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Offal: Sourcing, Cooking, Eating


Nick
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Great coincidence. I've just talked about offal twice over on my blog. Link below.

The lamb offal we had Saturday night was awesome. Its got to be fresh though.

And cooked lightly & quickly.

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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.

This is a good recommendation. While Amazon doesn't sell the book directly (it's out of print), I picked up an old version in decent condition for a couple bucks via an Amazon Marketplace seller. You can probably also find it at your local library.

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Don't think of it as failing, just consider those attempts as learning experiences.

Consider picking up a copy of St. John's cookbook Nose to Tail: Cooking the Whole Beast. I carry it with me everywhere I go due to my blog. Leafing through it right now I see a lamb sweetbread recipe that can also be used for veal glands, but no liver recipe. I'll check their second book when I get home.

I really understand the desire to take those "nasty bits" and turn them into a wonderful meal. Working with a pig's spleen and making it tasty was a great feeling.

Good luck!

Edited by Misplaced_Texan (log)
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Thanks for the replies. But what I'm really looking to fix is the "dirty" taste that I get. If prepared properly, I'm assuming I shouldn't even get that taste. I got some good advice in removing the membrane from the sweetbread, but for the liver, I don't know how I'm supposed to fix that. I could have gotten bad liver... I'll try again.

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Liver do have a particular taste and texture. Not everyone likes it. I do, but if I were to serve it at dinner, my girlfriend would run screaming from the room.

Sweetbread on the other hand is distinctly inoffensive and can be as good as foie gras if prepared properly. Any aversions there is probably bad produce or mental blocks.

Edited by TheSwede (log)
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Calves liver is a lot easier to deal with and a better place to start.

It has a very definite taste and texture - many, me included, find it delicious - but you just might be somebody who doesn't like its taste. I can certainly see calling it livery (to me, delicious, but to many, a bad thing) though I don't know what you mean by "dirty".

Look for some that is very pale in color, and for slices that look like they don't have a lot of membrane running through them. My local supermarket, not even one of the very upscale ones, has beautiful calves liver. If you get a nice slice of it, check the edges for a membrane that might curl up during cooking, and just score through it in a few places, or peel it off. There's no need to soak it.

Now for a "cheat" recipe that uses a few things I normally don't use, but that are great for calves liver - some pure onion powder, and a bit of pure garlic powder.

Season the liver lightly with the above, and with some salt and pepper, and dip it in some flour.

Heat a skillet to a good heat, and then melt some butter in it. When the butter's ready for sauteeing, put the liver in on a fairly medium-high heat so that the surface crisps, and in about a minute, then turn it for another minute or so. When the second side's crisp, deglaze the pan with some dry white wine (at least 1/2 cup) and let it bubble down.

Then, serve the liver in its gravy. This should give you a good idea of what it's supposed to taste like.

Of course, you might not like liver. Have you ever had it out, or have you considered ordering it at a trusted restaurant to see if you like it? There are even a lot of diners that do it justice, as long as they're serving "calves" liver.

Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”

Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”

Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”

Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

Newly updated: my online food photo extravaganza; cook-in/eat-out and photos from the 70's

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Maybe if you could describe the "dirty" taste? I'm wondering if your liver could have had a run-in with a broken gall bladder; that will make it bitter and inedible. Did it taste bitter?

The posters upthread who suggested chicken livers as a "starter" were right on targwt. They're tender, delicate and yummy.

Try giving them a quick rinse under the cold water faucet (no need to soak.) Pat dry. Throw a little flour, salt and pepper into a bag and give the livers a good shake. Saute on medium until they are slightly gold on the outside and the insides have just barely lost any pinkness. (You might want to partially cover your pan; they can pop and send hot oil flying! I learned this the hard way.)

Serve with garlic mashed potatoes or rice. Peas with pearl onions would be nice on the side. My mom's veg of choice with these was a bowl of creamed onions.

