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Thursday, November 05, 2009

A nose-to-tail dinner party

Do you ever have out-of-body experiences during an amazing meal?

I have.

Tonight, this is one of them.

Fergus Henderon's nose-to-tail barbecue at the Sydney International Food Festival was the catalyst. Nose-to-tail eating is about eating the entire animal and not wasting anything. That means eating heads and hearts and offal and tripe.

To me, this philosophy is about making sure we maximise every part of an animal's carcass so we don't trifle the loss of life. It means recognising that extra care is required to slow cook these parts to perfection. It's about appreciation, for what we have, and what we take.

Inspired, Pig Flyin was keen to host his own nose-to-tail dinner party for the little group we call Stomach's Eleven.

Pan-fried lamb sweetbread

We started with pan-fried lamb sweetbread, the thymus gland that is soft and velvety.

Beetroot, orange and labneh salad

A salad of roasted fresh beetroot with segments of orange and dollops of homemade labneh was refreshing and awakened the palate. I loved the crunch of celery heart and fennel with sprigs of fresh parsley. The salad was dressed simply with balsamic and olive oil. And I definitely intend on making my own labneh soon.

Tripe with pigs trotters and single malt whiskey

Honeycomb tripe is one of my favourites. I love the texture on my tongue, the way its frills are so tender, and how it soaks up flavours like a sponge. This stew was pure comfort food - a glorious mix of boned out trotters, honeycomb tripe, minced shallot, carrot and onion cooked slowly in beef stock for 2-3 hours, based on a Damien Pignolet recipe from his cook book "French".

Stuffed oxtail

"I deboned an oxtail," Pig Flyin says in a matter-of-fact voice. It's about this time I start to pinch myself, wondering if this is all a dream.

It's not. The dream smells too good.

Oxtail stuffed with homemade duck liver pate

The glistening log of oxtail is carved to reveal a stuffing of duck liver pate inside. Homemade by Pig Flyin. Mixed with Jamieson whiskey and duxelles and parsley and thyme, Pig Flyin recites.

The meat is soft and pliable and rich and sticky. It's swaddled in a rich beef stock red wine reduction made from dried chanterelles and porcini, and boosted by the flavour from the oxtail bones.

It's served on a bed of button mushrooms and bright green broad beans.

Do you nose what this is?

"And this?" I ask Pig Flyin.

"I deboned a pig's head," he replies simply.

I nod.

I can't feel my toes.

Deboned rolled pig's head

The rolled pig's head, Pig Flyin explains, was deboned then rolled back up again and marinated overnight in salt, lemon rind, rosemary, garlic, salt and pepper overnight. The next day it was cooked sous-vide for four hours, then chilled in the fridge to set.

Rolled pig's head slices

"And look, these wavy white bits are its ears, and in the middle is the tongue."

Cold rolled pig's head slices served with rocket, radish and capers

The rolled pig's head slices are cool and terrine-like. There's the crunch of the pig's ear, the softness of tongue, and the fatty richness of the cheek all offset by the slight bitterness of wilted
rocket, the salty tang of capers and crisp shavings of raw radish.

I end up with an end slice that contains part of the snout. The snout has an odd chewiness to it, not tough, but dense.

But wait. There's more.

Roast pig's head

So everyone remembers Chris Badenoch roasting a pig's head in Masterchef Australia. I find myself unable to stop examining the roast pig's head up-close. It's both mortifying and mesmerising.

Roast pig's head

The roast pig's head is cooked slowly in chicken stock, white wine and cider (he substituted grape juice), then roasted on high in the oven.

Carving the cheek

There's a satisfying "crack" sound as Pig Flyin plunges the knife into the crackling on the cheek. Beneath the burnished skin is a pillow of softness, the meat falling apart with the slightest prod of a fork.

Pig teeth

I'm even amazed by the pig's teeth.

Gigantic asparagus spears

Plate-sized asparagus spears are crisp and jaunty. There isn't much room for dessert but we find a little space to fit it in.

Key lime pie

The key lime pie is a perfect citrus conclusion. Light and tangy, it cleanses the palate.

What I did find staggering was that a pig's head costs $10. The dinnner above used one-and-a-half pig's heads in total plus a handful of tripe, sweetbreads and a couple of pigs trotters.

An amazing meal. From the head to the tail.

