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Offal: Sourcing, Cooking, Eating


Nick
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While I was having a late supper (hot pastrami on rye with Jarlsberg) I finished up reading the WSJ. In a small corner article ("Eating Around") was offal.

A very brief article, but in it Mario Batali says, " the secret is lathering up the offal with 'non-challenging flavors' like butter and tomato sauce."

My question is; do you really like offal, or is it something in fashion right now and you eat it slathered with this thing or that, and eat it just to be fashionable?

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There are certain offal dishes that I grew up with that i do like. Examples: kidneys, sweet breads, blood sausage, and chicken hearts. Fashionable has nothing to do with it since I tend to eat at ethnic dives.

I'll admit to liking the beef offal soup at Sripraphai (Thai)...which definitely includes challenging flavors. :)

-Jason

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Nick, many of us have grown up with guts. I remember veins and things popping up from the surface of my "beef soup" when I was a lass of three.

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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My mother cooked tongue, not very well, but it was cheap. I learned to cook all kinds of innards while I was in college and was very poor, but wanted to cook and eat delicious food anyway. It offers such a wide range of tastes, textures. Now that it's cold, I'm planning on one of my favorite winter dishes -- oxtail stew with sliced pig ears.

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I've got no problems with tripe in my pho or tongue at a Korean bbq, but other than that, I'm not very experienced with offal. Of course, I wouldn't know trendy if it bit me in the ass (which is just awful, but not offal).

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There are people who grew up with offal, and people to whom it is a strange and creepy new planet.

Without over-generalizing, I suspect people who grew up in Britain in the fifties and sixties probably ate a fair bit of offal as children - liver, kidneys, black sausage, tongue, oxtail, heart. i certainly did. Brains and sweetbreads were more fancy restaurant items, so I didn't eat those until later.

I also have the impression that Americans from the southern states are more likely to be offal eaters - chitterlings and the like - than their northern cousins - true?

And as for continental Europe, not to mention Latin America - tripe paradise.

So, there are a lot of seasoned offal eaters out here. However, I do agree that offal has come back into fashion as far as restaurants are concerned. For me, it's a good thing. It started happening in London when I still lived there back in the mid-'90s, thanks to chefs like Fergus Henderson and Gary Rhodes. Batali is doing a lot for it in New York. The "lathering up" idea seems to be a way of introducing offal to the squeamish.

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My mother cooked tongue and it was great sliced on sandwiches. My Danish grandmother made what she called "liver paste", a pate really. Made from pig liver. It was great on crackers or in sandwiches. I have her recipe if anyone wants it.

When I was a guitar player living in the south end of Boston I used to go to Estelle's and get fried chicken livers. That was some good eating. A few years ago a friend raised some chickens (broilers) and gave me some of the gizzards. Great, fried.

And I finally leaned how to cook heart. First with deer, and then beef. Don't fry it. Boil it, like you're making stock. Well , not a boil, a fast simmer with celery, onion, bay leaf, a clove or two (depending on their strength) and peppercorns. Let cool and slice.

I guess I'm just not into some of the more exotic offal being offered that needs to be slathered with stuff to disguise its true nature. And forget kidneys. I'd rather eat poorly cooked lima beans. But, maybe I've never had a good kidney.

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Kidneys become rotten eating if they're cooked for anything more than a very short time. But, done well, I really love them - they have a wonderful texture as well as flavour. I had some lamb's kidneys for supper the other night, rapidly seared, the pan deglazed with marsala and lots of grain mustard added to make a sauce. A bit of cream wouldn't have gone amiss, but I didn't have any in the house, so I just let the sauce reduce a touch. Sharp green salad on the side. Good bread. Yum.

Adam

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Nick - cut 'em in half so you can snip the white connective tissue out. If you don't do that, they curl up and they're not so neat. And they probably won't cook as evenly.

If you can get kidneys still in their suet you can roast them whole in a very hot oven. The suet melts, protecting the kidney, and they come out just beautfully. I found this suggestion in Fergus Henderson's _Nose to Tail Eating_ and it works a dream.

Adam

Edited by AdamLawrence (log)
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Oh, OK - they can be good slow-braised too. Actually, though, I generally find that kidneys in pudding don't stay too moist and still end up dry and crumbly and not very nice. But not as bad as those that have been overcooked on the grill/in the pan.

Adam

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Nero Wolfe's cook Fritz cooks deviled kidneys, a very good recipe. Mustard is involved, very important, as Adam Lawrence indicated.

At a Vietnamese supermarket the other day I saw goat testes (what the sign said), which was interesting, as pork and beef are far more common.

Priscilla

Writer, cook, & c. ● #TacoFriday observant ●  Twitter    Instagram

 

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wilfird, very interesting question about whether southerners eat more innards than northerners.

my GUESS is that it's a total class & ethnic distinction. i remember seeing jars of pickled pigs' feet in adive bars when i was a kid [like, having stepped in with my dad :hmmm: ] or in these little mom and pop roadside groceries. i thought they were gross and scary and i have never known of anyone to actually eat one. and then of course here in the local groceries one can buy jars of them. i've had pork skin and cracklin cornbread at african american bbq joints.

the conventional wisdom is that offal is part of southern african american cuisine becasue they never got to eat anything but the scraps during slave days, and then during reconstruction poor people in general got very little protein , and relied on wild game, possums, raccoon, etc., for meat, what little there was. so using pork parts for protein and flavor was not only not trendy, but people's lives depended on it.

since egullet came into my life i am interested in trying everything. i haven't developed a taste for tripe but love sweetbreads and cracklins and a GOOD kidney pie. but here where i live, i don't know of ANYONE who eats offal as a regular part of the diet, and the vast majority of my peers REFUSE to eat it.

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Definitely is some correlation between cultural origins and regular-eating offal intake. We had boiled pickled tongue occasionally, when I was growing up in Southern California in the 1960s and 1970s, and I do believe we were the only family on our block so doing. And gizzards, she would cook for my Dad, who grew up poor in Oklahoma and retained a taste for them. And liver, as in liver & onions, that was quite a normal thing.

And a friend with an Italian mother remembers delighting in inviting playmates to stay for dinner and then auspiciously rolling open the oven to reveal lamb's heads, cut in half, each half with its single staring coagulated bulging eyeball, comfortably braising.

And of course my beloved cabeza tacos at taquerias, (a fine source of all kinds of well-cooked offal), although it was well into the 1970s if not the 1980s (or was I just of majority and mobile, and seeking, besides?) before they were part of the scene for me. However, interestingly, if you talk to fourth- or fifth-generation Southern Californians, a great deal of admirable, long-standing culinary cross-pollination, including offal and other admirably hardcore dishes, is revealed, and is considered not special or strange but regular if not traditional.

In fact, there are hidden pockets of such activity everywhere.

Priscilla

Writer, cook, & c. ● #TacoFriday observant ●  Twitter    Instagram

 

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I have been discussing with Wilfrid (and others, including the beau) doing a meal of reproductive organ meats. Uteri, testicles, penises, breasts, roe, eggs, tongues (okay, okay), etc. I suppose brains could count, if reproductive organs would include "sex organs."

What else?

Edited by La Niña (log)
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Once at a sushi bar a mischevious chef with apparently uncontrollable winking served us what he said was prostate gland of yellowtail. Unusuable, he said, if the fish was broken down carelessly and the hormonic fluid permeated the rest of the flesh.

Priscilla

Writer, cook, & c. ● #TacoFriday observant ●  Twitter    Instagram

 

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