to the fermenting/juicing/saucing process.
I don't quite remember where I came up with this idea, but it has been forming in my head for at least a year now.  I remember while breaking down a half a pig at Pigstock someone jokingly called out to ask what cut on the carcass was the "McRib." Michael Clampffer from Mosefund Farm said McDonald's probably makes it from some sort of smoke-flavored pork forcemeat.  It was funny to me that fast food could be technically considered a forcemeat, the term used to describe the seasoned meat mixture that makes up pates and is used to fill deboned birds for galantines.  But the technique behind that mixture can easily be done on an industrial scale to make uniform meat patties, spam blocks, or chicken nuggets.  That was the conception that would grow into this pate.
Picholine Olives: Crunchy, Briny, and Fruity
I'm not sure if I've ever had olive loaf, possibly as a child, but I know it has a poor reputation.  I love olives, and was originally thinking they would make an interesting interior garnish in a pate.  So why couldn't the combination of pork and olives rise above the deli case? That got the wheels spinning on making a "classy" olive loaf using organic pork, french olives, and smoking it with apple wood.  On the PR-side, I just needed to do some "re-branding."  And thus, the Pate Fume aux Picholine was born.
Porky Forcemeat
I've never smoked a pate before and worried a soft mousse might deform or split.  I didn't want to wrap the pate in bacon strips or caul fat, which would help hold everything together but keep the smoked from hitting the forcemeat directly.  So I kept this pate as straight pork meat to ensure it would hold together.  For the olives, I used Picholine, which 1.) are French and let me give this a fancy name 2.) are green and large, so they look like the olives in traditional olive loaf.  The mixture was very simple: pork, milk, eggs, pate spice mix (quatre epices), white vermouth, and salt, pepper and sodium nitrite (since this was going to be smoked).  I pitted the olives and mixed them in evenly with the seasoned meat, then packed it all in a terrine mold.
Unmolding Pate and Drying Off
After cooking the pate in a water bath, I pressed it overnight to firm it up.  During unmolding, I had several olives poking through the edges of the pate.  It was fine, but I would prefer a neatly squared-off look, so I think next time I would smear some pate down the sides of the terrine mold first, then fill the center with the olive/pork mixture.  Finally, time to fume! I cold smoked the pate for about 2 hours with a light stream of apple wood smoke.
Homemade Olive Loaf
The results are really tasty!  I love the unexpected smokiness with the pate, and the olives stayed firm and add a gently crunchy texture to the finished dish.  The pate could stand to be a bit moister, so I'll definitely add more fat next time.  The pate had no problems in the smoker, despite my worries it might sag while sitting on the smoker rack for so long.  Aside from some small refinements, I'm excited to make this dish again, as I think it would be a surprise hit at a dinner party or holiday get-together.
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.