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!


  1. Just wondering, aren't you concern about consuming non pastured raised animals' offals? The conventional raised animals are usually raised in a very bad environment thus their organs might store some of the toxins? Just a thought!

  2. Hi Jos! Welcome to the blog!

    In regards to toxins in the liver....I did a lot of research on the subject a few months ago and came to realize that most experts agree that toxins aren't stored in the liver but rather the fat of the animal. So, liver is safe in my house! ;-)

    ((If I remember correctly, I got the information from here - - but I can't seem to get that page to work this morning so I can verify it.))

    Thanks for the comment!

  3. Mmmmm offal... I love it!

    Fowl giblets, calf liver, beef heart... oh sooo good! I live for Liverwurst! LOL

    I will cook up chicken and turkey livers just because and I use calf and beef liver as well as heart in stew and chili. One one thing that is great about offal is it is much less expensive then cuts of meat. I really need to make pate again.


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