Oxtail, tripe and pig's head

Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Stomachs Eleven: Christmas 2010 (Pig Flyin)
Stomachs Eleven: Teochew feast (Pig Flyin)
Stomachs Eleven: Mole poblano and pulled pork tacos (Me)
Stomachs Eleven: Pizza and friends (Miss Rice)
Stomachs Eleven: Ten kilograms of mussels (Pig Flyin)
Stomachs Eleven: Shanghainese banquet (M&L)
Stomachs Eleven: Wagyu shabu shabu and dessert sushi (Silverlily)
Stomachs Eleven: Stuffed deboned pig's head + nose-to-tail eating (Pig Flyin)
Stomachs Eleven: French feast (Pig Flyin)
Stomachs Eleven: Whole suckling pig and Chinese banquet (Pig Flyin)
Stomachs Eleven: Hotpot night (M&L)
Stomachs Eleven: Crackling roast pork and black sesame cupcakes (me)
Stomachs Eleven: No ordinary steak dinner (Pig Flyin)
Stomachs Eleven: Polish feast (Miss Rice)
Stomachs Eleven: Christmas 2009 (Pig Flyin)
Stomachs Eleven: Char siu and Hainan chicken (me)
Stomachs Eleven: Amazing impromptu dinner party (Pig Flyin)
Stomachs Eleven: Dumplings and Shanghai soy duck (M&L)
22 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 11/05/2009 03:24:00 am


  • At 11/05/2009 8:20 am, Blogger Peter G | Souvlaki For The Soul said…

    I won't lurk on this post! Wow! As someone who was exposed to a lot of this kind of eating as a child (my father let nothing go to waste-I have a love/hate relationship with offal) this feast looked very enticing. Thanks for sharing Helen!

  • At 11/05/2009 8:49 am, Blogger Rita (mademoiselle délicieuse) said…

    I don't think I know anyone who could debone multiple body parts - a skill to be highly commended!

  • At 11/05/2009 10:38 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Can I get an invite to the next feast?


  • At 11/05/2009 10:56 am, Anonymous billy@atablefortwo said…

    have to say the pig's face roll gross me out a bit. I can't help but keep thinking what if it is a human's face being rolled up and sliced with ear and tongue all inside? mmm....
    But the roast one.... damn I want some of those cheeks!

  • At 11/05/2009 10:57 am, Blogger Anna (Morsels and Musings) said…

    that would have been amazing! who are these people and where can i find them?!?!

  • At 11/05/2009 11:29 am, Anonymous Simon said…

    You know, omfg doesn't even cover it. It ceases to amaze me what the Stomach's Eleven crew are fortunate enough to savour.

    The head roll reminds me of the pork hock rolls that I use to have a lot as a child; deboned, rolled up and served chilled.

    Deboning an oxtail? I've worked with and eaten enough oxtail to know that that's some serious skills at play. Though no surprise considering who the chef is :)

  • At 11/05/2009 11:55 am, Anonymous Jacq said…

    haha I'm fascinated by the pig's teeth as well! Looks like the most amazing feast. Was the choice of a pig related to Pig Flyin's name by any chance? ;)

  • At 11/05/2009 12:37 pm, Blogger Yas @ hungry.digital.elf. said…

    damn, what a feast!!
    Pig Flyin' totally rocks throwing a dinner eh?

  • At 11/05/2009 12:38 pm, Anonymous clekitty said…

    Wow. You are all so very lucky. My father is the type that leaves nothing to waste. This feast looks amazing, I want an invite!! :P

  • At 11/05/2009 12:47 pm, Anonymous Mrs Pigflyin said…

    Glad you enjoyed the meal and thanks for your kind words again. I must say Stuffed oxtail MkII is a lot prettier :p

    Nose-to-tail eating doesn't need to be laborious or slow-cooking and everyone should have a go! We will do an Asian edition of nose-to-tail next time and there will be more quick dishes.

  • At 11/05/2009 1:39 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Totally mortifying and mesmerising! What an awesome feast! Kudos to the cooks (or are they chefs?)!

  • At 11/05/2009 1:57 pm, Blogger Stephcookie said…

    Just brilliant! What an inspired idea for a dinner theme, Pig Flyin has outdone himself. My god the shot of the pig cheek with the crackling made my mouth immediately start watering!

