Tell me how to pick offal, and what to do with it
April 7, 2009 2:02 PM   Subscribe

Offal. I know what it is but need your help with selection and cooking.

Mrs Mutant is a carnivore and likes her meat. Although I'm basically a pescatarian I do all our cooking and genuinely enjoy preparing her meals.

I've got about a dozen stock dishes that I can prepare, and by using chicken, pork loin, beef or various mince I can present roughly three dozen meals. I cooked my way through part of my undergraduate education, and I'm comfortable with most techniques, including separate sauce preparation, even going so far as to prepare and bake meat pies so no worries there.

While doing our food shopping I've noticed that offal (e.g., chicken or calves liver) is massively cheaper than equivalently sized other cuts of meats. There are loads of of offal on offer here, but I'm not really sure how to prepare it.

So what can I do with offal? I'm looking not only for recipes but also suggestions for useful cuts (is that the correct word to apply for offal?). We've got several British butchers close by, and I know they speak offal.

Just tell me what to ask for and how to prepare it.
posted by Mutant to Food & Drink (13 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
i think offal refers to organ meats and intestines of all kinds. are you looking for liver-specific recipes? or offal-in-general recipes?
posted by fancyoats at 2:09 PM on April 7, 2009

Check out Chris Cosentino - his twitter feed is all about offal (blog, too). The River Cottage Meat Book has a lot of info on offal. Also Nose to Tail by Henderson. You can make a great pâté with ground pork and pork liver. Head cheese (brawn) is delicious and not dfficult (although it is labor intensive.) Sweetbreads are the "chicken tenders" of the offal world.
posted by sanko at 2:13 PM on April 7, 2009

Buy the Fergus Henderson books. Elizabeth David if you want something a bit less of the moment. There are also the Chris Constantino book? maybe just his blog. H F-W "Meat" as well certainly has lots of ideas. Any great cookbook should have at least a few options.

Offal is cheap for a few reasons one is people have convinced themselves they don't like it, the other issues are that is usually more time consuming to prepare, also its usually pretty unhealthy.

as far as offal-y bits
I love love love sweetbreads. A good liver dish (calf, chicken, foie gras - doesn't matter. Pigs liver is a bit much for me)
Kidneys - roast in their own suet or deviled lamb kidneys is a classic.

Tripes can be delicious but require a TON of work. Usually precook then use in a preparation (al mode de Caen, Parmigiana -all good)

And then of course there is the whole pates and terrines genre - all of which can be made with delicious offal-y bits.

As far as things I've had and didn't like - Spleen was like really liver-y liver. And Lights (lungs) yeah not for me.
posted by JPD at 2:19 PM on April 7, 2009

its usually pretty unhealthy

Loaded with vitamins. Also, loaded with cholesterol and fatty stuff. I love chicken livers, and liver in general, but they're not typically on the menu for me due to dietary concerns.

The more elegant ways to deal with chicken liver usually involve a pate or terrine where the livers are cooked lightly and then pureed in the final dish. This help get rid of the bits of connective tissue and stuff that can be a little chewy and distasteful, and lets you blend in interesting spices and flavors. Also, look out for the occasional greenish gall bladder, they're bitter and inedible.

I have fond family memories of fried chicken livers--chicken livers batter fried like regular fried chicken. These can be slightly tricky to make, you don't want them to be undercooked in the center (yecch), but you don't want them to be hard and overcooked on the outside, either. There used to be a KFC franchise in my neighborhood that sold fried livers made with 'original recipe' batter that were out of this world. Keep in mind that that's taking something that's already an artery-busting grenade and deep frying it in batter, so proceed cautiously.
posted by gimonca at 3:00 PM on April 7, 2009

Also, previously.
posted by gimonca at 3:03 PM on April 7, 2009

Chef John Folse has some really good recipes that you might like, and I'd guess the ingredients would be easy to procure most anywhere.

"Nuttin' But Kickin'" Boudin

Sauteed Chicken Livers Orleans

Creole Dirty Rice

I've made all of these and can vouch for them.

This is something I'd like to make but have yet to try: Roast Bone Marrow and Parsley Salad, Anthony Bourdain's Last Supper
posted by nola at 3:16 PM on April 7, 2009

The japanese eat just about anything, which is how I know about various versions of yakitori! A popular way to eat chicken offal in Japan is skewered, sauced and barbecued - great with beer. Here's a recipe for the marinade. I like the livers and hearts, mmmm tasty.
posted by lizbunny at 3:26 PM on April 7, 2009


No, not the boy band, smartass.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:30 PM on April 7, 2009

I've eaten plenty of offal at Japanese-style Korean BBQ (yakiniku). My favourite, of course, is salted tongue. You buy it pre-sliced and frozen, and cook it for less than a minute, sprinkling it with lemon juice and diced green onion.

I always liked eating grilled beef heart (sliced) as well. The usual dipping sauce is made from mirin cooking wine, soy sauce and a bit of sugar, and some sesame seeds. You can mix in gochujan, too, if you like.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:25 PM on April 7, 2009

I've never heard of livers being classified as offal, but the classic preparation for chicken livers in the south is breaded and fried. My grandmother soaked them in milk for a bit before breading and frying. Her recipe for breading also included a bit of corn meal along with the flour, for a nice crunchy texture, and just salt and pepper.

Now I want chicken livers and biscuits. *sigh*
posted by griffey at 8:10 PM on April 7, 2009

I was going to say: don't forget the hearts, but KokuRyu beat me to it. Grilled beef heart and grilled venison heart is lovely. Add a nice beetroot salad with vinaigrette, and you have a great starter. You could try your hand at andouillette, colon sausage.

You could buy a gallon of pig's blood and make boudin noir, or boudin basque. Do pork chaps count as offal in your dictionary? Makes a mean carbonnade à la flamande, just substitute beef with pork meat.

I once ate cow lips in the Basque country, in some kind of spicy tomato sauce. It's surprisingly yummie. Also, be sure to taste calves brains, turtle style ("Tête de veau en tortue").
posted by NekulturnY at 4:35 AM on April 8, 2009

I had pork lung at a mod-Brit place in Leeds; it tasted like the rest of the animal.
posted by brujita at 9:38 PM on April 8, 2009

I'd second The River Cottage Meat Book - it's both a recipe book and commentary on meat welfare, ethics and more. It's the most impressive cookery book I own and essential if you want to learn more about cooking any kind of meat. I got a copy recently and now am making home-cured bacon from pork belly - the first batch will be ready in two days.
posted by TheDonF at 5:07 AM on April 11, 2009

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