Since opening nearly 20 years ago, St. John, Fergus Henderson’s famous nose-to-tail restaurant in London, has developed a justifiable reputation for using underappreciated parts of many different types of animals (rolled pig’s spleen, anyone?). Henderson also helped popularize serving unusual vegetables and vegetables in unusual forms. I remember ordering “English peas” and watching a kitchen worker reach into a crate, pile a couple of handfuls of unshelled peas onto a plate and send them to the table.
I still visit St. John on most visits to London, and on a trip last year I ordered crispy pig’s cheek with dandelions, about as representative a dish as the restaurant offers. It was sensational: crunchy, fat-drenched croutons, hard crackling, moist, salty meat and superbitter greens with a powerful, caper-laden dressing. When I got home, I emailed Fergus — with whom I’ve cooked — and wrote, basically, Tell me how to do this. His reply: