Last week we covered Offal at cooking school. I was determined to at least taste everything we did, so here are the verdicts, saving you the trouble of sampling them all for yourselves:
We prepared beef heart Peruvian-style by slicing it very thin, marinading it overnight in a spicy marinade and then barbequing it over charcoal. It was actually very good – meaty with a slightly softer texture than beef.
Also beef, this was not a pleasant dish to prepare. The whole tongue is boiled for several hours with vegetables, then peeled (yes, peeled) while still warm. The whole thing is then pressed and cooled (to make it look less like what it is) and sliced thinly and served cold with a gribiche sauce of herbs, capers and chopped hard boiled egg. The sauce was good – the texture of the tongue was too soft for me.
This was another dish that was not at all pleasant to prepare. The kidneys (lambs’) were split in half and trimmed, then pan-fryed over high heat and finished with a mustard-butter sauce. The sauce was good. The smell emanating from the frying kidneys was not – after all, we all know what kidneys do in the body …
We prepared pan-fried calves’ liver with caramelised onions and a red wine and cream sauce. This was also good – a much more meaty texture than most of the organs. It was tricky to get it cooked just right though – when over-cooked it had a mealy texture.
Sweetbreads is the rather euphemistic name given to either the thymus (from calves and other young animals) or the pancreas (from older animals). These were poached, then cooled and pressed and some of the membranes removed. They were then coated in seasoned flour and pan-fried to make them crispy and served with a black butter sauce and capers. These weren’t bad – a slightly creamy texture which worked well as long as the outside got good and crispy. Not something I’d order in a restaurant or make, but I would eat it if it were presented to me.
As I’m sure you know, tripe is cow’s stomach. Sounds appetising already, doesn’t it? This was brought to a boil in salted water, then drained and simmered for 6 hours with vegetables. It was then drained, rolled up and chilled. Once cold, we sliced it into thin strips, coated in flour and fried over high heat to make it crispy. This was also served with caramelised onions. It didn’t really taste of anything (perhaps not surprising after all that boiling). The crispy parts were fine, but the texture of the rest was predictably gelatinous. That, plus the fact that it smelled disgusting while boiling made it very much not worth the effort.
Not technically offal (it’s just the tail) but requires a little bit of elaborate preparation as it is mostly bone and quite fatty. It made a very good, rich beef stew.
If this has whetted your appetite, firstly you’re a better eater than me, and secondly, you should check out Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s latest tome, The River Cottage Meat Book, which has all these and the even more scary Lights and Fries (also known as Rocky Mountain Oysters).