Thursday, June 23, 2011

Offal isn't Awful

I'm lucky enough to live within half a mile of an Asian Market.  Let me tell you...the first few time I wandered through the meat section I was completely grossed out by the "wide selection" of pig, cow, and chicken parts available.  Chicken feet, beef tongue, and let's not forget the gizzards, liver, kidney, and hearts of all three animals.  I quickly ordered my ground beef, grabbed a bag of chicken leg quarters and ran for more familiar parts of the store.

A year or so later, I can blissfully tell you that the idea of cooking and eating offal (the entrails and internal organs of a butchered animal) doesn't scare me as much.  I think the turning point was when I had grilled beef heart in a Peruvian restaurant in So Cal.  Sooo yummy!  That's when I started to explore the possibilities of offal and all of it's yummy goodness.

Every once in a while, I'd buy something new from the store, do a little research online (what would we do without the internet!?!?!?!) and try my hand at cooking something.  My first try was liver.  Now, you have to understand that I've always been a big fan of liver, especially when it's accompanied by a pile of onions and mushrooms cooked in the leftover grease, (yes, I know my sisters are turning green right now - my mom used to kill liver...turned them off for life!) but I've always left it up to some chef to cook it for me.  After listening to a cooking podcast where they talked about the best way to cook liver, I decided to try my hand at it. 

After some experimenting, I now have a method I like: I soaked the liver in water for an hour to help draw out some of the "livery" taste (most people soak it in milk but I don't have any and cream is just too expensive to water has to do).  After a good soak, I dry it off, add a good dose of salt and pepper, and hard seared it on both sides in my cast iron pan.  Then I toss the whole thing into the oven to finish cooking to medium.  I've come to realize that liver is better at medium - it's like eating pâté.

Chicken gizzards...well, that's another story.  My mom used to cook those in white sauce until they were the consistency of rubber bands and then serve them over egg noodles.  *shudder*  Ah, yes, the great food memories of my childhood.  ;-)  I seriously feared these...until the day I found a pack at Safeway on super-duper clearance (50% off).  After some research online, I decided to broil them in salt, pepper, oil, and cumin.  These have to be watched carefully - if they get brown, they're overcooked and rubbery.  I was surprised at how good they were.  I wouldn't eat them every day....but it is something to add to my culinary closet for later.

Now, chicken hearts are another story.  On the same podcast as the liver story, they had a chef talk about a "simple appetizer" she always made right before any dinner party - broiled chicken hearts.  You marinated the chicken hearts in a combination of cumin, paprika, touch of cinnamon, salt, pepper, olive oil, and lemon juice and then broiled them until they are cooked through.

With chicken hearts, there's a thin line between "cooked and perfect" and "overcooked and rubbery".  The first time I cooked them, they were like small rubber balls (I ground them up and made pate out of them) so now I know to pull them when I think they're "almost" done.  That usually means that they are done and about to head into rubberland.  Super yummy!

My next experiment will be beef tongue.  I was watching one of the Top Chef shows lately (or maybe it was MasterChef Australia - I can't remember) and they were saying that if you liked beef brisket, you'll live beef tongue.  I love anything I'll give it a day...someday soon.

The nice thing about getting over my fear of offal is that it's expanded the choices of "affordable proteins" available for our consumption.  Since most people are grossed out by the thought of eating these "misc parts", these are usually inexpensive, though keep in mind that they can be hard to find.  The "regular" chain grocery stores around here rarely carry offal so I have to go to the Asian store down the street to get my supply. 

Have you tried anything new lately?  What's your take on offal?  Comment below!

Monday, June 20, 2011

After-effects of the Cold From Hell

Yes, I am alive still.  ;-)  All I can say is you never realize how nice it is to breath without coughing or having to have a box of Kleenex nearby until you've spent 3 weeks in cold hell.  My kids are still coughing a little and my daughter has a minor ear infection, but it looks like this cold is on its way out of the house. 

This ick is rampaging through the valley.  It seems everywhere I go, someone is coughing.  The doc at the after-hour clinic told us that she's treated a lot of bronchitis, pneumonia and sinus infections thanks to that nasty virus.  I'm thankful that we walked away from it with only one minor ear infection.

I'm sure our Paleo-centric diet has something to do with our success.  The kids demanded a LOT of fruit.  Tthankfully, we're entering summer and all of the yummy summer fruit (watermelon, peaches, nectarines, apricots, etc) are on sale right now so I let eat what they wanted. 

To tell you the truth, I did the same.  To hell with keeping to a low-carb Paleo sort of diet - I wanted to get well and to do that, I knew my body needed fuel.  Anyway, who can pass up 19 cents a lb watermelon?  Especially one I knew came off of a farm just 40 miles away.  Yum!

I also ate through a lot of the frozen chicken broth that I'd been storing up over the last six months.  At one point, my throat was so sore, that all I craved was hot chicken broth, boiling-hot tea, and a 7-11 cherry slurpee.  Don't worry - I stayed away from the slurpee and gorged on tea and broth instead.  But now the freezer is looking pretty lonely now.  Gonna have to start rebuilding my stash again for winter.

Anyway, I'm well now and getting back into the swing of things.  I have May's food budget all calculated....I just need to hunt down the disc that has my photo-editing software on it and install it.  (Did I mention that I got a new-used-computer last month?  I'm still loading stuff on it and getting it set up the way I like it.  Who knew I needed so much software!)  I should have that up in a few days.

I hope June has treated you better than me!  

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

No, I am not dead!

No, I am not dead...but I did come pretty damn close.

Okay, I'm joking, of course...well, kinda. See, there's a story behind my absence....

It started 2 weeks ago when I took my daughter to her annual checkup at the doctor's office.  And though we stayed on the "healthy" side of the waiting room and washed our hands before and after leaving, we still came down with a cold. 

While the kids got the fever and a runny nose, I came down with the worst of it - the nasty respiratory cold decided to camp out in my sinuses, lungs, and throat for the last week.  When I wasn't washing dishes, breaking up fights, doling out meds to the kids, or making food, I was lying on the couch or bed and praying for death.  (The joys of single motherhood!)  I wasted away my "non-kid" weekend lying on the couch, coughing up my lungs and blowing my nose inbetween fevered naps.  I did venture out Sunday morning to do a little grocery shopping to get us through the week, but otherwise, I stayed down and out, waiting for the ick to pass.

Thankfully, it is passing.  I still have a cough and the annoying runny nose, but I can sit at the computer for more than an hour before I have to give in to the "crawl under the desk and die" feeling.  A few more days and I should be past this mess...and we can go back to Paleo fun!  ;-)

BTW: let me add that I am thankful that I had a freezer full of chicken broth.  That's what I lived off of for the last week.  Plenty of chicken and carrot soup to go around!  ;-)