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Fergus Henderson

British chef Fergus Henderson’s Nose to Tail Eating shares the joy of cooking and eating. In his own words, “‘Nose to Tail Eating’ means it would be disingenuous to the animal not to make the most of the whole beast; there is a set of delights, textural and flavoursome, which lie beyond the fillet.”

Though the cookbook is a celebration of much more than just the pig (my favorite section is lamb‘s brains), in thinking about this feature, it immediately came to mind.

When asked what special sentiments he has for the animal, Fergus captures it so eloquently: “The pig is a creature of unlimited joy!” I couldn’t have said it better. But rather than discuss the animal any further, let’s celebrate its greatness by making some crispy pig’s tails, a recipe Fergus has shared with us from Nose to Tail Eating.

Crispy Pigs’ Tails
To serve four

8 long pig’s tails

2 onions, peeled and roughly chopped

2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped

2 sticks of celery, chopped

a bundle of fresh herbs

3 bay leaves

10 black peppercorns

1 head of garlic

zest of 1 lemon

1/2 bottle of red wine

1.1 litres chicken of light stock

2 tbsp English mustard

4 eggs, whisked together

450g seasoned flour

225g fine white breadcrumbs

a large knob of butter

On other pages I have sung the praises of how the pig’s snout and belly both have that special lip-sticking quality of fat and flesh merging, but this occurs in no part of the animal as wonderfully as on the tail. You must ask your butcher for long tails.

Place the tails in an oven dish with the vegetables, herbs, peppercorns, garlic, lemon zest, and wine, and cover with the stock. Cover with tinfoil, place in a medium oven, and cook for 3 hours, checking on it so it does not cook too fast; when done you should be able to easily pinch through the flesh. Remove from the oven. Allow to cool in the stock, but remove the tails before it turns to jelly and drain any excess liquid off them (you can refrigerate them at this point).

When they’re cold and firm, mix together the mustard and eggs and have ready three bowls flour, egg and mustard, and breadcrumbs. Dust them with flour, roll them in the egg and mustard mix, and finally coat them in the breadcrumbs so that they are well covered (do this just before you cook, otherwise the crumbs will go soggy).

Get a large ovenproof frying pan or roasting tray hot, add the butter, and when sizzling add the tails and roll them around (watch out, they can and will spit — be very careful). Place in a hot oven for 10 minutes, then turn them over, making sure there is enough butter, and roast for another 10 minutes, keeping an eye on them so they do not burn.

Serve hot with watercress or red mustard salad. Some may like a spot of malt or red wine vinegar on their tails. Encourage the use of fingers and much gnawing of the bone.

Note: The above recipe was excerpted from Nose to Tail Eating, pp. 76—77, courtesy of Fergus Henderson.

Celia Sin-Tien Cheng | February 27, 2007