  • At 11/05/2009 5:00 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Goodness me you guys are true foodies. I'm game for it all except the tripe...there's just something about the texture and the knowledge of what it does for the pig! Deboning a head - boy that must have been some work!

  • At 11/05/2009 8:16 pm, Anonymous Andrea said…

    Is Pig Flyin a chef? Or a contestant on Masterchef next year?! I'm amazed at the relaxed "I deboned a pig's head"! Am very jealous and think you are extremely lucky to have such a talented and generous friend :)

  • At 11/06/2009 12:16 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Peter G - lol. Everybody lurks now and then, although comments are always a highlight! The feast was amazing, and yes, the indoctrination of the importance frugality lingers with me still. Funnily enough the rules of 'waste not want not' seem even more applicable with today's focus on sustainability, carbon points and reducing our impact on the environment.

    Hi Mademoiselle Delicieuse - I don't know how to debone multiple body parts either! Perhaps we should all learn - a biology lesson and a cooking opp!

    Hi Ecci - I think there's already a waiting list! :)

    Hi Billy - You need to stop indulging in cannibalistic tendencies. lol.

    The roast was amazing. The cheek was so fatty but oh so tender too.

    Hi Anna - lol. I pinch myself in disbelief at my good fortune every day. I'm sure your friends say the same thing about you though - your dishes always sound so amazing!

    Hi Simon - Oh yes, I love those Korean pork hocks. Such deliciousness.

    Pig Flyin is an amazing cook. Apparently he's been practising deboning oxtails and they look even better now!

    Hi Jacq - Ha, so glad I'm not the only one fascinated by the pig's teeth! The pig wasn't really related to Pig Flyin's name - I think we all just love pork! Plus I'm not sure I'd want to eat a rolled deboned lambs head? lol

    Hi Yas - Pig Flyin is a kitchen superstar! And he's also so calm and poised during prep and serving as well!

    Hi Clekitty - We're very lucky indeed. Pig Flyin loves to cook, and well, we love to eat! I think I could raffle off a seat at this rate, or maybe Pig Flyin should open up an underground restaurant! lol

    Hi Mrs Pig Flyin - Good point - nose-to-tail eating doesn't have to be slow-cooked although part of me revels in the TLC that goes along with dishes that take time to prepare.

    Am always so grateful for your very kind invitations. You are the perfect hosts every time!

    Hi Ellie - It was an amazing dinner. Everything was cooked by Pig Flyin, and he's not a chef but a very passionate, patient and generous home cook :)

    Hi Stephcookie - My mouth was watering all evening, especially as I watched him put the finishing touches to the dishes. The pig cheek was divine - wouldn't it be great if more restaurants started serving this?

    Hi Jax - It's interesting how they say that Asians place a lot of emphasis on texture, which is why they revere otherwise flavourless components like abalone, sharks fin and tripe.

    I would've loved to have watched him debone the pig's head. Maybe next time!

    Hi Andrea - Despite his appearances, Pig Flyin is not a chef. I encouraged him to enter Masterchef but he wasn't interested! He is very skilled and very giving - I know I'm very lucky indeed!

  • At 11/06/2009 11:26 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    How do I get to the top of that list? :)

  • At 11/07/2009 9:49 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Ecci - lol. You'll have to be creative :)

  • At 11/08/2009 5:36 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hey this reminds me a lot of Chris' cook up (from Master Chef)!

  • At 11/08/2009 11:22 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Anon - The pigs head did remind me of Chris' dish (as above) but oh, the addition of tripe, of a rolled pigs head, of the sweetbreads and the stuffed oxtail made it so much more :)

  • At 11/13/2009 8:42 am, Anonymous Trissa said…

    Very well put. I'm a big believer in not putting anything to waste and this dinner just proved that even the "cheap" cuts are still amazingly yummy and can look appetizing.

  • At 11/13/2009 9:01 pm, Anonymous reality raver said…

    Not my type of meal, but it shows you would qualify to go on Survivor.

  • At 11/16/2009 6:26 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Trissa - Cheap cuts are often the tastiest of them all, I say, and yes, my mother always instilled a strong "waste not want not" mantra!

    Hi Reality Raver - lol. I always do sigh a little when people are fazed by the eating challenges. Mind over matter, I say! I'm not sure I'm physically fit enough for all the challenges though, but yes, I do love watching all the politics!


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