The Extremities

Tail & Tongue with Rich Red Wine Sauce

By now, ya’ll know this post is on a nasty tip. Doing this recipe, I didn’t necessarily learn anything new about cooking technique–it was surprisingly pedestrian–however, dealing with the ingredients was a truly unique experience. I probably wouldn’t have attempted this one quite yet if I hadn’t been stopping to say hello to a couple of butchers at pastaworks while they were cutting up a fresh half pig from tails & trotters. The trotter was just laying there on the butcher block, and I jokingly exclaimed give me that trotter!, not realizing that I meant it until it was being weighed on the scale, and wrapped-up tight in brown paper. In case you were curious, it cost me three bucks. Anyway, I didn’t know what I was going to do with it. You can work something out with 3 or 4 trotters, I figured, but one is a little trickier. It lay in the fridge and in the back of my mind for a day or two—I’d of hated for it to go to waste!—until I flipped to this recipe in The River Cottage Meat Book, and discovered that it called for, indeed, a single pig’s trotter! When I showed it to Gabrielle for the first time, she reacted quite similarly to the way you might (you could be cool with it, right?) be reacting to it right now—that is, with the heeby jeeby’s and a horrified shutter. Then I made her touch it.

After deciding to proceed with this recipe, I went out and discovered how naive I am. I thought it was going to be difficult to find an oxtail (which is really the tail of a cow, & yet), and a cow’s tongue. Mercy, me! All you have to do is ask if you cruise the places I hang. At Laurelhurst Market, they had as many as I needed! And there I was only needing of one of each. The butcher wrapped up my oxtail, and handed it to me, feeling in my hand like a rulers scepter, and then he handed me the tongue, which had an opposite effect with its misshapen contours, and clunky wield. This probably illuminates why I became confused when a co-worker later remarked that it looked like a sex toy; I thought she meant the oxtail. Oh my! So, at this point I still hadn’t seen or touched either of these curiosities, but they were in my possession. In case you were thinking that I’m crazy for even getting involved with this stuff—even though it may even upstage my post!—let me try to relate to you a segment from this book, titled The Professional Charcuterie Series by Marcel Cottenceau (if anyone wants to buy me this book as a present for being awesome, I’ve updated the ‘about’ page with my addy!) that the butcher shared with me. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: You start off by taking a whole pig’s head, and carefully remove the entirety of it’s face, snout and all, in one piece. Meanwhile, you’re going to want to have about 30 pig’s tongues braising in some sort of delicious aromatics, and when those are ready, you’re going to wrap them all individually in caul fat (basically sausage casing), and then proceed to build a kind of castle out of them, using fine-ground sausage as mortar. Next, you bring the pig’s face back into the equation, and stuff the tongue castle you just built into it, sew it up, and bake it. When it’s done, draw in a new pig’s face (eyes, rosy cheeks) with your best friends make-up (not tested on animals.) I think that you’re supposed to serve this in slices, nice big slices. This is the kind of gourmet shit they used to make when your parents were my age. That’s actually only about half the steps, now that I read it over. Anyway, it probably makes this cross-section of the oxtail look pretty tame:

Tail is surprisingly meaty

The ingredient list for this is pretty spare. It calls for the oxtail, cut into pieces, the cow’s tongue, and the pig’s trotter, as well as two carrots, two stalks of celery, two onions, a turnip, about half an orange worth of orange zest, some herbs (bay, thyme, parsley), and a bottle of red wine. Basically, you just chop up all the veggies, but them in a pot with the extremities, bring to a slight simmer, and hold it there for a good three hours or so. Braise it until you can pierce the tongue with a fork, and it slides in like nothing.

