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The Variety Meats Dinner


Anna Friedman Herlihy
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Dear all,

I'm finally planning a dinner party that I've been wanting to have for several months now--the Variety Meats Dinner!

I've been stockpiling various parts in the freezer for the past couple months, and I now have a critical mass for tasting portions for about 10 people.

My goal is to get more people in the world to appreciate the "nasty bits". I've won over quite a few converts to liver, so now it's time to push the envelope further.

I'm just now starting to work on the menu (just got back from being out of town for the past three weeks), with plans to have the dinner on Sunday. I haven't figured out anything definitive yet, and I'd love to hear any suggestions you all might have.

As for the parts, this is what I have:

One pig's head (with brain inside)

One goat's head (minus brain--see below)

About two pounds of sliced pork liver

A goat liver

A cow heart, pig heart, and goat heart

A cow tongue, pig tongue, and goat tongue

A goat brain

A goat spleen

Four pig's feet

About two dozen chicken feet

A large bag of chicken gizzards

Some beef marrow bones

Two pig kidneys (I know you're not supposed to freeze them, but I was overwhelmed with kidneys, so I thought I would see what happened)

I think that's it; though there may be more to post when I dig everything out of the freezers downstairs. Plus duck fat and lard. I also have four venison shanks that I might add to the mix for something a bit less adventurous. I'm also thinking of picking up some tripe to make a soup course.

For sure I'm going to do some Fergus Henderson recipes (especially the marrow bones, and maybe the pig's head) and I just got the Fearnly-Whittingstall Meat book, so I'm sure there are some good ones in there. Also have several charcuterie books for patés and the like. Unfortunately I had meant to order the Fifth Quarter, but didn't get around to it, so I will have to leave recipes from that book for another party.

I make good Chinese-style chicken feet, but don't know if that strong flavoring will go with the rest of the menu (which presumably will take on more of a continental flavor), so other thoughts for those would be great.

I'd like to try to make as much as possible in advance, so terrines, pates, things that can be braised and reheated, etc. would be great.

As for equipment, in addition to all the usuals, I have a charcoal grill, wood-fired smoker, vacuum sealer for doing sous-vide (thought maybe that might work nice to tenderize the heart muscles?), sausage casings and stuffer, meat grinder.

I'm also really interested in thoughts for dessert. My inclination would be to make something very light, like a zabaglione with berries or some such, to counteract all the heavy tastes and fat, but would entertain other ideas.

Also thoughts about wine or cocktail pairings. I personally love a nice medium-dry sherry with liver.

Thanks in advance for any thoughts! As I go through my cookbooks for ideas in the next couple days, I will post more.

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Just a bit of warning, don't present to many similar textures, it could cause difficulty in your guests having flavor retention after your meal.

I've had Henderson's Bone Marrow with Parsley Salad and I highly recommend it for your dinner.

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Yes the Bone Marrow and Parsley Salad is definitely on the menu (although I find that the recipe in the Bones cookbook comes out better--the soaking the bones step is a good one--although I've never actually tried it with veal bones, only beef bones).

In total agreement about the textures--I definitely don't want to make all terrines, or all braised dishes....but I do need to do a decent amount in advance, so I will have to have a number of things like that (although heart and tongue when braised have entirely different textures). In fact, if anyone has any good ideas for crispy/crunchy preparations, I would much appreciate. I was thinking of battering and deep frying pieces of liver and serving with a sweet/spicy/bacon-y dipping sauce, but have never deep fried liver before. I was also thinking of separating the ears off the pig's head and doing the crispy pig's ear recipe.

Should be able to post some more concrete thoughts/ideas later today and would love some feedback.

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With the pig ear's you could confit them in pork fat, if available, (duck works well, too) at about 200 degrees for 10 hours, let cool, then deep fry them to order for an amazing crisp, flavorful ear. Serve them with a bitter green salad dressed with a lemon caper dressing.

You could do a traditional faggot. Take pork liver, salty bacon, braised pork cheeks, onions, sage, and a bit of thyme, mince, then wrap in caul fat. Make a gravy with the cooking liquid and serve with a nice strong mustard. I'm sure a recipe for faggots appear in one of you books, if not I'd be more than happy to give you a recipe.

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Okay,

So here is my working menu. This should make it a bit easier for any thoughts, suggestions, comments, etc.

