New tasting menus at Cucina 24 offer a full-body experience

Cucina 24 and chef Brian Canipelli have been presenting a special supplemental menu to Cucina’s regular offerings lately. It’s a concept that revolves around a snout-to-tail style of cooking, wherein the chef goes, literally, whole hog (or cow or lamb, for that matter).

Canipelli recently featured a seven-item menu of dishes created using local veal as the centerpiece — the meat came from just one veal calf, but the entire animal was used, from head to tail. The menu included calves’ liver crostini; veal tenderloin carpaccio with fava beans, truffle oil and Parmesan reggiano; a grilled skirt steak with butter peas, tomato salad and saba (a grape-must syrup) and a handful of other plates ranging in price from $5 to $28.

Canipelli intends to keep serving these menus, branching out to use meat from other locally (or at least regionally) raised animals. The menus will be available for a la carte selections, but the chef can craft a full, multicourse tasting upon request.

The whole-animal menus will have limited availability, says Canipelli. “I’m going to try my best, maybe just offer them on the weekends at first,” he says. As the menu grows in popularity, he will offer it on a more consistent basis.

But, no matter what, certain cuts of the featured animals will run out first. “I’m putting on the menu ‘subject to availability.’ Obviously, when you have a whole animal, you don’t have 50 tenderloins or rib-eyes to sell,” he says. “There’s four to six of them on the whole side of veal. Once that part runs out, it runs out. And that’s just the nature of working with an animal.”

What pieces and parts are not being sold on the tasting menus are generally turned into cured meats by the chef. Currently, Canipelli has a bresaola (air-dried, salted beef, generally top round, aged two to three months) hanging to cure. It should be ready to sell some time near the end of July or early August, he says.

Canipelli has lately been getting into the habit of ordering whole animals as often as possible. It’s a cost-effective — yet very labor-intensive — way to get a good variety of dishes, and employing creativity is a must. He recently ordered a half-dozen suckling pigs from which he’s been making a quite delicious terrine of sorts. He presses the meat, seasons it with salt and fennel pollen, lets it firm and then fries the slices. The pigs come from Thackery Farm in South Carolina.

Oh, and Canipelli has one note about that veal: He buys his calves from Headwaters of Poverty Farms, a source for humanely raised beef in Barnardsville, N.C., Canipelli says that he would never purchase meat that has been inhumanely treated; all of the veal calves raised at Headwaters are free-range and never caged or penned in tight quarters.

Cucina 24 is located at 24 Wall St. in downtown Asheville. It opens nightly at 5 p.m. and closes on Mondays. The adjacent Cucina 24 Deli is open on weekdays from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. For more information, call 254-6170.


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