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Mar 29, 2010 12:43 PM

Offal Inspiration

Every now & then when I find a beef kidney on sale, I'll buy it and cook it for my dog. It got me thinking about other offal parts which I don't eat. I've never eaten brain, kidneys, heart, tripe or hoof from a cow but have eaten ox tail and liver which I enjoy. On the pig side, I've never had brains, heart or the liver but have eaten every other part from the rooter to the tooter.

Most offal parts where I live are relatively inexpensive and I'd like to dabble a little in that department. There are many other parts of animals used as food that I've never had so I was wondering what you've had offal and if you have recipes or ideas for it that might inspire me to try more of it.

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  1. I found a 2# package of chicken gizzards a few months ago, and just today cooked the last meal from them - stroganoff, which is Sam Fujisaka's idea. He's right, you'd think it was beef. Over previous weeks, I braised some of them, and used them as the meat for typical spaghetti sauce. The stroganoff is the best of the three preparations. They require a lot of low-heat cooking to tenderize them. Alternatively, they can be quick-fries over high heat if they've been thinly sliced. However, according to another 'hound, a cup has nearly twice the daily allowance for cholesterol.

    1. I had braised beef heart with tomatoes at a Italian restaurant and it was delicious, tender and very beefy. Here's a recipe that is close to what I had, without the peas:

      Tripe, wow, you have to braise it for quite a awhile. A classic preparation is to braise in cider and calvados with carrots and onion, until it's meltingly tender, Tripes à la mode de Caen. Here's a recipe link that contains tripe and a calves foot:

      Here'a Spanish recipe I make for mrbushwick, Menudo, also with calves foot, which I skip, and I use canned hominy. This soup will cure anything:

      How about sweetbreads? They're very tender, mild-flavored and nice with a pan sauce.
      Sweetbreads need to be poached first, pressed with a weight to compact them, then peel away the thin outer membrane, slice approximately 1/2 inch, dredge in seasoned flour and sauté in butter. Make a pan sauce with mushrooms, (morels are the classic) deglaze brandy, add shallots, thyme and heavy cream. Throw some shucked oysters in there for a deluxe dish.

      Cow foot, great for stock and soup; here's a few chow discussions with some ideas for cooking:

      and a recipe for Cow Foot soup, Jamaican style:

      Beef kidney is not so tender and needs to be braised; pork, veal and lamb more so, but how about a classic Steak and Kidney Pie:

      Maybe other posters have ideas for brains, as I haven't eaten them. Just. can't. do. it.

      Have fun with new food! Oh, have you tried tongue?


      7 Replies
      1. re: bushwickgirl

        I absolutely love tongue and always order tongue tacos at our local taco truck. I just can't cook it, though. I don't mind anything but the peeling off of the tough skin. I just cannot get past that and so have foregone tongue recipes since my mother died.

        We were away for the weekend with friends and the subject of "weird" things we eat came up. One friend, a woman born here but whose parents were from the Philippines, said she eats pig's ears when she's home and that they're delicious.

        Oxtails are a favorite dish around here - both the Italian (braised with tomatoes, garlic, onions, etc.) and Philippine (cooked with peanut butter and soy) versions.

        My father used to make steak and kidney pie which was delicious, but I never cook with them. Liver, otoh, is a regular. I guess our likes and dislikes or never-tasteds don't make any real sense. I mean, we don't hate all "weird" food, but seem to choose random items we don't like. I mean why wouldn't one eat sweetbreads or brains when one loves tongue and oxtails?

        I guess that's what makes life interesting and mysterious! Yeah, right.

        1. re: bushwickgirl

          Haven't tried tongue but started to buy one last week when they were on sale; Andrew Zimmern says they taste like pot roast so I may give it a go. Tripe...that's one thing that does not look appetizing to me but yet I'll eat the heck out of chitterlings (or like we southerners call "Chitlins"), hog maw, pig tales, feet, ears,etc. etc....

          1. re: Cherylptw

            Well, I can't eat chitlins very successfully. I had them stuffed with a bread stuffing and fried, made by a Cuban friend of mine, and enjoyed the stuffing but the actual chitlin, not so much. I can't quite imagine the work involved in stuffing a chitlin.

            When I was growing up, my Mom always kept a jar of pickled pigs feet in the frig. Not homemade, though.

            Tongue is very good and does taste like pot roast, nice and tender. I really like tongue sandwiches on rye witha little coarse mustard. Pickled lamb tongues were a favorite bar snack when I lived out in the country in CT, who's knows why, but they were very good.

            The tripe recipe link by JungMann, from Mario Batali, sounds good. Tripe has to be braised until very tender and can have a fairly strong flavor.