Then if you like this, the next step would be veal liver, also tender, delicate and yummy.

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Both these cuts have a membrane on them, although the calf's liver is very thin. You should remove the membrane from both.

The liver is the easiest to prepare. Peel the mambrane, season, s&p is what I usually use, and sear to medium rare. Don't overcook it. It will make it mealy and gritty, and give you that flavor you don't want. I usually have my liver with bacon and onions, perhaps a deglaze with veal stock or bordelaise (basically, veal demi w/ red wine.) No soaking required.

For the sweetbreads, I do soak these, every time, in milk, for 24 hours. I helps draw out the blood, which could give a little bitter off taste. After the soak, I rinse and poach (180-190 degrees) in a court boullion (water with mirepoix, peppercorns, thyme) until medium rare. From there, I press them overnight, for shape and texture, it makes them a bit firmer and gives a better mouth feel when eating. Now, on day three, peel the membrane away, which will be easier after the poach. Coat them in a little s&p and wondra flour or half cornstarch/half flour mix, and saute in a knob of butter with a sprig of thyme in the pan. The wondra will help them crisp up better. These are very versatile, and I've served them over the years with too many things to remember.

There is also the Argentinian version, where after the press and peel, grill them with a spritz of lemon and serve them with chimichurri, which I'm very fond of, as well.

Ryan Jaronik

Executive Chef

Monkey Town

NYC

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Thanks for the replies.  But what I'm really looking to fix is the "dirty" taste that I get.  If prepared properly, I'm assuming I shouldn't even get that taste.  I got some good advice in removing the membrane from the sweetbread, but for the liver, I don't know how I'm supposed to fix that.  I could have gotten bad liver...  I'll try again.

I hope you don't mind me asking--have you ever been served any of these meats cooked by others, and if so, did you enjoy them then? Mind you, there are many people out there who don't cook liver properly (I have no experience with sweetbreads, so I'll stick to the organ meat I know much more about here), so it's eminently possible to have gone one's entire life never having tasted how good it can be ... on the other hand, it's always possible that liver will turn out simply to not be your thing, no matter how expertly prepared -- and that's okay too. :smile:

The single biggest thing I've seen people do wrong with liver is overcook it. Plain and simple. It's amazing how fast it can go from juicy to shoe-leather in your pan. And a lot of people's natural reaction when cooking it is "oooh, organ meat, it's not safe unless there's no pink left!!!" Alas, by the time there's no pink left, you're definitely in shoe leather territory. Somebody earlier in the thread, I think, recommended half-a-minute per side in the pan. I agree, especially if you're working with thin slices of liver.

And I never soak my liver in anything. Have never found it necessary.

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Gizzards and hearts are incredibly delicious, inexpensive and, to me, one of the most innocuous in the offal bunch. I used to just chuck it in the roasting pan when baking a whole chicken and use it as part of my broth arsenal.....now I know that they can be the star of a main dish. There's a great eGullet thread that got me tuned into them in the first place- all kinds of tasty ideas for how to make them: http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=103311

Personally, my favorite way to make them is to stew until very tender in broth (or even salted water) with aromatics (celery, onion, carrots, bay, peppercorns, garlic) and to then smother them with an onion or mushroom gravy.....very simple and comforting (even though I didn't grow up eating them).

Gosh, on a snowy day like today, that might just be what I make for dinner! :wink:

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  • 2 years later...

When I was at Shop Rite today in Bound brook I saw something that made me very happy. They had calf brains, calf tongue, and calf heart. I got all three and cannot wait to cook them soon. I have eaten heart before at Uproot, but I have never eaten brains or tongue. I am looking through the French Laundry Cookbook and The Complete Robuchon to get tips on how to prepare them. So far I think I am going to pair the brain with scrambled egg. I might pickle the tongue and make a play on corned beef. I might do heart two ways. I will use some for a tartar (Chris Cosentino of Incanto makes this) and them I will braise some with aromatics and stock.

