Chicken livers, bacon, and onions with a mirin-allspice sauce over roughly smashed potatoes (with a ridiculous amount of butter and cream)
Couldn’t be easier!
Put in a pot: some lamb tongues (you can peel off the membrane later); white beans; chopped carrots, celery, onions; minced garlic; spices of your choice–today I used epazote for its anti-flatulent properties and oregano; a good splash of apple cider vinegar (or you could use wine); salt and pepper (salt added at the beginning keeps the beans intact)
Bring to a boil and simmer gently for a couple hours until the lamb tongues are gently poached through and tender.
Peek the membranes off the tongues and slice and serve over bowls of the stew garnished with grated pecorino,
I was honored to be included as one of the artists in Chicago’s 2013 Rapid Pulse International Performance Art Festival run by the phenomenal Defibrillator Gallery. But as happens in life sometimes, I got sidetracked from posting some of the wealth of documentation of the performance. At the time, the piece was unnamed, but in the ensuing months the title Processing has stuck with me (I’m currently working on a piece called Flensing–gerunds have power behind them). And so, here are some of the hundreds of images taken by two talented photographers Arjuna Capulong and Mark Zoetrope.
I also must take a bit of time to thank my two lovely and tough assistants Lauren Wessel and Mara Mayhem for co-performing with skill and grace and only the promise of some cuts of lamb as payment (sigh…performance art…so rewarding but not particularly lucrative).
The performance took place in the windows of the gallery and was a durational piece that unfolded over the course of 6 hours. Almost all of the cuts of lamb got distributed to people who had either claimed them in advance via an Indie GoGo funding campaign or as part of the first-come, first-served giveaway at the end of the night. I made delicious use of any that remained. A number of people sent me images of what they cooked from their chosen cuts, and I need to put together a separate post honoring those collaborations.
And so, here you go:
When people first hear about the Burlesque Butcher, they automatically think I’m a dancer, and although I love to dance, I’ve never practiced enough to be adequate to perform in that role. The incredible recent popularity of “burlesque” has led to a fairly narrow view of what this word means, especially with respect to a woman. Burlesque today, particularly in the popular imagination, conjures a sexy, erotically clad woman who does a dance rooted in strip tease with costuming and music often informed by a nostalgic sense of history (the icon for the new burlesque movement is someone like Dita von Teese–who I love, although I tend to prefer the more wide-ranging interpretations of the burlesque strip-tease artist presented in shows like Chicago’s Kiss Kiss Cabaret).
I do certainly mine this strip-tease history for the Burlesque Butcher’s work, but more often I play off of other definitions and historical contextualizations of the word. I also try to incorporate the more “male” side of both contemporary and historical burlesque shows by fusing elements from the “supporting acts” with those of the star performers.
I recently came across a historical Burlesque Butcher in the pages of a book, published in 1897, called Puppets at Large: Scenes and Subjects From Mr. Punch’s Show by F. Anstey (aka Thomas Anstey Guthrie).
Mr. Punch’s Show, if you are not familiar with it, refers to the “Punch and Judy” puppet shows which have a long history of parody, critique, and education. The scene goes on to provide similar glimpses into the characters of a variety of other market vendors and attendees but few are described as evocatively as the Burlesque Butcher–the “Farsical Fishmonger (with two comic assistants)” and the “Lugubrious Vendor” come close). [Note: you can read the whole text here.]
What was so exciting to me about this 1897 Burlesque Butcher find was not only his gender but that someone dramatically and “triumphantly” selling something gory and cheap–“the scrag-end of a piece of mutton–had so many resonances with some of what I am trying to do with my Burlesque Butcher character in terms of nose to tail eating. Yes I love fancy food, but I appreciate the scrag-ends of pieces of mutton too (although true mutton is pretty impossible to come by in America these days).
It also prompted me to look up a then-contemporary definition of burlesque. As food for thought (pun intended!), I will leave you with this definition from the 1919 “concise” Oxford English Dictionary (I’ll try to track down the full first edition definition some other time):
If you are like me, and love nose-to-tail cooking and eating, but lack the time to prepare so many of these cuts on a regular basis (as most require a decent amount of prep or cooking time), here’s a great quick recipe I invented the other night:
Acquire some radishes with nice greens. rinse the greens well and sauté with a bit of olive oil, garlic, and a few red pepper flakes. Finish off with a sprinkle of vinegar (balsamic for a heavier flavor, rice for lighter) and s & p (easy on the s, though). Slice the radishes while the greens are cooking. Toast some bread of whatever sort you prefer (here I used some little brioche-type rolls sliced into rounds). Spread with commercial white bean spread (Cedar’s is a great brand if it’s available in your area–very few problematic ingredients in it). Top each piece with a few wilted radish leaves, then top each piece with a couple of canned sardines in olive oil. Sprinkle each crostini with a bit of fleur de sel (why you need to go easy on the salt in the greens) and a grind of pepper. Serve with the sliced radishes and a knob of good-quality grassfed butter (and salt the radishes if the butter is unsalted). Voila! Awesome quick meal…or a great appetizer to share.
And if you have not experienced the wonder that is sliced radishes with butter and salt, try it. I was introduced to this from Fergus Henderson’s The Whole Beast cookbook, and it is a revelation. (He actually has some pretty killer non-meat recipes in that book!)
