What are they?
Golden, puffy crisps made from one of the cheapest parts of a cow you can buy – basically, the connective tissue between muscles. Raw, they look pretty gross, like ET's eerily long alien fingers in a ghostly white glove. But once cleaned, braised until rich, soft and gelatinous (like the ones you love in Vietnamese pho), sliced and dehydrated, they are ready to deep-fry into gorgeous, golden puffs of awesomeness. It takes time and effort, which is what you're really paying for when you order them out.
Where are they?
Beef tendon puffs are a permanent fixture on the snacky bar menu at Bentley Restaurant and Bar, where chef Brent Savage is a fan. "We slow-cook the tendons in bouillon-style stock using soy, garlic, ginger, star anise, bay leaves and a small splash of vinegar and then braise them for about 12 hours at about 120," he explains. "We press the tendons overnight in a terrine mould, then finely slice the terrine and dehydrate them until crisp. Then we deep fry them to order and season with a salt, pepper and vinegar mix."
The crisps are also part of the opening salvo at Dan Hunter's Brae restaurant near Birregurra, where one critic described them as being "puffed to clouds of mellow, fatty crunch".
At Melbourne CBD's Syracuse, head chef Michael Harrison adds crisp beef tendon puffs to slow-cooked beef brisket with brussels sprout puree, wild mushrooms and onion powder. "It's what chefs should do, I guess," he says. "Turn something as cheap as chips into something delicious."
Why do I care?
As Dan Hunter of Brae says, "When you cost out these 'cheap offcuts' with the time and labour involved, you may as well buy a lobster – but where's the fun in that?"
Can I do them at home?
Yes, if you don't mind the house smelling all beefy for a couple of days. Order ahead from a good butcher ($8 to $14 kilograms).
Bentley Restaurant & Bar, 27 O'Connell Street, Sydney 02 8214 0505 thebentley.com.au
Beef tendon puffs
Serve as a snack with a cold beer, scatter over a beef stew, or serve with a burger.
700g achilles beef tendons
1 tbsp vinegar
1 tsp peppercorns
4 bay leaves
vegetable oil for deep-frying
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp smoked paprika
1. Wash the tendons well and place in a large pot of cold water. Add vinegar, peppercorns, bay leaves and cloves and bring to the boil. Turn heat to very low and simmer very gently for six hours, or until the tendons are very soft and tender. Drain well and allow to cool. Pick out and remove any impurities or meat still remaining, press into a terrine mould, place a weight on top and refrigerate overnight.
2. Finely slice the tendons into strips and arrange the strips on a lightly oiled wire rack. Heat the oven to 50, or the lowest possible heat, and leave to dehydrate for 10 hours or overnight.
3. Crush the sea salt and paprika to a powder. Heat the oil to 180 and fry the crisps in small batches, removing them from the oil as soon as they puff up (three or four seconds). Drain well on paper towel and toss in the paprika sea salt. Serve hot.