TL;DR – This supplementary post gives a basic overview of offal. We hope that it’s not awful.
What is offal anyway? According to Wikipedia, “Offal, also called variety meats or organ meats, refers to the internal organs and entrails of a butchered animal.” While this might in no way sound delicious to the average eater, I salivate at the thought of brain, liver, tongue, and intestines. Offal is delicious.
Offal is also woefully underrated in American cuisine. Offal flies entirely under-the-radar for most people, but those in the know chase after it, flocking to the restaurant with the latest offal offering. It is only with the rising popularity of restaurants such as Quality Meats in New York (order the bone marrow), and The Purple Pig in Chicago (go for the pig ears) that we are finally seeing these delicious animal tid-bits on the menu.
But our Bicoastal readers are not the average eater, in fact, you probably love offal already. In case you have not been introduced to our offal favorites, here they are.
Types of Offal:
There are many, many types of offal. Just think about how many body parts an animal has! This list is by no means comprehensive, just my personal favorites.
Brain – Delicious and buttery without the dairy taste, brains are a delicacy in many parts of the world.
Taste/Texture: Soft, creamy, custard-like, white when cooked
How to eat: Cut and pan-sear; or smear on crusty bread. Can treat it like foie gras
Heart – The heart is a strong muscle filled with blood, surprisingly tasty but can be hard to chew. Don’t overcook it or it will be very tough.
Taste/Texture: Slightly iron-y, chewy, dark red
How to eat: Cut and add to a stir-fry, grill on a shish-kebab, slow braise
Intestines – A delicacy in Gironde or a food of necessity in Colonial America, intestines are fatty, chewy, and smells…rather musty. It’s an acquired taste. It’s also used for sausage casing.
Taste/Texture: Musty, chewy, tender, juicy, gamey
How to eat: slow braise, cut to pieces and stir-fried
Liver – the quintessential offal. Liver is pretty mainstream in most cultures.
Taste/Texture: Grainy, rich, creamy, slightly gamey, buttery
How to eat: Make in pate, slice and pan-fry, make amazing yakitori
Sweetbreads – sweetbreads are actually two body parts – the thymus gland and the pancreas. Both are delicious.
Taste/Texture: Creamy, soft, moist, mild, fatty
How to eat: Saute, braise, grill…can be prepared in similar ways as the brain
Tongue – the tongue is a muscle, a delicious muscle. It tastes like the animal’s meat where it came from. i.e. Beef tongue taste beefy.
Taste/Texture: Chewy, meaty, dense
How to eat: braise, fry, do anything you can do with regular red meat. Don’t be shy to handle it. My favorite is lengua tacos.
Trotters – rich in gelatin, cartilage, and fat. Feet are not an organ, but equally underrated. Trotters are used to make Japanese Tonkotsu broth due to its high fat and gelatin content. And we all know Tonkotsu is damn good.
Taste/Texture: Soft, gelatinous, succulent, tender
How to eat: Great braised or in a rich stew