I’m saddened that my first long post was prompted by unpleasantness, but I’m trying to turn that around in a constructive, joyful manner. Yesterday, radical animal-rights proponents viciously attacked me and several fans of the Facebook version of The Burlesque Butcher in response primarily to this picture:
Granted, it is an arresting image–slightly macabre and not something one sees every day: a woman lovingly kissing a roasted hog’s head. That woman is me, of course, and the action was captured this past summer at the end of another successful hog roast after I had spent at least two hours breaking down and portioning a 130 lb. hog for an event crowd of over 100 very appreciative people. I was full of emotion on so many levels…elated to have splurged on a proper sustainably raised and humanely treated hog for the second year in a row, proud of breaking down a hog carcass faster than I ever had before, melancholy because I knew this year was the last year for the event–a pending divorce and move away from the house I had lived and entertained in for a decade meant the 10th iteration of our annual hog roast was the last. And so, ever one to play to the camera, I picked up the hog’s head and gently kissed it on the snout–out of reverence, out of respect, out of admiration, out of joy, out of amusement.
To then have complete strangers attack me as barbaric, tragic, and worse, was not something I expected. For many months, that picture has served as my avatar for a variety of different forms of social media and not once did anyone object. Most people, knowing me and my near obsession with how improperly most livestock is treated and how much of each precious animal gets wasted because people no longer want to take time with cooking or eat the so-called cheap cuts, saw the love in that picture, the beauty, the gentleness. This was a hog whose favorite food was the expired and spilled chocolate milk from the dairy at which he was raised, a fun fact I had just learned when at the farm to pick him up two days prior. This was a hog who got to run around with his siblings in a large pen, dotted with mud puddles to swim in. (The dairy explicitly started raising hogs for meat just so they could productively use non-sellable milk from their lovely grass-fed cows instead of having to throw it out–it doesn’t get much better than that.)
And so I and some of the amazing fans who came to my defense got called psychopaths, sociopaths, murderers, attention hounds, “f*cking desperate for attention”, ugly, old, unhealthy, tasteless, shameful, would-be cannibals, and “more than a little dysfunctional” (that last one from someone who purported to be a mental-health professional, yet was making gross assumptions based on a handful of images). One woman hoped that I would be murdered (I deleted that comment, banned the poster, and reported her as abusive). Another woman accused me of mocking animals and “killing for pleasure”. I shudder to think at the insults that these same individuals would have flung had I instead posted, for example, this dynamic picture of me sawing open the pig skull to, in proper nose-to-tail fashion, serve the brain to interested party-goers (sadly, the brain had not been cooked long enough to eat–the fire had been a bit too low at the head end of the hog, and I was wary of taking it out of the skull and cooking it a bit more, given that it had been essentially sitting at what may well have been a danger zone temperature for the 6 hours of hog roasting).
Curiously, this assault on my page and my fans occurred while I was making turkey stock from the carcass of my Festivus party turkey–honoring the bird from beak to tailfeathers as much as is possible with a commercially produced Organic Valley turkey (obviously it was lacking things like the feet). I know these propaganda-blinded activists will never be convinced that meat eating can be done in a respectful and sustainable way, but it floors me that they can’t see I’m one of the good guys. If more people ate the whole animal, not just select parts, we would kill far fewer animals each year. And so here are some suggestions for getting the most out of your leftover turkey carcass, if you still have one sitting in your fridge.
I’m hoping my readers know how to make stock, so I will skip that explanation for now (but if you don’t, leave me comments to that effect and I can do a stock-making post sometime). So I added water to what’s in this picture, and let it do its thing. But you can get more than just stock or soup out of the carcass. One thing I do that I think many don’t is strip every bit of meat, fat, skin, etc. from the carcass after simmering. Some of this goes to the dog and some to me and/or whoever I might be cooking for.
Before I settled down to strip all the meat off the bones, I skimmed off enough soup for a late lunch, heated it to a simmer in a small pot, shredded a bit of the turkey from the soup, added some chopped carrots, and then immersed some pre-packaged gnocchi (which are a great! quick alternative to dumplings–you can’t always make every element from scratch).
Then I set to the task of stripping every bit of useable meat, skin, fat, and cartilage from the bones. I keep two containers–one for human consumption and one for the dog–some meat is too dry and all the skin, fat, etc. is too soggy. The dog, in fact, had been drooling the entire 6 hours the stockpot simmered on the stove–he knows he always gets treats on stock-making days. What one ends up with looks like this: a large pot of golden, rich stock; a container of shredded turkey perfect for putting back in the soup (although not all of it is suited for this purpose) or doing some creative repurposing; a container of treats for the dog; and a small bowl of bones.
It’s always astounding to me how little actually ends up getting thrown out (and yes I know there are good uses for the bones–the reality is that sometimes one can only do so much).
So what to do with all this shredded, somewhat spent turkey that has been picked from the carcass? I used to adhere to the line of reasoning that the carcass had given all its essence to the stock and just gave the dog all the soup-soaked meat. And yes, it can be kind of sawdusty in texture after being simmered for 6 hours (not to mention the fact that often the parts that go in the stock pot are those that got overcooked, like the ends of the wings), but with a little cooking magic, tasty concoctions can be achieved.
One of my favorite uses for this meat is to make croquettes–you add back flavor and moisture. (Another is turkey, noodle, and veggie casserole with lots of creamy sauce.) Here’s how I make croquettes (and sorry for not having step-by-step photos…I was hungry and documenting slipped my mind):
Shred some meat fairly fine. Add some grated onion (the grating helps disperse the moisture from the onion better throughout the mixture), some torn parsley leaves, some breadcrumbs (I prefer panko, but you can use whatever), an egg or two or three depending on the volume you’re making, s & p, and paprika. Mix together and gradually add in a bit of liquid until you have a consistency that will hold together into a patty (I prefer heavy cream, but milk works fine as would broth or even water). Form into patties and fry over medium heat in a combo of butter and oil until nicely browned. Serve with leftover jus, gravy, demi-glace, or just naked. A runny fried egg is nice on top too!
And of course, since I got to eat my dinner, Magellan the Newfoundland gets his too after so patiently waiting!