Nose to Tail Eating
by Fergus Henderson
important book crossed the pond recently, much to the delight
of chefs, foodies and armchair gastronomes. Originally published
in Britain as Nose to Tail Eating, Fergus Henderson's
book was reissued in the U.S. as The
Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating. Henderson, of
course, is the celebrated head chef and co-owner of St.
John, the Smithfield (London) restaurant that prepares and
serves the cuts of meat and parts of animals that generally
do not capture the attention (and palates) of Americans.
Such foods have been given the unseemly name "offal:"
duck hearts, lamb's brains, calf's heart, pig's trotter
and the like. Before you react, consider that "nose
to tail eating" has a much bigger meaning. And, frankly,
it's delicious if you are willing to take a fresh look at
an overlooked food category.
"If I’m ever sentenced to death,
I want Fergus Henderson to cook my last meal.
The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating
is a cult classic from my favorite chef and
favorite restaurant in the world."
Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential
Henderson is not the type of person to set out to define
a genre or conduct a grand experiment. Rather, his focus
on offal stems from an unpretentious desire to cook what
he wants to cook, and serve great food unconstrained by
trendiness. St. John has been open almost ten years, and
it shows no signs of slowing down. Even with consistent
accolades and recognition from globetrotting, media-darling
chefs like Anthony Bourdain and Mario Batali, St. John's
success stems from the culinary integrity of Henderson and
his business partner, Trevor Gulliver. While it is a serious
restaurant, their objective is to serve great food that
might otherwise be ignored.
too, is the theme of The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating.
It is 200 paperback pages, no photographs, and only a splash
of color on the cover. The handful of drawings dress things
up a bit, but this book is all about the food. If you enjoyed
Anthony Bourdain praising Henderson and St. John in Cook's
Tour, you love his introduction to The Whole Beast:
Bourdain considers this book "a historic document,"
but also tempers that lofty suggestion with the reality
that Henderson did not intend to make a statement, but to
remind us of "what is good about food, about the essential,
nearly forgotten elements of a great meal…a refutation
only of waste and disregard.
And that's exactly what you get, almost 150 recipes
that appreciate many things we might otherwise not eat.
definitive voice of The Whole Beast speaks mostly
about dishes like a nice snack of Duck Hearts on Toast "for
the cook who has just prepared five ducks." Think
about this: you sauté some duck hearts in a very
hot pan with butter and then splash with balsamic vinegar
and chicken stock. After they sit for a few minutes and
render luxuriant liquor, put them on toast, sauce and eat.
Try this and you'll be converted. If you like pork,
what could possibly be wrong about Crispy Pig's Tails?
Pig tails are the embodiment of the best things about pork,
and here Henderson braises them in the oven for several
hours, then breads, pan fries and roasts them before serving.
You will adore gnawing on these delicacies.
the soups (Chicken Broth and Wild Garlic, or Leek, Potato
and Oyster Soup) are great, and the salads (Grilled Jerusalem
Artichoke, Red Onion, and Olives, or Mussels, Cucumber and
Dill) are worthwhile, but, again, set some time aside to
try things you never considered. There's plenty. Splurge
on Rolled Pig's Spleen. With a texture similar to
liver, it is rolled with smoked bacon, oven braised in stock
and eaten cold; sliced and served with red onions and cornichons.
Stop to think how good this could be.
includes four recipes for lamb's brains which are
currently banned in England, ready for when they are "freed
from (their) sentence." He says they are "delicious,
creamy, and rich." So why not eat them…cold
on toast, in a terrine, deep-fried, or fried with endive
not possible to fairly cover The Whole Beast in
a review. The foods are diverse, interesting and groundbreaking
for most people. Listen to a sampling of what's included:
a lovely prune-studded Duck Neck Terrine; meat dishes like
Boiled Ox Tongue, Deviled Kidneys of lamb, and Kid and Fennel;
bird and game recipes for Confit of Rabbit Leg in Broth,
Duck Legs and Carrot, and Roast Quail; and fish like Salt
Cod and Beans, Smoked Eel, Bacon and Mashed Potatoes, and
Soft Roes on Toast.
of Henderson's vegetables are standouts, even in the
company of such bold main dishes. Green Beans, Shallots,
Garlic and Anchovies go great with lamb, while Baked Celeriac
and Eggs is a perfect cold-weather meal by itself. He includes
sauces and relishes, including St. John Chutney— which
is the only one you'll ever need. And after all of
this, there's room for desserts like Treacle Tart
and Chocolate Ice Cream.
we won't spoil the surprise. There's a lot more to this
book. Buy it. Use it. While some ingredients will be elusive,
the recipes are well written and easy to follow. If St.
John's Roast Bone Marrow and Parsley Salad is Bourdain's
choice for a "Death Row Meal," if Fergus Henderson
has captured the palates of Boulud and Batali, there's something
here to get excited about.
by Kevin Schoeler