Offal Good or Offal Bad?

by Gavan on January 12, 2010

OFFAL. Animal innerds such as lungs, hearts, livers, kidneys and intestines.
EXTREMITIES. Animal parts you most likely don’t eat such as heads, tongues, brains, tails & feet.

Hence the question: Offal Good or Awful Bad?

The other day while perusing my local “ghetto Ralph’s” grocery store (if you live in Venice you know where I’m talking about) I saw something I hadn’t noticed before. Jarred pigs trotters. I’ve seen the regular trotters in the meat section before but not this pickled variety. I wonder how long these jars keep for? Does anyone really eat this stuff? Then I had a flashback to my yout.

Growing up in Ireland in the 70’s times were tough as our economy wasn’t the may west. If there was ever one thing the Irish learned to do well it was cooking hearty meals on the cheap, after all that’s where Irish stew came from. Surviving on the Island meant utilizing every bit of what you had. This meant utilizing our national animal to its fullest (that part I just made up). Not surprising then that I’ve eaten a variety of animal innerds, such as livers and kidneys. Even had my crack at ox-tail and cow’s tongue. These were cheap parts of meat that brought tons of flavour to stews, pies and puddings. Ever heard of beef and kidney pie? Haggis? (Scottish I know but you get the point). That recipe has it all–sheep’s paunch, or stomach bag, and sheep’s pluck, the heart, liver and lights. (Lights?) In other words, not the stuff you’d be buying generally or….ever. Taking a gander at my Mum’s Mum’s cookbooks dating from the 20-50’s there are several recipes using offal: Calf’s brain fritters, sweetbreads, liver and bacon, stewed ox-tail, Fricassee of tripe, cow heel jelly, and those are just a few of ’em. Seems the Irish were way ahead of their time in sustainable eating. Who knew?!

Now I don’t know what it was like in the States back then, if offal was as abundant as it was across the pond, but according to my Missus the only thing she was raised around was Menudo, a Mexican soup made with tripe and/or cow’s feet. I’m actually quite curious about what type of offal Americans ate growing up, if any. I know that my clients are not requesting offal, though my specialty is healthy food so my proteins don’t consist of major excitement I’m afraid, apart from the way I cook them of course. Perhaps eating offal is saved for a night out at a new restaurant where bone marrow and mason jarred pates run aplenty. They seem to be all over the shop these days. Sweetbreads have always been around in the posh expensive restaurants but now they seem to be more accessible than ever. Have you noticed the offal comeback? Just yesterday I received an email about Offal Good @ Palate in Glendale, a local restaurant offering offal every Wednesday night and truth be told I did have a tasteen of bone marrow not too long ago at Cache. Nearly everyone at the table had a crack at it and we were all in hog heaven. Perhaps America does like something offal.

Bone Marrow

Let’s just hope the prices don’t skyrocket now because it’s trendy. After all, these are the cheapest parts of the animal. Anywho the question I have for you is simply this,

Offal good or bloody offal bad?

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Jenny January 12, 2010 at 8:32 pm

I didn’t grow up eating offal — I’m Jewish so the closest I got was lots of chicken liver (and cooked in shmaltz or chicken fat). However, my husband is Portuguese and he definitely grew up eating tripe and liver and I’ve eaten my fair share at fine restaurants.

Sure, there are some things that make us uncomfortable, but in my opinion we are eating flesh as it is, and we should take advantage of the whole animal if we are (and it is fine to be vegetarian and vegan) and some of it tastes damn good.

Gavan Murphy aka the H.I. January 15, 2010 at 3:19 pm

Hey Jenny, I agree with you. If we’re going to eat the flesh we may as well go the whole hog and tuck into the innerds as well. It’s not for everyone I know but some of it tastes great.

Raphael January 20, 2010 at 1:38 pm

When I was a boy (back in the 70’s) we ate all sorts of organ meats. Liver, kidney, tripe, heart and gizzards. Oxtail stew was a perennial favorite around our house, and I still make it when I can get a hold of good tails. I don’t know how it is in Cali, but around here (here being New Mexico), offal has already made the transition to “specialty meat”. If you want anything other than liver or tripe, you can expect to pay quite a bit for it.

Gavan Murphy aka the H.I. January 20, 2010 at 5:42 pm

We’re both the same age so maybe it was easier to find and get your hands on things like oxtail and so forth back then. Btw oxtail soup was one of my favourites although I haven’t had it since I was a teenager. There’s an idea. I might look into that but as you say these offal are becoming specialty and harder to get our mits on. A lot of these higher end restaurants are putting them back on the menu but they’re charging big time. How times have changed right?
Thanks for the input, appreciate it.

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