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Offal: Sourcing, Cooking, Eating


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Well, my first experiment will be calves liver for lunch tomorrow, which I bought tonight. Will slice it thin, saute in butter as suggested here, and give it a try.

Then I'm making a chicken liver terrine, which I'll be bringing to a party on Saturday. My friends have informed me they don't like liver, but they're willing to give this a try, especially since the livers get soaked in cognac before cooking. :biggrin:

Therese, what does a chicken gallbladder look like? :shock:

Diana Burrell, freelance writer/author

The Renegade Writer's Query Letters That Rock (Marion Street Press, Nov. 2006)

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I am also going through an offal stage.

I grew up detesting offal. I gradually started liking it while eating at restaurants over the years. So, after many years of putting it off, I decided to begin trying it at home this past month.

To overcome all the fears I had, I picked as my first offal cooking project, the one item I was most apprehencious about: veal tongues.

A fresh veal tongue is quite a nasty thing to look at and it is HUGE. It requires time and labor to prepare: soaking, long braising, peeling, trimming, curing (in pickling solution), slicing and eating..

I was amazed by the result, this experience alone really taught me the beauty of offal cooking: with a seemingly nasty piece of meat, one can make wonders with patience and care.

Now, I can't stop!!!!

Edited by zeitoun (log)
"A chicken is just an egg's way of making another egg." Samuel Butler
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How does calves liver compare in taste to full grown cow liver? I am assuming that what I usually get at diners is full grown cow liver, which I like quite a bit, the strong taste doesn't turn me off. I never thought to ask for it to be prepared medium or rarer, actually, they have never asked, I always just assumed liver had to be well done.

Is there any safety issue with cow or chicken liver being done anything less than fully cooked? Is it safer or more dangerous than the other parts of the animal?

He don't mix meat and dairy,

He don't eat humble pie,

So sing a miserere

And hang the bastard high!

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calve's liver is milder in taste and texture. There are folks who eat liver sashimi. I wouldn't recomend it though unless you are sure of the source and how it was handled.

For most commercially available livers I would recommend cooking it through, don't overcook otherwise it will be too dry.

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Veal liver has a softer texture and a subtler taste than beef liver. If you cook it too long or at too high a temperature, the soft texture tends to get "rubberish", as we say here. A matter of taste, of course. If it's perfect - according to my taste - the liver slice has a slightly pink colour inside and an almost mellowing texture. If the slice is thin (1/3 inch maybe), this can be a matter of 15-30 seconds more or less cooking time on each side (2 minutes as a rule of thumb). I never brown it to have some more margin of safety wrt. cooking time.

There are also recipes for whole veal liver prepared like a roastbeef.

Safety issues? I don't think so. In my youth, raw (but fresh!) veal liver in milk was a treatment for anemic babies. But freshness is everything with offals.

Edited by Boris_A (log)

Make it as simple as possible, but not simpler.

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Offal or variety meats are treasures to the "ethnic" crowd. I don't know why the present generation has such an aversion to the stuff. In the fifties and early sixties, it was very common for families to have offa la couple of times a week, ethnic or not....liver, heart, kidney, sweetbread, tongue, etc.

Liver. Try a mild liver, such as calve's or veal just saute'd med. or med. rare. Well done liver is tough and strong tasting. Pork liver is "bitter" to some. Chicken livers are best panfried. Lamb liver is best of all as it is very mild and not as "mealy" tasting as other types.

Tongue. Scrub fresh tongue with a couple of handfuls of salt a couple, of rinses and simmer with a bouquet garni for 45mins. depending on size. Cool and "peel" the skin off. Now it is ready to be used for whatever, but remember that it may not be tender enough at this stage and some more cooking time may be required.

Tripe. Soak in salted water for a while, clean carefully, the use it for whatever dish and cook the hell out of it. Most honeycomb tripe nowadays come pretty well prepared and cleaned though.

Kidney. The secret to ridding kidneys of the urea odour is to soak it in a cold weak brine for an hour, take it out (it will have absorbed lots of water) and leave it on a plate for a while to drain out. Repeat. A couple of cycles and the odour is virtually gone. For you anatomy students out there, this is a great example of osmosis by the renal tubules.

Brains. Carefully snip off the veis and arteries before using.

Enjoy.

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Therese, what does a chicken gallbladder look like? :shock:

It's a little pouch that looks olive green, because it contains gall (which the liver produces and helps the animal digest lipids; the bladder is just a storage receptacle). If you're looking at the rounded, convex surface of the liver it would be on the underside, generally sort of snuggled in between the lobes of the liver. It's generally removed during processing of the chicken carcass, but occasionally one gets missed. You can just remove it yourself. The gall is bitter, so a big bite that includes the gall bladded can be an unpleasant experience.

Can you pee in the ocean?

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Thanks, Therese. I'm glad you mentioned that, since I ended up finding a couple of little black sacs nestled between the lobes when I was trimming them up.

