As foodie trends go, farm-to-table and nose-to-tail are running neck and neck. Both fads offer diners a chance to eat like their great-great-grandfathers, but only the carnivorous option exposes eaters to dishes that have spent the better part of a century off the menu.
"This is a nostalgic way of eating. It's the way people ate for centuries," says Paul Reilly, chef at Denver's outstanding new restaurant beast + bottle. "You have so much meat on your hands that you have to find something to do with."
Reilly's intimate Uptown restaurant has quickly ascended to the top of Denver's dining scene thanks to its inventive mix of prime cuts and tender organ meats. But, even for an adventurous cook like Reilly, working with livers, hearts, feet, and tongue wasn't initially enticing. "I totally hacked it; I made some awful cuts," he recalls of his first full lamb. "But at the end of the day, it didn't matter – I could turn it into sausages, I could turn it into braises, and, of course, the bones made a killer stock."
Because of the wide margin for error, experimenting with obscure animal parts is a great way to get wild in the kitchen. Reilly compares it to golf: You'll get better as you practice, but there will always be improvements to make and nuances to master. Here are the eight animal parts Reilly recommends that beginning nose-to-tailers cook first, along with recipes for each.
Clear eyes, full pig heart: You can't lose.
In butchering a lamb, the vast quantity of leftover bones typically becomes a tasty snack and play toy for dogs. But if you can snag a fresh supply from your local meat shop, a distinctive stock awaits. "The stocks are so much better when [the bones] have never seen the freezer," says Reilly. The more meat left on the bones at the outset, the more robust flavors they will produce, so work with the butcher to find the appropriate selection. Once prepared, stocks become an essential foundation for a variety of high-level stews, soups, braises, and sauces.
(Yields about 2 gallons)
- 5 lbs lamb bones
- 3 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
- 2 onions, coarsely chopped
- 4 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- Parsley stems
With a cleaver, chop the bones into 4- or 5-inch pieces. Roast the bones on sheet trays at 350°F until well browned (about 30 minutes), then place them in a 2-gallon pot. Scrape off the browned bits from the sheetpan with a wooden spoon and a little water, and add directly to the pot. Next, add the vegetables, tomato paste, parsley stems, and one gallon of cold water. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Skim off any foam that rises to the surface, and let the liquid cook at least 8 hours (or up to 12). Strain out the bones and veggies, then let the liquid cool. Finally, remove any solidified fat that rises to the top. The resulting stock can be frozen for up to one month.
Credit: Taryn Kapronica