Once it’s all done braising, remove the trotter, the tail pieces, and the tongue, and set aside until they are cool enough to handle. In the meantime, strain the stock through a couple layers of cheese cloth through your strainer. Once its all strained add the stock to a clean pot, and pour in half the bottle of red wine. Crank the heat up to high and boil it rapidly, reducing to about a quarter of the volume, or even further if you prefer. For me, the real winner in this recipe is the reduced stock. It was absolutely delicious. I was just sitting in the kitchen, drinking it. Man, it was good. But, in any case, it’s going to take a while to reduce, so you’re going to need something to do. By now the oxtail should be cool. Dig in and pick all the bits and chucks of meat out of those lovely, lovely vessels, and set aside into a bowl. Next, peel the tongue.

(click on the picture to purchase your Meat Mustache Mug)

That’s right—you may have noticed the svelte white sheath encasing the tongue meat proper. Truthfully, you needn’t peel it, so much as shake it off. This was probably the most shocking aspect of this recipe for me, or ever, really. Using the tongue raised a lot of questions about tongues in general. You never realize what a complicated, and sophisticated instrument it is until you have held one in your hands, and touched the tastebuds; felt how equally smooth, and rough it is depending on the direction you stroke it. Then with the revelation of the sheath, and the minute striations visible in the cross-section. But, despite its strange, awkward beauty, you have to chop it up. This stage involves a bit of preference, but I discovered that I’m not really feeling big chunks of tongue, and like it a little more in much smaller pieces. The book calls for 3/4 of an inch dice. i found out that that’s crazy talk. I say go with like 1/10 of an inch. I’m just going to come clean: I thought the tongue was nasty.

This is the final product. The pig trotter imparts a vast amount of gelatin to the stock, and allows for the meat and stock to be set in a mold. Alternatively, it can be served hot with mashed potatoes. I tried it both ways, and they were equally *meh* to me, but some other people tried it cold, and *said* it was pretty good. Some people really dig this kind of preparation. I’ve never been a huge fan of meat in a jello mold, and making this didn’t change my mind.

However, making this dish became totally worthwhile for me after I pulled the pig’s trotter from stock. Long and smooth going in, it emerged from the braise gnarled and bunched into a tight fist, the bones bursting through skin and fat. Examining it, I found that it almost mirrored a sculpture by the artist John Chamberlain that Gabrielle and I saw while visiting the Chinati Foundation in Marfa, TX last winter. I don’t know if you can see it, but to me these two examples are basically identical–one made of steel and paint, the other of skin and bone. Truly strange and remarkable.


The World Is My Pork Chop

Pan-to-Oven Pork Chops with Garlic

My main culinary victim, Gabrielle, and I have chosen a rather suspect New Year’s Resolution this time around, and many of you may not believe it, what with the promise of this project, but I’ll tell you anyway. Our original plan was to only eat meat once a week, and thus in concert with one of the recipe’s in this book for each week’s meaty meal. However, we have since revised the resolution to include meat once a week at each of the three basic meals, breakfast, lunch, and dinner, which sounds a little more reasonable, but from the perspective of this big ass poke chop in my belly, perhaps still a bit insane. But we’ll see how it goes. My premier recipe post from The River Cottage Meat Book is this wonderful, and really quite simple, pork chop recipe. To be sure, it is actually more of a technique than a recipe; one that works with incredible results. As Hugh writes, “the cheffy phrase for this is pan-roasting,” and it involves searing the meat on both sides for a couple of minutes on the stove-top, and then moving it into a hot oven to finish it off. It works for all kinds of thick cuts of meat, such as ribeye’s, or even whole chicken breast, and works so well because it widens the finish time for the meat a little bit because of the indirect nature of the heat inside the oven.

We are lucky to have a fantastic, relatively young pork producer here in Portland that goes by the name Tails & Trotters. As you can see in the picture above, they produce some pretty intense chops, and most of the other cuts I’ve seen from their operation have been equally exciting. The owner’s of the company, Aaron Silverman and Morgan Brownlow, started the venture with the intention of growing a superior animal in order to produce a high quality Northwest prosciutto, which I do not think is available for sale yet, but am eagerly anticipating. I am only just beginning to understand the thought and methods one has to devise in order to grow pigs (and all other meat producing animals, i’m sure) a certain way, and to a specific criteria, so I won’t try to explain any of the details quite yet. However, I will note that Tails & Trotters finishes, meaning to fatten-up before harvesting, their hogs with a heavy diet of hazelnuts, thus creating the beautiful, and actually quite healthy in moderation, fatty layers necessary for their prosciutto purposes. I hope to learn more about this company, and pork production in the months to come. In the meantime, this blog will certainly see the use of more Tails & Trotters pork!

