From last week’s ‘cheeky’ success, we are heading right over to the other end of the animal for today’s N3T.
These, as you can no doubt see, are pig’s tails:
According to Fergus Henderson, tails have a ‘lip-sticking quality’ thanks to the merging of fat and flesh, similar to snout (which is yet to grace the table) and belly (which has. On many, many occasions). Surely this was going to be a success?
‘What the hell are they? Oh my god, what are they? Oh my god, they look disgusting. I don’t think I can eat those. I really don't.’
This is the (paraphrased) reaction of my girlfriend after I’d pulled a tray full of tails from the oven. And it was vaguely understandable.
You see, even when cooked, a tail looks completely, totally, resolutely and unapologetically like, well, a tail. Only slightly scarier. If Ridley Scott is looking to make a recession friendly addition to the Alien franchise then he could do a lot worse than cook up some tails.
I suppose this is part of what I was talking about yesterday – about detachment and the intrinsic distance that now lies between animal and consumer. If it looks recognisable then it is unappetising. What we have become used to is eating something that doesn’t have to remind us that what is on the plate was once on a farm.
A tail changes that.
A tail is something we are used to seeing in cartoons and in children’s books. It’s curly, it’s faintly ‘cute’ and almost completely representative of the animal that it is from.
It’s also visible. You cannot see a steak when a cow is walking round a field. Many don’t even know where the fillet is, for example. A tail is on show. It is always there, being curly, being piggy.
But there is a way round this. A simple and easy way to overcome this seemingly insurmountable hurdle.
Slice, cover in breadcrumbs and fry in oil. Instantly you have something that resembles a McNugget or goujon (depending on your personal predilection for fast food or otherwise).
First off the tails were nestled into a deep roasting tray with a couple of onions, some squashed garlic cloves, three or four bay leaves and some rosemary. The whole lot was then sluiced with light chicken stock and a splash of white wine before being covered with foil and going into a low oven (about 150 degrees C) for three hours.
What emerged was what caused the (justifiably) negative reaction from my girlfriend (hence no photo).
Once cool, they were plucked from the remaining stock – which had turned to jelly – and slow roasted in the oven to render out some of the fat (in a similar manner to pork scratchings).
Step three was to slice into bite size chunks then bread them. Instead of breadcrumbs I used crushed corn flakes, partly for colour, partly for texture and partly for taste.
Flour-egg-flour-egg-cornflakes is a good way of getting a nice crust.
They took no more than a minute or two on each side to fry in oil (sunflower or canola oil is fine). By then they were a wonderful colour and perched neatly on top of a mound of mustard mashed potato and some broccoli puree.
And the verdict?
They were good. No more, no less.
The texture could be hard for some to overcome. The roasting part had crisped up the tails and given them a slightly chewy bite. You also have to be a little careful not to bite down to eagerly due to the high number of small bones.
But the meat is tasty, noticeably porcine with a smattering of fat (although not as much as the St. John recipe due to the slow roasting phase, which Henderson leaves out) and a generous amount of lean.
They would benefit from something acidic, like a salsa, in which to be dipped because they are seriously rich but the mustard mash provided a nice flavour and textural contrast to the crunchy bites.
Would I make them again? I doubt it, but I will be keeping a bag of these in the freezer to throw into the stockpot every now and again – they’d add a smattering of body and richness to chicken, or beef stock.
So, verdict? N3T 2 – partial success
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