As one can see--much influence from Henderson and Fearnly-Whittingstall. Keep in mind these are SMALL plates! Offal is rich. Like one small piece of marrow bone per person rather than the three or four one gets at St. John.

I will be cooking for a maximum of eight people (all my kitchen and my selection of dishes and cutlery can handle).

Charcuterie Tower: Pork Headcheese (melange of recipes), Rolled Goat's Spleen (using Henderson's pig spleen), Pickled Cow and Pork Tongue (my recipe), Poached Goat Brains (using Henderson's Cold Lamb's Brains), Pork Liver Paté (my recipe), Smoked Goat's Liver (Fearnly-Whittingstall); usual accompaniments

Sautéed Chicken Gizzards with Pomegranate Sauce (from Bsisu's Arab Table cookbook--one of the most interesting recipes for gizzards I found); looking for something to plate this with--grilled fruit? a starch?

Roasted Marrow Bones with Parsley Salad (McLagan via Henderson)

Paprikash of Goat Offal (Fearnly-Whittinstall) with Parsnip Galette (my recipe)

Ox Heart with Orange Cognac Gastrique (recipe I'm creating); Watercress and Mandarin Salad with Crispy Pig's Ear (a melange of recipes)

Deep Fried Pork Liver with Sweet Habenero Bacon Dipping Sauce (recipe I'm creating)

Duo of Spicy Asian Chicken Feet (my recipe, well, really a melange of recipes) and Chinese-Style Pig's Trotters (Fearnly-Whittingstall); looking for a veggie/starch to plate this with--was thinking that I could use my square plates with each protein on opposite corners and something complimentary down the middle

Pied de Cochon Ste. Menehould (Fearnly-Whittingstall); mustard sauce, rutabaga purée, kale (this is taken off the bone and baked with a crispy breadcrumb coating for those not familiar)

Braised Goat Head and Neck with Anchovies (take on McLagan's agnello all'acciuga), Fingerling Potatoes

My main question would be is the Asian-influenced selection too odd? I do love both fatty/cartilage-y pork and chicken feet that way (and in fact, have never eaten or made chicken feet any other way). I tried to lead into it and away from it in a way that made sense.

Also how's the general flow. The one thing I'm not happy about is the two pig's feet in a row, but couldn't think of how to rearrange that to still flow well. I'd like to end with the goat's head, both for dramatic effect and also because of the complex flavors.

Also as you will notice, I'm drawing blanks on some of the accompanying starches and veggies, and am open to suggestions for others when I have already specified something. Nothing is set in stone at this point (other than the proteins in the freezer that need to be used).

If anyone's interested in specific citations for which recipe I'm using for what, just let me know and I will post. Would be interested in opinions on which headcheese recipe is better--Henderson's, Fearnly-Whittingstall's, Ruhlman/Polcyn's? (All quite similar, though--I will probably just use all three as guidelines.)

As for dessert, with all the plates I will need to serve the above, I have only cereal bowls and things like martini glasses, highballs, coffee cups, etc. to use for dessert. So I think I will have to do some sort of custard, cobbler, mousse, or other similar dessert. Actually maybe my lemon-celery mousse recipe would work nice for dessert. But I'm especially interested in thoughts for that course.

Thanks again for any input! Will be sure to take pictures.

Edited by Anna Friedman Herlihy (log)
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With the pig ear's you could confit them in pork fat, if available, (duck works well, too) at about 200 degrees for 10 hours, let cool, then deep fry them to order for an amazing crisp, flavorful ear. Serve them with a bitter green salad dressed with a lemon caper dressing.

You could do a traditional faggot. Take pork liver, salty bacon, braised pork cheeks, onions, sage, and a bit of thyme, mince, then wrap in caul fat. Make a gravy with the cooking liquid and serve with a nice strong mustard. I'm sure a recipe for faggots appear in one of you books, if not I'd be more than happy to give you a recipe.

Thanks for the pig's ear idea. Sounds like it ends up much crispier than Henderson's. So I will try that for sure. Have plenty of both duck and pork fat on hand (in fact rendering lard as we speak).

I've done faggots for some of these folks before--one of the ways I've gotten people to eat liver that hadn't eaten it before. They are great (but such an unfortunate name in this day and age...).

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No soup?...how about a German style broth with liver dumplings?