To cook the chops, you will need a ton of garlic, 1 cup of white wine or hard cider, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Preheat the oven to around 425 with an empty pan in there large enough to hold the chops, but small enough to prop up the fatty sides from out of the bottom. Very Important: Don’t forget that that pan is hot later on. In fact, never forget that anything coming out of the oven will be extremely hot. It happens, so I’m just reminding ya’ll. I’ve been burnt like that, and I know I’m not alone.Meanwhile, break apart a few heads of garlic, leaving the cloves in the skin. The book calls for 1 large head, or two small heads, but I recommend two or three times as much as that, as there never seems to be enough garlic to go around, and I’m talking about how there’s only two of us at the table, so if there were three or more peeps then you’d definitely want to up the garlic. Lightly crush the cloves under a knife, just enough to crack the skins, not to flatten them out-right. Heat up some Olive oil at medium, to medium-high heat in a pan large enough to accommodate the entirety of the chops flatly on the surface. Once the oil is sufficiently hot, throw in the garlic and toss it a round for a minute or so, then salt and pepper one side of the chops, move the garlic into a pile, and fit the chops into the pan. While the first side browns, salt and pepper the other side, and after a minute or two, flip the chops over, and brown the other side. Remove the hot pan from the oven and arrange the chops and garlic into it so that the fatty ends are up out of the bottom. This is to allow the heat in the oven to crisp up and caramelize the fat. Then, up the heat all the way in the original pan, pour in one cup of the white wine or hard cider, and scrap up all the brown bits and so on, and allow the liquid to reduce by about half. This is called deglazing, and it’s a cornerstone of sauce-making. Once the liquid has reduced, pour it over the chops, and into the oven they go. Allow to cook for about 10 to 15 minutes, but never longer than 20, and that’s a wrap on the chops. The deglazed sauce will thicken up and blend with the pork fat and garlic, and act as a braise for the chops, ensuring that they won’t dry out even a bit. The garlic easily pops out their skins, and are nice and roasted, and as i noted before, there are never enough of these tasty, decadent morsels. Gabrielle says that these pork chops speak for themselves, and they do, yes they do.

I served the chops with braised cabbage and simple boiled potatoes. To make the Cabbage you will need a whole red or green cabbage, an onion, a bay leaf, salt, pepper, sherry vinegar, and an apple. Take the cabbage, cut it in half and core it. Then, slice it as thinly as possible. Do the same with the onion. Heat some sort of oil or (duck ) fat in a large pot or dutch oven, and cook the onion for about 5 minutes or so. Add the cabbage, bay leaf, salt and pepper to taste, the vinegar, and a half cup of water. If the cabbage doesn’t fit all at once, add it batches by allowing it to cook down for a few minutes. Once it is all in the pot, cover it and turn the heat down, and allow to simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. Take the apple, peal and grate it, and once the cabbage has braised for the alloted time mix it into the cabbage, and allow to cook for an addition 5 minutes. That’s the cabbage. It’s from Chez Panisse Vegetables.

Next up, after I recover from this pork chop, I am planning to do the Provençal Daube recipe, which is basically a light beef stew. In other words, it is another of the somewhat less adventurous recipes in the book. But just so you know, I’m only doing these ones to get warmed up–expect brains and a whole pig’s head in the future!

Resources: Pork Chops produced by Tails & Trotters and purchased at Laurelhurst Market, garlic and Samuel Smith Organic Cider from Pastaworks, Cabbage, Onion, Apple from Limbo, and Potatoes from Trader Joe’s

Link to Recipe Only blog.