With more chefs buying directly from farmers and fishermen these days, some unusual animal parts are showing up on menus.
That's because buying direct often means buying the whole animal -- and coming up with uses for all of it. If a chef wants to traffic in just tenderloins, better to ring up Sysco.
The snout-to-tail cuisine trend struck me particularly this week when, on the same day, The Oceanaire Seafood Room in Harbor East started offering Alaskan king crab tail, and a friend happened to mention that he'd recently dined on venison heart.
I'll get to the venison heart in my next post. On to the tail.
Oceanaire executive chef Benjamin Erjavec discovered king crab tails during an October 2008 trip to Dutch Harbor, Alaska, to learn more about king crabbing and processing. He couldn't get his hands on them in the lower 48 until this week.
"They're just trying to get full utilization of the product," he said of the fishermen. "I assume up until now the tail has gone in with the rest of the shell and gets ground up into bait."
Erjavec got his first shipment of 150 2- to 3-ounce tails just the other day, and he was playing around with how to prepare them. They're flat, thin medallions that look something like veal scaloppini.
"We deep fried them, steamed them, poached them, tried a lot of them in and out of the shell," he said. "I think right now the way we found was the best was flour and pan sear."
That's how the tails debuted on the menu this week, five on a plate for $38.95. Quite a promotion for near-chum.
"When it's cooked, it's got a very different texture than anything I've used before -- almost got a cooked egg white texture -- spongy, but extremely delicate and sweet," the chef said.
He doesn't expect the tails to make anyone forget king crab legs, but he thinks they're "a great product" that will get some attention because "it's something new."
"I hate to say it, but if they were better than the legs, the legs would not be the big deal."
(Photo courtesy The Oceanaire)