Tracey

The great thing about barbeque is that when you get hungry 3 hours later....you can lick your fingers

Maxine

Avoid cutting yourself while slicing vegetables by getting someone else to hold them while you chop away.

"It is the government's fault, they've eaten everything."

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No soup?...how about a German style broth with liver dumplings?

Tracey

Yes, in the back of my mind I was thinking of adding a tripe soup, but that depends on whether I can source good quality tripe in the next couple days.

But the broth with liver dumplings sounds like a great idea too! In fact I can just cut the liver paté from the charcuterie plate (or make it smaller--or stretch it by whipping it into a mousse--even better), and have plenty of liver for pork liver dumplings and there are plenty of pork bones in the freezer to make a nice porky consommé.

Thanks much. Great suggestion. In fact two of my dinner guests particularly love the liver dumpling soup at this German restaurant we've been to together. Plus that gives me another country of origin for the cuisines.

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Tommy Habetz cooked an incredible offal dinner back in the glory days of ripe (more here). He did the trotters by cooking them long and slow, pulling everything off the bone and cartilage, then making crispy little fritters.

He did lamb's hearts with some kind of salad greens, too.

mmmmm, offal

Jim

olive oil + salt

Real Good Food

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He did the trotters by cooking them long and slow, pulling everything off the bone and cartilage, then making crispy little fritters.

This sounds like the Ste. Menehould recipe, and it's fabulous! Any of you in DC (or passing through DC) are craving this, I had a wonderful version of this last weekend at Central Michel Richard, which is what made me think to put it on my menu.

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  • 2 weeks later...

For any of you interested in doing something similar, I thought I'd post the after-party report. Feel free to scam any ideas for your own version. I'd love to have more people eating the whole animal (although then the prices on these parts will go up!).

Another good thing to know is that properly frozen and vac-sealed, the parts did not suffer from being in the freezer for the past two to four months (time dependent on the part).

The dinner really was a fabulous success--my adventurous eater friends snapped up the spaces on the Evite within sixteen hours of posting it. So we had a party of eight, seven of whom were very offal-friendly, and one of whom (my dear husband) was skeptical (his mother traumatized him with badly cooked liver as a child). Needless to say, hubby ended up eating quite a bit (and even tried everything).

I was not the one taking the pictures (too busy cooking), so apologies for absent pics (not every dish got photographed).

The menu ended up being much the same as what I posted above, with slight variations. I had to cut the gizzard dish since they didn't defrost (we keep our fridge very cold), and I realized also that they were not cleaned and didn't have the time for that. So 10 courses, some duos (or more, in the case of the charcuterie course). I prepped for two entire days and cooked the entire day of the event. It took us about 4 hours to get through the meal. It was loads of fun cooking this!!!

So here goes (feel free to contact me if you'd like any additional info about the dishes):

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The charcuterie tower: on the top level is a pork headcheese and the pickled ox tongue; on the bottom is the pig tongue, poached goat brain, and smoked goat liver. I forgot the rolled spleen with bacon, but remembered it after the pic was snapped (see below). I decided to serve the parts whole for effect to be carved tableside. Served with whole grain baguette, cornichons, and pots of dijon, horseradish, and homemade onion marmelade.

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Carving tableside (don't flame me about cutting right on the ceramic plate!). PS--Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's smoked liver recipe is about the best preparation for liver I and my guests have ever eaten. Even hubby liked it.

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And the rolled spleen with bacon after I remembered it was missing from the table! Highly recommend Fergus Henderson's recipe on this. Presents beautifully.

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Steaming pork liver dumpling soup in roasted pork stock. Such a good addition to the menu (thanks rooftop1000!).

The next two didn't get pics taken, but they were Roasted Marrow Bones with Parsley Salad and Paprikash of Goat Offal with Parsnip/Potato Galette.

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Ox heart with orange-cognac gastrique and mizuna salad with mandarins and crispy pig's ear. The mizuna I found at the farmer's market the day before and thought it would be a good green for this (it was). The ox heart I cooked sous-vide and it was so amazingly tender! The pig's ear I prepared as a confit (I did this sous-vide though) and then deep fried (thanks wallchef!).

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And this I just have to share. I had no idea that cross-sections of pig's ear were so beautiful (first time cooking them). I actually called everyone into the kitchen from the table to behold!

