Whole Animal – Back to the Basics

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When you have been cooking for 40 plus years, you reserve the right to have a lively attitude in the kitchen your chops simply allow GoldTruffleChefyou the breathing room that most wide eyed chefs can’t afford in the midst of their race to success. Alan Greeley of The Golden Truffle takes on this ease when preparing whole animals.

Greeley claims that his cultural background has little to no influence on his comfort with cooking whole animal. “Does Newport Beach count for something?” Greeley asks. He gets the whole animal of his choice from a “Gucci provider” or in laymen’s terms, a very fancy supplier. Despite efforts to expose this one of a kind chef’s secret, he supplied no name in particular.

Greeley offers up the golden rule: when cooking a whole animal, cook time is dependent on size. Those who know their way around the kitchen will think this a given, but if we can learn anything from a chef who has been cooking for nearly a lifetime, it’s the importance of going back to the basics. “Often the biggest mistake is when people undercook the animal,” says Greeley. “You want it to be moist and tender.” He adds that the time between sourcing and plating can take from days to weeks, so plan ahead to optimize time and resources. He also advises that you equip yourself with a sawzall and large pans. He finds that any time of year is the best time of year to prepare your favorite whole animal. What matters most is the outcome you desire and the method you intend to use for achieving that outcome.

Greeley has tried it all, from prepping and cooking an entire animal in house to preparing the varied parts of an animal separately then serving at a head to tail dinner. “It just depends on what I’m cooking,” he says. Head to tail dinners served on his watch are usually composed of 3 to seven courses and will most likely be prepared with a spicy or full flavored profile in mind. When choosing condiments and sides, he lets diners call the shots. “It really depends on the audience that’s eating it. Are they looking for cultural inspired sauces to accompany [their meal] or are they less brave?”

Whether preparing a private dinner or sawing his was into a whole animal, it is a light hearted spirit and a reverence for the basics that guide Greeley through the chaos of the back of the house.