Yes, to some, the word offal is awful; the mere thought of pig’s feet, livers, kidneys, sweetbreads-you know, the ugly bits-is really off-putting. I bet you know by the way this is going that I love the stuff (to a point)! There are some edible parts of commodity livestock, poultry and seafood that I am not really going to go out of my way to freely digest. If and when I am travelling, I may be presented a chef’s special dish, and then of course I am going to partake. I think it is a part of the chef’s honor code and duty of the chef’s coat to never say no. I also think it is a litmus test, trying to see if you are a true foodie, especially when you have been called out as a chef by the service staff. Case in point, Shanghai: too many local beers, chilled beef tendon, blood soup and sea sponge. There were definitely a few things on that spinning Lazy Susan that were animal parts I had never seen.
Then there is the joy of the dining experience with the stars of the culinary world. They are the liver terrines, braised sweet breads and truffles, head cheese and last night’s dinner of braised pig’s feet in gochujang, soy and ginger. I think in some cases the dislike is generational; I think it comes from bad cooking, simpler times and lost culinary art forms. I have fond memories of sautéed chicken livers with my mom, but not so much of the braised beef heart of boarding school. I think that memory of eating dinner with my mom brought me to love basler suuri lääberli and rösti-sautéed liver and onions, red vinegar, demi-glace and fresh herbs, to be exact, served with that touch of pink on the livers. My Sunday night treat a local restaurant with a couple of beers when I was bored with the hotel employee meal.
My mom was from the Greatest Generation and a WWII vet and so appreciated that if you were hungry you would eat; chicken livers or beef lard on toast was a special treat of her youth. That is the beauty of these cuts of meat-they were inexpensive, but when cooked with passion, understanding and care, brought a lot to the table and can definitely bring a smile to your face.
I was happy inside when I saw that one of the dishes of interest in that chef’s test I always reference is steak and kidney pie. You know I was ready to roll that one. Flaky pastry made with butter and lard, beef, kidneys, a good beer, lots of onions & my secret weapon, anchovy sauce to kick that umami up a couple of notches.
Yes, not all things have a bad rap, especially when you can afford to eat them. I just processed a kilo of Grade A Foie Gras and am loving every minute of it. So, when you are looking around the menu for something different, don’t turn your nose up at tripe in a Saturday meundo, pig’s feet for a zampone and lentils, soft tendon in a phȏ, or most loved of all, grab a cold one and steamed hot dog with all the fixin’s. Do you know what goes in there? The truest form of snout to tail sustainability if there ever was!
Favorite Hot Dog Joint Growing Up
Three things only: mustard, onions and relish. The hot dog steamer has been welded so many times they can’t count.
There are many things to drink depending on the offal things you want to eat. If you are going to have foie gras and they have Tripel Karmeliet on the beer list, give it a try.
Bright, luscious silky head, crisp bite, earthy yeasty notes and strong enough to stand up to the richness of the foie gras.