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Confession: I'm an offal lover. Are you?

d
degustateur Feb 10, 2009 12:17 PM

I have a confession to make: I am an offal lover. I know, it sounds disappointing; but alas, I am what I am. Offal is the noun associated with the internal (and some external) organs of various mammals and sea dwellers. These include brains, ears, eyes, snouts (noses), thymus glands (sweetbreads), heart, kidneys, liver, intestines (chitterlings, tripas de leche), stomach (tripe, maws, buches), testicles and feet (trotters) among others.

I know that the above may gross some of you out. But, when I see any of the above on a menu, I have a hard time passing them up, even when fine dining. If sweetbreads are on the menu at Marche Moderne or Pascal, they usually will end up at my table. If there are multiple items, I may request a chef’s tasting menu to include some or all. Likewise, some good tacos de tripas or a burrito de cabeza will virtually always quench my penchant. Please do not misunderstand; my food palate is highly eclectic. I enjoy an extraordinarily wide variety of foodstuffs from land, sea, sky and anywhere in between.

A short list of the world’s regional offal compilations that I truly savor include: boudin (white, red) and hog’s head cheese from Louisiana; blood sausage (soon dae from Korea, morcilla from Mexico and Spain); menudo; feijoada; chorizo; ponce and chaudin from Louisiana (haggis from Scotland); pate and foie gras and many many more.

I’m interested in how many other ‘hounds share this particular, if not peculiar, offal affliction.

I’d also like to hear of your favorite venues serving up something wonderfully offal.

degustateur

  1. sbritchky Feb 10, 2009 12:36 PM

    I believe the word is spelled "awful." Doesn't your spouse or significant other object?

    1 Reply
    1. re: sbritchky
      Bada Bing Sep 1, 2013 02:37 PM

      The older form, "awefull," leaves room for a positive spin, you know.

      That's right, I'm bad (i.e., good).

      We all need some hope to cling to....

    2. PlonkMan Feb 10, 2009 01:22 PM

      You and me and Leopold Bloom, dude. Let's form a support group, the purpose of which (in contrast to the purpose of support groups for people suffering life-threatening or at least inconvenient addictions and desires) will be to satisfy our healthy craving, which has the additional benefit, to nature and society and my conscience, of assuring that no edible part of a slaughtered beast goes to waste.

      Our first task will be to contact Fergus Henderson and urge him to open a restaurant in Los Angeles. If that thug Gordon Ramsay can open a local joint, the sole purpose of which, I suppose, is to give him an echo chamber in which he can tell his employees to fuck off (when he happens to jet into town), then surely the UK has a duty to restore balance by sending us Henderson, who only eviscerates animals, presumably with knives instead of f-words. Although it may be cheaper to fly to London for dinner at St. John by the time the British economy finishes collapsing.

      You started this, degustateur, so you call Fergus.

      P.S. I've had good sweetbreads at 2117 and Fraiche. And while this is way outside the realm of my knowledge, Hakka cuisine of China is renowned for its resourceful use of offal. You might consult someone on this board who knows his way around the San Gabriel valley.

      2 Replies
      1. re: PlonkMan
        c
        cls Feb 10, 2009 01:26 PM

        I think you should recruit David Lentz into your group. Opaline could have been Offaline.

        1. re: PlonkMan
          Will Owen Mar 9, 2009 10:18 PM

          I have gone on record as being addicted to the stewed tripe at 888 in the SGV. Rich and gooey, with a big dollop of hot chile oil ladeled on. Oh my oh my... sweetbreads (I've actually cooked these! And they're fantastic!), chit'lins, pig's feet head cheese, boudin noir, yum yum yum. It's not just me, either: Mrs. O is passionate about lengua, tripas, and buche tacos, and has made many a happy Sunday breakfast out of a big bowl of menudo.

        2. Sam Fujisaka Feb 10, 2009 01:56 PM

          I've long maintained here that I'm an Offal Oaf. Mondongo is my favorite lunch in Mexico, smoked lung lentils on the stove tomorrow; my daughter just had her French carrot soup with pasta and gizzards. Fried chicken intestine was my fave while walking around to see the Christmas lights along the Rio Cali. I put tripe/callo in my laap (as do all good Lao and NE Thai); and people who say that they don't like tripe love it. Along with the gizzards, I have cooked chicken livers stocked in the ref for consumption over the next few days. I made stock with the feet and necks - and then ate the same feet and necks with home made chile sauce. One of my best meals was the whole head of a cow (not a steer) in Chiapas awhile back. I not only make and eat anticuchos, I make ceviche anticuchos! Dinuguan is one of my favorite dishes in the Philippines. And who can resist blutwurst? My beef stroganoff is made with chicken hearts and people ask for the recipe. And no need to be rad: steak and kidney pie, liver and onions, pate, ...

