Practicality from the farmyard to Sunday’s roast
The Noose Knot
by Lily Morris
Island chef Dan Sauer learned a variety of knots in culinary school, including the noose knot, a favorite for trussing up poultry, meat or fish. “We would practice on kitchen towels,” he recalls of himself and fellow students, until they could quickly and neatly truss up a white terrycloth roulade.
Tying a bird or roast up tight can help it cook more evenly, and a well-trussed bird will sit better on its dish while roasting or cooking. Trussing also facilitates basting and turning, making the bird easier to cook, especially if it is to be served whole. After roasting, the bird is always untied to rest, and to make sure it has been evenly cooked. As chef Scott Erlich of the Sweet Life Café, in Oak Bluffs, points out, “Although it does give a more uniform look, trussing can sometimes actually inhibit the doneness of the thigh, since it pulls it closer to the body. That can be bad, if the breast is already done.”
When done properly, trussing adds options and recipes to any cook’s repertoire. “One of the main goals of trussing a roast or cut of meat is to create a more uniform shape,” Dan explains, “making it easier to control how the meat is cooked.” He points out that trussing is a useful skill for the beginning cook, making techniques such as stuffing and roulades possible. It is also much easier to cook a boned and trussed leg of lamb (a process known as “Bone, Roll, & Tie,” or BRT for short) than a leg still on the bone, with different thicknesses of meat throughout.
Trussing can be used with fish as well— for stuffing and roulades—making use of smaller pieces of fish that might otherwise be discarded. For stuffed fish, Dan will sometimes use striped bass fillets from near the tail, where there is often more skin than flesh. Sandwiching two pieces together, skin side out, with stuffing between them, he ties twine around the outside to hold the bundle together. Dan also makes use of the thin end of skinless cod fillets in a slightly different way. He lays one piece on top of another, thin end to thicker end, and then rolls the two, ties them up with a noose knot, and after cooking, cuts the roll like a steak for serving. Dan also uses the noose knot to hang small cuts of meat to cure when making prosciutto, or whole ducks to air-dry.
The noose knot is practical in butchering and charcuterie as well. Rebecca Gilbert of Native Earth Teaching Farm in Chilmark has been tying knots since she was a young girl, and while they often come in handy in her day-to-day work on the farm, there are certain instances, such as harvest time, when a sturdy knot is imperative. During the autumn harvest season at Native Earth, Rebecca and her husband Randy humanely slaughter pigs for other Islanders. After processing, they hang the pig to cool overnight—in the cold barn or in the walk-in refrigerator. Rebecca is usually the one to tie up the carcass, as she can be counted on to tie a secure noose knot, and “make it quick!” while they hold the heavy pig in the air.
The noose knot is a simple, versatile knot that has found purpose in a wide array of culinary pursuits—from the farm-yard to the oven.