Have to say, they smelled yummy in the marinade -- of course, all I could smell was the cognac, tarragon, and garlic. :smile:

Diana Burrell, freelance writer/author

The Renegade Writer's Query Letters That Rock (Marion Street Press, Nov. 2006)

DianaCooks.com

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The discussion of preparing tongue reminds me of buying one a few years ago at a market here in Atlanta, Dekalb Farmers Market. This place has all sort of interesting things, including lots and lots of offal (I don't think of tongue as offal, by the way, but never mind that for the moment). When I got to the check out the cashier (a young man from somewhere on the Indian subcontinent) picked it up, looked at it, looked at me, looked back at the tongue, and finally said, "Okay, what is this?"

Can you pee in the ocean?

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Safety issues? I don't think so. In my youth, raw (but fresh!) veal liver in milk was a treatment for anemic babies. But freshness is everything with offals.

I grew up on canned sheep's tongue - delicious as a picnic meat - and lamb's brain in thick parsley sauce. Maybe a little too extreme to begin with for you!

We used to cook a lot of calf's liver and kidney during my time in London restaurants. The kidney was preferred when it came fully surrounded by a layer of crisp suet fat. We trimmed the fat to an even 0.5 cm all around, and then roasted the kidney whole to a medium rare. Only then was it sliced and dressed with sauce. Creamy grain mustard sauce or fresh red currant jus were very popular (both sauces monteed with some of the dissolved suet, of course!)

The calf's liver we trimmed, skinned, and sliced, and kept in a tub of milk until required. This seemed to dissipate the 'pissiness' of the liver, which only required 30 seconds saute au beurre noisette with fresh sage for a taste and texture treat!

"Venite omnes qui stomacho laboratis et ego restaurabo vos"

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After their bath in the cognac, tarragon and garlic, my chicken livers bathed in milk overnight. This a.m. I pureed them for the terrine. Everything smelled even better today, and I loved the color, sort of a dark pink. I was tempted to take a taste, but raw chicken liver might be too extreme for an offal novice.

I'm getting nervous about lunch today. This calf liver looks daunting ....

Diana Burrell, freelance writer/author

The Renegade Writer's Query Letters That Rock (Marion Street Press, Nov. 2006)

DianaCooks.com

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9to5,

Would you mind writing a quick play-by-play of your terrine adventure at some point? I have been intrigued by these and have finally decided to try one. Your marinade sounds grand.

JohnnyD

"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

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Will do, JohnnyD -- I'll try to post some pictures at some point. Just forgive me my lack of a terrine -- I'm molding it in a smallish metal loaf pan.

The recipe, if you're interested, is from The Good Cook's volume on Terrines, Pates, and Galantines, pg. 101, Chicken Liver Terrine with Black Peppercorns. I did get brave and take a little taste of the chilled raw liver puree. Had a nice meaty flavor, not the mineral/feral taste I remember from childhood. Another plus: I caught early that it needed more seasoning, so in went some more kosher salt.

OK, time for its next bath ... this time a 1 1/2 hour bain marie. Ah, the life of a chicken liver!

Diana Burrell, freelance writer/author

The Renegade Writer's Query Letters That Rock (Marion Street Press, Nov. 2006)

DianaCooks.com

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Ah, the life of a chicken liver!

:laugh:

My choices of "terrine" is also limited. I want to go small-batch until I get the hang of it then use my pyrex "loaf" dish when called on for a party. So far, I'll I've done for the project was buy a bit of gelatin!

"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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OK, the next experiment: veal liver. I had a slice that was about 3/4" thick, so I sliced that in half horizontally. Put lots of butter in the pan, got it nice and hot. Seasoned liver with kosher salt and pepper, and in it went. I did the first side for 3 minutes, but I think that was a little too long, given my slice was less than 1/2" thick, so the next side I did for two minutes.

Moment of truth. I admit I sat in front of my plate like a recalictrant child for a few minutes, too frightened to take a bite. But I cut a tiny portion, liked the texture and look and popped it in. Oh no, that flavor -- it all came back to me... that metallic primal blood taste. But thirty something years later, I have something I didn't have back then: a palate. The liver was definitely lacking something -- some tartness? Acid? So I cut up a lemon, gave it a liberal squeeze over the liver and tasted again. MUCH better.

I'm about halfway done with it. Each mouthful is a little easier. I do like the texture. Next time I think I'll cook it a little less -- that may be why the mineral taste is more pronounced?

With the other half of the liver, still uncooked, I'm thinking of grinding up and mixing it in with some ground beef for a meatloaf mixture.

Not sure I'll ever order calves liver off a menu, but if I were starving, I know I'd have no trouble getting it down! :wink:

Diana Burrell, freelance writer/author

The Renegade Writer's Query Letters That Rock (Marion Street Press, Nov. 2006)

DianaCooks.com

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I just got to the pink part of the liver -- that tastes MUCH better. I answered my own question about overcooking.

That, or I'm beginning to develop a taste for liver. :raz:

Diana Burrell, freelance writer/author

The Renegade Writer's Query Letters That Rock (Marion Street Press, Nov. 2006)

DianaCooks.com

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Welcome to the world of veal liver!