          Oh, I'm an offal oaf, an offal oaf am I
          Happy to be an offal oaf
          Eating all that is often put aside

          1 Reply
          1. re: Sam Fujisaka
            Passadumkeg Feb 10, 2009 04:00 PM

            In Bolivia I went to a charasco that was udderly delicious, cooked from the heart with a lot of offal food. If it could be cut out, it was Q'd. Chick hearts and livers too. Great tripe too and pigs feet.

          2. e
            Ericandblueboy Feb 10, 2009 01:57 PM

            You've got a ways to go compared to an ordinary Asian. Unfortunately, many eat out of necessity as opposed to desire. One thing I never really did like is pig's brain and cow brain.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Ericandblueboy
              JungMann Feb 11, 2009 06:31 AM

              Speaking as an ordinary Asian, I don't know how necessary it is for me to eat tripe and trotters and tongues (oh my!) especially considering that the price of chicken breast has fallen to $1.99/lb lately (compared to $2.39/lb for tripe), but when I'm blue or homesick, nothing makes me happier than a bowl of blood stew and crispy fried intestines with a stopover in Flushing to pick up a container of shredded tripe and tendon in chili oil for a snack later.

            2. billieboy Feb 10, 2009 03:26 PM

              If I was to be seated at a table and given the choice of the best prepared rib eye steak cooked to perfection and an ordinary restaurant quality liver and onions...I would grab the liver every time.
              The best meal I ever had was listed on the menu as Spaghetti ala Caruso...It was made with a sauce of chicken livers. Many years ago and I have never forgotten it.

              3 Replies
              1. re: billieboy
                Kholvaitar Sep 1, 2013 06:35 AM

                http://www.great-chicago-italian-reci...

                 
                1. re: Kholvaitar
                  o
                  ospreycove Sep 1, 2013 10:34 AM

                  How about the extremely tasty Panino con la Milza maritato con formaggio, (Spleen sandwich with cheese). A true delicacy of Palermo Sicilia, a good version of this treat is served at Antica Focacceria di San Francisco. There are few better panini than this!!!!!

                  1. re: ospreycove
                    l
                    lemons Sep 1, 2013 12:56 PM

                    And what about the tripe sandwiches on the streets near the main market in Firenze? Spicy, as well...I salivate at the memory.

              2. c
                cimui Feb 10, 2009 04:06 PM

                What? There are people who don't like offal?! =)

                Love it. I hone right in on the sweetbreads and tongue every time I see them on a menu. In fact, there has to be a compelling reason for me not to order them.

                Also love the standard gizzards / heart / liver / tongue / haggis / blood sausages of all types. Kidney pie and tripe can be nice on occasion.

                Brains and snouts and such I have yet to try.

                Buying this stuff for my dog has made me far more adventurous with my own cooking.

                1 Reply
                1. re: cimui
                  JungMann Feb 11, 2009 06:38 AM

                  Brain masala will blow you away. Think of the bright freshness of ekuri with chopped cilantro and sweet tomatoes playing against the earthy undertones of turmeric and warm garam masala. Now substitute lamb brains and a bit of yogurt for the eggs and you've got the heart (well, really the brains) of a creamy and delicious curry!

                  For snouts, you could hardly do better than sisig which has the added benefit of ears for crunch and cheeks for tenderness (not to mention more chilies than you can shake a stick at).

                2. l
                  Lucia Feb 10, 2009 05:56 PM

                  Check out this recent thread on other Chowhounds' offal favorites: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/585451

                  1. t
                    therealdoctorlew Feb 10, 2009 06:26 PM

                    Oh, yes! Give me liver, kidneys, heart, gizzard, spleen. As a kid I had chicken feet from my grandmother and calve's foot jelly from mom. Never see that anymore. In the long ago when nouvelle cuisine was nouvelle, I had the famed pigs feet and oysters in red wine. The oysters were superfluous. Fish maw at the Chinese restaurant. Tripe. Beef cheeks (is that really offal?). I refuse to eat brain due to an irrational fear of prion disease, but thymus/sweetbreads is just as risky and I love 'em. Go figure.

                    1. a
                      AngelSanctuary Feb 20, 2009 03:15 PM

                      Offal is wonderful, never got people's disgust with it. What's the different between dead flesh and dead organs? They both came from an animal.

                      1. l
                        liveloveat34 Feb 20, 2009 03:29 PM

                        i am so with you on this- i love it all. any restaurant that serves up offal is on my hitlist of places to try- after relocating to boulder from queens (so depressing) i'e been cooking more of it after searching for markets that sell such parts. not the same as being able to walk to get lengua tacos, intestine stew (gopchang at korean places) or caldo de pata...anything offal is like heaven to me! i'll eat it all....insects on the other hand- i'll pass

                        1. Mawrter Feb 20, 2009 07:59 PM

                          From a sustainability and ethical carnivore POV, I really believe if you eat meat your should eat offal.