How do you think I should prepare the offal?

For pictures go here http://teenchefteddy.blogspot.com/2010/10/offall.html

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Cosentino also has a grilled heart recipe served over beets with horseradishy vinaigrette that's pretty good. You marinate the hearts, then grill medium rare (no more or it will be very tough) then slice over beets with the vinaigrette. The earthy nature of the beets pairs well with the minerally heart and its very tender and has a pleasing texture served rare. Check out the recipe here on Consentino's blog: http://www.offalgood.com/site/blog/recipes/recipe-for-beef-heart. Have fun (it's good)!

nunc est bibendum...

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Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Sandwich with fried brain. Now that sounds awesome and delicous. For the brain I am going to trim the cartilage, then poach lightly in stock, chill, bread, and then fry. Is that the right technique for brains?

Personally I coat in seasoned flour before frying. They're so delicate I wouldn't want the crunchy crumbs detracting from that. But I'm sure they'd still be delicious that way!

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  • 3 years later...

I have noticed that there is no dedicated offal topic on eGullet (moderators, please correct me if there is one).  Offal is becoming more readily available in restaurants and even in grocery stores.

 

Great chefs like Chris Cosentino make all kinds of exciting offal dishes.  He even has website offalgood.com.

 

So today I bought lamb heart in the Whole Foods.  Probably the cheapest offering in their meat section and, to me, the most exciting.  Will cook it tomorrow when DH is going out of town, sadly he is not a huge fan of unusual proteins.  

 

Any suggestions on cooking heart?  I was thinking sous vide followed by grilling.  What temperature would be good for heart?  I assume it should be cooked medium rare.

unnamed.jpg

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I regularly buy Lambs liver, or kidneys, and cook them pink...

I shall watch this thread with interest.

Thanks chefmd.

Martial.2,500 Years ago:

If pale beans bubble for you in a red earthenware pot, you can often decline the dinners of sumptuous hosts.

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I have noticed that there is no dedicated offal topic on eGullet (moderators, please correct me if there is one).  Offal is becoming more readily available in restaurants and even in grocery stores.

 

Consider eating more in Chinese-Chinese restaurants, or getting siu-mei from Chinese charcuteries (especially Cantonese) where pig intestines from small to large to colons to bungs roasted/cooked in various ways are offered - plus all sorts of other roasted/smoked stuff.  Offal in all its varied forms have been part of the Chinese menu for centuries. ;-) (Have you had fu qi fei pian, for that matter? :-) )

 

 

Great chefs like Chris Cosentino make all kinds of exciting offal dishes.  He even has website offalgood.com.

 

There is (was?) a video available on Youtube on Cosentino visiting a Chinese grocery where he exclaimed over all sorts of offal presented and sold matter-of-factly; and where he also asked the counter attendant (who happened to be Mexican, I think :-) ) about how to cook pig uterus. 

 

Cosentino's Incanto is now closed, alas.

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If you search heart and my name as author you we'll find recipes I tried in the past.

I prefer heart marinated and cooked on skewers. I also enjoy a lot coratella but you need also lungs and liver. I think the cooking time is so fast that I don't understand sous vide. I also tried Nose to Tail stuffed hearts and liked so so. Sorry, the guy is very popular but his style doesn't inspire me much. Instead I'm a huge fan of Jennifer McLagan and her book "odd bits" it's just wonderful, I tried many recipes from there. Also many from Anissa Helou book 5th 4er.

Although offals seems to have gained some popularity in the US, no, no comparison to what I was able to buy and eat in France before moving to the US last year and I reluctantly buy meat from Chinese groceries and sometimes seems the only option to get some cuts.

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Thanks Franci, I will just gill it on skewers. I have McLagan book, now will go read it.

 

huiray, I eat all kind of yummy dishes in Chinese restaurants. One of my favorite dim sum offerings is chicken feet.  It also gives me some cred with servers and they tend to offer me better dishes after that.

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