Salting *after* cooking is a standard trick to have it more tender. And really - try to gently sautee (never brown) some very thin garlic slices before in the butter- if you love garlic, of course. And check butter-poaching (poêler) with butter only slightly foamy, not brown.

You can also cut the 1/3" thick slice in stripes ("geschnetzelt") of a bit more than 1/2"x1". Then you can really sautee and just wait 1-2 minutes until there's some juice in the pan. Then add salt and pepper and some lemon drops.

When I was young, I knew a restaurant where they served geschnetzelte veal liver only once a week (the day of slaughtering). It was a pretty basic restaurant, but on that day, you had always to make a reservation. Usually, it was served with rösti, but I always preferred it puristic with bread only.

Edited by Boris_A (log)

Make it as simple as possible, but not simpler.

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  • 2 years later...

Well, it would be nice to be able to turn this usually unappealing cut of meat that no one wants into something incredible. Unfortunately, I've twiced failed. :(

The things I tried cooking are veal liver and beef sweetbread. They both turned out dirty tasting and inedible. I pretty much did the same thing to them: 1) soak in water for over 24 hours and 2) saute them in a hot pan. Since it was my first time working with offal, I just wanted to cook them simply so I have a certain idea of how to branch off from there. Can someone help me make these things edible?

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Get over to Amazon.com and get yourself a copy of TIme-Life Good Cook Series Variety Meats. That ought to tell you absolutely everything you'll ever want to know about cooking virtually any variety of offal.

I have most of this series of books and treasure them. They don't get daily or even weekly use, but when I have a question about a specific food, there's no better place for an answer with excellent photos and step-by-step instructions.

Katie M. Loeb
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Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

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I use veal liver quite a lot (about once a month?), and usually to make this liver gravy. I've never soaked veal liver before - it has such a tender liver flavour, so there is no need for that..

I tried veal kidneys in a restaurant recently, which were soaked in milk for a few hours and then quickly seared on a frying pan - delicious as well.

Do you eat chicken liver? I find chicken liver a good way to introduce offal to your palate - it's milder and easier to eat - and once you're used to it, you can 'progress' to veal, pork etc :)

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I don't think you can generalize about offal, and I don't think saying "Ugh" is the best way to... get to know off-cuts of meat.

One thing to remember is that cuts such as liver or sweetbreads (by the way - there is no such thing as "beef sweetbreads"; the gland only exists in young animals: veal, lamb) are not fatty. As such, they need more preparation (seasonings, sauces) than fattier meats. You might just throw a steak or a duck breast in a pan with salt and pepper and it'd be delicious; but a skinless, boneless chicken breast needs a little more help.

First of all, you don't have to soak the cuts you mention, unless there is visible blood on the sweetbreads, and certainly not for 24 hours.

Take a more "organic" approach to the pieces: what might go well with them? What is traditionally paired with them and how are they sauced?

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occasionally veal sweetbreads (what I assume you're talking about when you mention "beef sweetbreads) need to be cleaned, not by soaking, but by removing a thin membrane around them. Often smaller butchers or meat processors are unfamiliar enough with them that they don't remove this membrane. The "muddy" taste you describe could be the membrane or veins or gristle. It could also be poor-quality meat, or indifferently handled.

The easiest way is to soak the sweetbreads, which is necessary to degorge them, then blanch and immediately remove to ice water. Then peel off any membrane, veins, etc. Some chefs then press them overnight to achieve a more uniform thickness, so they can slice them and saute like foie, but you don't really have to do this.

I like them sliced and sauteed with sherry vinegar and clarified butter.

Edited by david coonce (log)

"A culture's appetite always springs from its poor" - John Thorne

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Liver:

A) Dont soak beforehand

B) Don't overcook - half a minute on each side

C) Use lots of onions bacon and deglaze the pan (having removed the liver) with good stock, soy, wine

Eat with rice and salad

Alternatively start by making a simple pate.

Here is a good one

Of course the ultimate dish from chicken liver is chopped liver, but this is just as good but different. Its a recipe adapted from Michel Guerard's Cuisine Gourmande, with the insight being that sausage meat provides a good fatty pork base to the terrine. All the booze and garlic make it strong stuff, but delicious and easy.

1lb/500g chicken livers (frozen is fine) or any liver

12 oz/400g good sausage meat, or the insides of frying sausages or fat minced pork

7 tablespoons brandy or armagnac or rum

6 tablespoons port or maderia (or both)

2 tsp chopped garlic

big bunch of parsley

4 sprigs thyme

4 bay leaves

pinch nutmeg

tsp sugar

2 tsp salt

lots of pepper

Mix together and marinate in the fridge overnight. Next day whizz together in a food processor or with a hand blender. Keep it quite coarse, or even dont blend at all. . Pour into a greased loaf tin (you can line with bacon if you like, or decorate the base, which will be the top, with sprigs of thyme and bay leaves), Bake in a bain marie in a hot oven (220C/425F) for 2 hours. Cool to room temperature then refrigerate overnight, weighted.

Serve either with a salad a pickles as a first course, or spread onto good bread...

Edited by jackal10 (log)
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