                          But.

                          Really, I hate it. I gag. I hate this one for the texture, that one for the odor, the other one for the flavor... I've eaten it in all sorts of preparations and cuisines, all different bits from all different animals. I've eaten it braised, spiced, disguised, simple, roasted, in stews, soups, sauces, pâtés. I've even eaten it without knowing it and still, I loathed it. The best I could say about liver is one time I ate out at a great Italian restaurant and sat next a friend who ate liver, and to my vast relief, the smell was so inoffensive my gorge didn't rise. I thought that was a real plus.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Mawrter
                            lunchbox Feb 26, 2009 08:30 PM

                            What you said, Mawrter-

                            I eat animals, i try to eat as much of them as I can, use the bones, wear the skins, etc, but I just can't get into all of the bits.
                            As long as it is a muscle I'm OK- any muscle (gizzards, hearts, yummy diaphragm, tongue, etc), I like blood sausages and soups, I can handle anything made with liver, but beyond that... I just don't like kidneys, I've had too many bowls of lousy tripe stews, and despite my food-snobbery, I just don't love sweetbreads.
                            Now that I'm getting more daring with my charcuterie, I expect to play with more offal, but I'm just not there yet.

                          2. dinaofdoom Feb 20, 2009 08:08 PM

                            although i liked the liver and onions of my childhood (much to the shock of my parents), brazilian style grilled liver has me hooked.
                            growing up, i hated the tripe my father cooked, and the trotters in the fridge kinda freaked me out.
                            but now that i am all growed up, i would love to try some quality sweetbreads et al because i am pretty damn sure i would like them.

                            are hears and gizzards considered "offal"? because i have had those and they are yummy.

                            1. meatn3 Feb 26, 2009 11:19 PM

                              Mmmmmmm!

                              Another plus, if you are feeling greedy you often aren't called upon to share!

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: meatn3
                                p
                                peebal Mar 7, 2009 02:38 PM

                                blood sausage, chitlin sausage (i.e. real andouillette), brains, tripe, liver, sweatbreads, ears, cheeks, kidlneys, you name it, I like it, with, perhaps the exception of lites (lungs) which are kinda nasty and cow nipples, which they eat in France and taste like an old kitchen sponge. So yea, bring it on.

                              2. c
                                cstr Mar 7, 2009 02:57 PM

                                I bet if people tried them, without knowing what they are, by a real reputable place that knows how to create some authentic dishes, they'd be very surprised.

                                1. Tsar_Pushka Mar 7, 2009 07:49 PM

                                  Yep, unapologetic offal lover here too. I am like you, if I see offal on a menu I have to have order it. And if there is no offal then I will go for secondary cuts. If I see words like"prime", "tenderloin" or "fillet", I'm not interested. Words like "cheek", "belly", "knuckle", "tail", "feet" though, get me very excited.

                                  Like you I have a very broad, eclectic palate. It's a wonderful blessing, and particularly so if you like travelling. I suppose this has alot to do with the appreciation of offal.

                                  As for what particular bits of offal I like? My favourites would have to be tripe, blood sausages (any kind ... black pudding, morcilla, boudin noir etc), tongue, liver, sweetbreads, and kidneys. I've gotten around to trying just about every bit of various beasts except genitals and brains (got some in the freezer though ... Can't wait to try them!!!). My all time favourite though is bone marrow, preferably simply from roasted bones spread on a bit of toast with a few crystals of salt sprinkled on, like at St John. Sublime.

                                  1. Demented Mar 7, 2009 11:59 PM

                                    Count me in!

                                    Years ago (when I could) I loved to hunt. One of my favorite meals was fresh, heart, kidney or liver cooked over an open fire.

                                    1. t
                                      TAGcaves4me Mar 8, 2009 03:55 PM

                                      I like all the offal I have tried so far. I regularly eat some of it, like some better than other that I have tried, and WANT to try it all. :-)

                                      1. l
                                        lemons Mar 8, 2009 08:31 PM

                                        I'm witcha, right there. Just made liver curry for supper tonight. And then there was the time in Nice when I ordered tripes Nicoise and the waiter argued with me - "Do you know what zat ees? Zat ees treep!" Mmmmmm, it was wonnnnnderful.

                                        1. u
                                          umbushi plum Mar 9, 2009 09:58 PM

                                          i love offal especially i know its sounds uppity but organic offal, as far as where to enjoy offal i'm probably not much help but if you ever go to Tasmania Autralia be sure to check out Picalilly in Battery point hobart for the most outrageously good pate ever sereved with artisan fresh bread mmm liver

                                          1. girloftheworld Sep 1, 2013 11:13 AM

                                            I am an Offal lover at 13 and do not plan to change... I have been an offal lover from the age of three.. it started with tounge... yummy tender tounge and moved on from there.. I do not see ever letting go of my offal ways..