            Aside from chicken livers, I don't like gizzards or feet. I tend toward soft textured muscle flesh, rather than a good cartilaginous chew. But that's just me. Don't let me dissuade you from trying them.

            I've had bood sausage a few times, in Scotland, and after getting past the "I know what this is made from" stage, I found it very tasty.

            So now you've got some good recipe links and ideas; please post your cooking adventure results at a future date. Enjoy!

            1. re: bushwickgirl

              In defense of gizzards, cooked gently and long, they are unctuously tender.

              1. re: greygarious

                I'm sure gizzards can be quite tender when cooked gently and long. The cartilaginous reference was more for chicken feet. It's just something about gizzards I can't do, maybe that the gizzard purpose in the chicken is to grind food, and grit is added to the chicken diet to faciliate the grinding process. Or maybe it's how my Mom cooked them, which was short and chewy.

                Mrbushwick likes them but since he doesn't cook, he doesn't get any. Maybe I'll get him some and try again. Twist my arm...

              2. re: bushwickgirl

                Growing up in NY, my good friend was Puerto Rican; she took me to her house where her mother was making chitlins so when she found out I liked them, she insisted I have a plate. I don't know how she made them but they were tough like they was dried out. I couldn't swallow them and I couldn't chew them so I kept putting them in pieces of paper towel and tossing in the trash. It was the worst I ever had.

                I never had them stuffed but just cleaning them is enough work for me. I'll take mine simmered for a few hours til tender then drizzled with some vinegar and hot sauce and a side of potato salad & greens, thank you!

              3. re: Cherylptw

                My mother made tongue in the pressure cooker, and it is (can be) fabulous. The texture and mouthfeel is unique and wonderful. I wouldn't compare it to pot roast ... it is more delicate. It truly is like nothing else.

                If you can deal with chitlins, tongue should be a snap ...

            2. Gizzards go well as yakitori - thread them on skewers, and grill them, topping with yakitori sauce (you can make it yourself with soy sauce, mirin and sugar). They are supposed to be chewy. I think chicken hearts can be done this way, as can livers.

              2 Replies
              1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                I should have mentioned that I like chicken liver & gizzards,,,haven't eaten the feet yet but that's popular where I live...anyone tried these?

                1. re: Cherylptw

                  I've had chicken feet in curry as well as in Chinese preparations. It is bony with scant, somewhat gelatinous meat. Between the steamed and fried dim sum, you are better off with the fried for better texture and a flavor reminiscent of buffalo wings. Or, better yet, use the feet to add gelatin to chicken stock.

              2. In one way or another I think I've eaten pretty much every part of an animal save sexual organs, though I'd be willing to try. Tongue, tripe, liver, oxtails... these are a few of my favorite things.

                Tongue benefits from long, slow braising to tenderize the meat. The rich flesh pairs especially well with spice and acid.

                Brain is delicate, rich, creamy, custardy and almost egg-like after poaching. In fact a lot of recipes combine brains and eggs:

                Trotters make for mouth-filling stock, which I like to pair with tender tripe:

                Although tripe alone is good, too:

                Pig ears are an advanced form of texture. Like other offal, they require some long brising, but they readily take on the flavors of the cooking liquid, and reward the patient cook with an intoxicating combination of crunch and chewiness.

                And while we're at it, let's not forget that blood is an oft-forgotten animal product that makes for great eats.

                1 Reply
                1. re: JungMann

                  I was watching Anthony Bourdain last night in Vietnam eating a blood soup which he said was delicious (a bunch of pig parts were cooked in it that had been eaten prior) but I just can't get past the color and knowing that it's most of the pig parts already...

                2. I make pigs feet sweet and sour in the southern style with water, sugar, cider vinegar, and red pepper flakes. I place them in my slow cooker on low for 8 hours.

                  Chicken feet, (phoenix claw style) with soy sauce, onions, honey, ginger, garlic, sake, red pepper flakes, slow roasted in slow cooker for 6 hours. I first fried it a minute with corn starch and black pepper before placing in slow cooker.

                  Beef tongue also in the slow cooker with broth, onions, garlic, and crack pepper for 8 hours. Peel after 3 hours and continue cooking. Last hour I add chilies and ancho pepper before shredding for tacos.

                  Ox tail I make a soup with broth, onions, garlic, mushrooms, leeks, tomatoes and barley. I do brown them first with flour and pepper before.... again placing them in my slow cooker on low for 8 hours. Sorry offals usually need a LOT of slow cooking and it works so well!

                  Was not big on roasted pig ears.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Crockett67

                    I do pigs feet similiar but I make a home made BBQ sauce using tomato sauce, cider vinegar, red pepper flakes, brown sugar, Worcestershire, a drop of hickory smoke flavoring and a few other ingredients....

                    1. re: Cherylptw

                      Me Likie! I will have to give it a try. :)