Eating It All
You’ve probably heard of the trend: nose-to-tail has morphed into “new cuts of meat.” And roots-to-shoots is part of the vegetable-centric revolution. It basically means there are plenty of ways to take better advantage of almost any animal or vegetable. Beyond sustainability, incorporating inexpensive or “throwaway” items can increase profitability for operators. Creativity is another plus—with more options to bring signature style to your menu.
Old World Now
Some of the youngest, hippest restaurateurs were the first to rediscover those forgotten protein sources, even to the point of learning butchery and how to prepare “trash fish.” But now operators of every age and level of experience are joining in. Sweetbreads, tongue, tripe, organ meats, necks and tails are being showcased on menus (or snuck in). A star menu item around the country: lamb necks served on polenta. And why not make these meats an event? Locanda del Lago, in Santa Monica, hosts monthly “Bite of the Beast” dinners featuring different animals. They also cater similar meals for 12 or more, with the host’s choice of venison, goose or suckling pig.
All kinds of cuisines rely on pieces and parts that are considered tasty and nutritious. For example, pig’s feet, a.k.a. trotters, are served in many culinary traditions around the world—and increasingly on mainstream menus. They’re simple enrichers of stock, thanks to naturally occurring gelatin and calcium. You’ll also see Irish dishes cooked with cabbage. One Chinese dish spices trotters with ginger and vinegar. In the American South, they’re boiled with:
- black and red pepper spices
- a touch of barbecue sauce
Some chefs are braising, deboning and forming the meat into cakes with flavorful sauces, effectively hiding its origins. Simply call trotters “pork”—and customers will call them simply delicious.
Speaking of Stock
Trotters aren’t the only trick for outstanding flavor in soups, stews and more. Beef, chicken and veal bones are classic foundations; so are shrimp and lobster shells. Then there are vegetable peels, stalks, leaves and stems, even corncobs. Most of your standard veggies impart great flavor. Those to consider carefully before using include cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, turnips, rutabagas and artichokes. Beets and onion skins should be avoided, unless you don’t mind a red or brown color in the finished product. Keep veggie scraps in an airtight container in the fridge for just under a week, or store them in the freezer.
Vegetables have their unloved parts, as well. But the cores of both cauliflower and broccoli are very tasty, as veteran chef Jacques Pepin has asserted for decades. Simply peel and cut small. The stems of popular greens such as kale and chard can be sliced tiny, too, and included in soups, stews—even sides. Put the leaves and tops from radishes, beets, carrots and turnips in the soup pot. Or mix them with the vegetables they came from or with a bunch of other veggies in almost any type of recipe. Again, chopping them fine makes them easy to use.
Don’t do fresh produce? Want to try roasting? Start with frozen cauliflower (or broccoli, medley, etc.) and a rimmed baking sheet with a silicone mat, parchment paper or simply oiled. Mound veggies, sprinkle with coarse salt and fresh ground black pepper; then drizzle with EVOO. Add diced onion, if desired. Spread veg evenly and thinly and bake in a 350-degree oven for 20 to 30 minutes, or until al dente—turning halfway through the baking time. Other seasonings with worldly flair include parmesan and garlic; cumin, lime and coriander; and soy sauce, lime and cilantro. Shamrock Foods has COP specialists who can get you samples of many of the underutilized beef, pork and poultry items mentioned in this article. Please talk to them or your Shamrock Sales Rep about ideas you would like to try.
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