                                            1. a
                                              amazinc Sep 1, 2013 01:00 PM

                                              If you find yourself in San Antonio, TX, head to Damien Vatel's "Bistro Vatel". He makes the most divine braised sweetbreads and the grilled veal liver is no schlump, either. Don't know if he cooks kidneys, as I've never seen them on the menu, but then I don't like the smell, so I didn't look for them. Ate at Feast (now sadly closed) in Houston a while back and they had terrific liver, onions and bacon right there in black & white on the menu. Delicious. Ate a super tongue sandwich, but haven't had it in years, as I never see it offered even in our grocer's deli. What's that about????

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: amazinc
                                                girloftheworld Sep 1, 2013 02:05 PM

                                                the Nobel Pig in Austin has an amazing tounge sandwich... and his tureanes are amazing.

                                              2. hotoynoodle Sep 1, 2013 02:36 PM

                                                boston chefs are fond of nose-to-tail these days and i couldn't be happier.

                                                am having sauteed chicken livers with capers tonight at home. b/f f don't like them, so can only have it solo.

                                                he's quite happy with tongue and heart though.

                                                1. LMAshton Sep 7, 2013 08:23 PM

                                                  My husband and his entire family will eat offal of all kinds. And love it. But they're Sri Lankan, and Sri Lankans, it seems, tend to enjoy that kind of stuff. They also eat it curried, of course, since they eat everything curried.

                                                  I don't so much. BUT I didn't mind the brain or liver as much when it was curried - in very small doses. Stomach still squicked me out. Chicken gizzards, though, curried the way my mother in law does it, is wonderful! Not curried and I generally won't touch the stuff. Except liver pate. German herbed liver sausage I love, and chicken liver pate that I make myself I also love. But, yeah, that's about my limit.

                                                  1. t
                                                    Teague Feb 15, 2014 07:48 PM

                                                    I like the squicky bits. I grew up eating beef liver regularly, but that was the extent of my indoctrination. I've just always liked it, since I began eating in restaurants and cooking for myself I went for it. A few dishes have not been favorite - I have had tete de veau once and really was put off, perhaps because it was cold? not sure.

                                                    But I love, LOVE medium-crispy tripas tacos, filled with those salty, meaty little crisp-chewy elbows of chitlin adorableness. Love Menudo, heck, I love tripe and chitlins in all their forms. I've had horrible brains (scrambled with eggs, think the brains were bad actually) (haha, Bad Brains), but love them in tacos and sandwiches. I have never had kidneys but I've been eyeing the little lamb kidneys at my local halal butcher and one of these days I am going to try one of those Edouard Pomaine kidney recipes I've read so many times. And sweetbreads are delicious.

                                                    I don't consider tongue to really be offal, it's a mild and meaty item which is lovely but not sure why Americans see it as an organ meat. I don't think it tastes like one. Same with hearts.

                                                    Crazily though, a couple of years ago I read the ingredient list in my usual supermarket brand of chorizo, and was completely horrified about the inclusion of "beef and pork salivary glands". I checked with a close pal who is mexican, and she was like "Well, yeah." It put me off chorizo for a whole month, but I got over it.

                                                    1. a
                                                      ahuva Feb 15, 2014 07:51 PM

                                                      fellow offal lover here. whether breaded and pan-fried or creamy in a sauce, i have a hard - nay, difficult - time passing on sweetbreads or tongue.

                                                      1. j
                                                        Jerseygirl111 Feb 16, 2014 04:49 PM

                                                        I love liver and I would love to try various types of offal. Alas, my husband is not as enthusiastic so my options are limited.

                                                        Edited to add, I have a fear of beef brains due to mad cow, but others are fair game.

                                                        1. b
                                                          BuildingMyBento Feb 16, 2014 05:51 PM

                                                          There are only two times that come to mind in which I enjoyed offal-

                                                          Morcilla at a Spanish restaurant in Madrid. That was the only time I've had it, but I'd certainly eat it again if I could look forward to that taste.

                                                          Brain at Jemma el-Fna in Marrakech. Sopped up (can't say that its texture was the highlight) with cumin, salt and some form of khobz. The atmosphere added to the moment.

                                                          1. LotusRapper Feb 18, 2014 09:14 PM

                                                            Love 'em.

                                                            Tongue, liver, kidney, gizzard, tripe, tail, maw, trotter/feet, heart, blood (congealed pig blood), ears, nose, cheeks, stomach ...... all good.

                                                            One of my ATF dishes is Szechuan/Hunan dish called "Stir-fried pork kidney 'flower' with liver and green onions":

                                                            http://showshanti.com/father-in-hunan...

                                                            I don't eat brains, glands, lung, penis.

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