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Deep fried pork liver with honey bacon habenero sauce and radish garnish. The liver is just crusted in panko and fried. I meant to do a little radish salad, but got too busy, so a whole one had to suffice.

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Duo of spicy Asian pig's foot and chicken foot. Each had a slightly different flavor and the pig's foot (well, each person got a piece of pig's foot) was sauce-y while the chicken foot was sticky. I meant to do a line of a simple veggie stir fry down the center, but time ran short and everyone was starting to get kind of full anyway, so I just garnished with some pea pods (which everyone found to be nice and refreshing at this point, with all the fat).

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Braised goat's head. Presented in a bowl to pass at the table for guests to pick at. Yes we did eat the eyes (my first time) spurred on by my dare to anyone. Our friend Jim dove right in and dug one of the suckers out of the skull with his fork. Once he said it was palatable, me and several others split the other one. Can't say I would eat eyeballs out of love for them, but if I had to, I know I now could. They really don't taste like much and the texture is not too bad, not too good. It's the one part that I have a hard time with psychologically (windows to the soul and all).

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Braised goat's neck slices with anchovy sauce. This is what each diner got while the goat head was being passed.

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And the last of the savory courses, pig's feet Ste. Menehould with mustard sauce and rutabaga purée. Yes, the picture wasn't taken until already in the eating process. And there should have been something green on the plate (I was going to do a bit of frisée salad), but we were all fairly full at this point, and I was kind of done with cooking, so I left it off the plate.

gallery_53596_5286_176044.jpg

And for dessert, lemon-celery mousse with raspberries. The perfect, proper, light, palate-cleansing finale.

Hope this makes all you offal lovers hungry!

Edited by Anna Friedman Herlihy (log)
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I love pig ears, they definitely have any awesome look to them when julienned. I went pig ear crazy at one time in my life, but I admitted I had a problem and that was the first step to recovery.

Overall, congrats on a successful offal dinner.

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Wow! What a meal.

I love the idea of challenging eaters to go "whole hog" and try things that are new to them, and to utilize a food animal more thoroughly. I am one to scan the offal section of the meat department but I must say, what I see on your table is bit beyond my experience. I have this mental image of going hunting with dynamite at a petting zoo - and catching all those charred pieces falling from the sky on serving platters. Just an image, no offense intended. Anyone who serves up such a meal with passion and creativity is surely an animal lover. Well done!

edit: I keep returning to look at that braised goat head. It has got to be the nastiest thing I have seen on eGullet. It is hypnotic. FYI my previous no. 1 nasty shot was loaned to me from Stevarino for my foodblog. Here it is.

Edited by Peter the eater (log)

Peter Gamble aka "Peter the eater"

I just made a cornish game hen with chestnut stuffing. . .

Would you believe a pigeon stuffed with spam? . . .

Would you believe a rat filled with cough drops?

Moe Sizlack

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What an incredible dinner; thank you for sharing it with us! I just got a look at the thread today for the first time. You truly provided your friends with a meal they will never forget.

I hardly know which dishes to specifically comment on b/c they all sound intriguing, but can you comment on the smoked liver preparation?

I also like the offal paprikash w/parsnip-potato galette and the deep fried pork liver with honey bacon habenero sauce and radish garnish.

Can you also share any details on the lemon-celery mousse? It *does* sound like a perfect choice after this rich meal. Do you puree the celery and then collect the juice thru cheesecloth? Did you develop the recipe or find it somewhere?

Congratulations again and thank you for sharing the meal with us!

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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I hardly know which dishes to specifically comment on b/c they all sound intriguing, but can you comment on the smoked liver preparation?

Can you also share any details on the lemon-celery mousse?  It *does* sound like a perfect choice after this rich meal.  Do you puree the celery and then collect the juice thru cheesecloth?  Did you develop the recipe or find it somewhere?

The smoked liver is very easy to do, if you're set up for smoking. It's just a simple spice rub for a few hours, wiped off, and then hot smoked for half an hour. But my guess would be you could easily improvise a smoker for something that small.

The lemon-celery mousse is my spin on a Maida Heatter recipe which in turn is someone else's recipe. I just replace 2/3 of the lemon juice with celery juice, made by puréeing about five stalks of celery in the Cuisinart and then squeezing the juice out using a cheescloth bag (two layers). The lemon and celery combine in an unforeseen way to taste like neither lemon nor celery, but a very good taste.

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