Welcome back to the Butcher’s Hook, the official blog by Lothian Meats looking at the very best in meat and food! In today’s blog we will look at an often discarded choice of cuts: Offal! Now, often overlooked offal is making a comeback. Since the food revolution of the 90s, increasingly we have seen client’s turn to these delicious cuts that are cheap, tasty and incredibly healthy.
The fact is, however, that we eat very little offal. Clearly, we need to pay attention to more of the animal. Potatoes roasted in pork fat add a unique depth of flavor. Fry your chicken in beef tallow and — besides flavor — you’ve got an incredibly heat-stable fat, unlike a lot of vegetable oils. Roast those bones after you’ve cooked a chicken for a hearty stock that will save you from running to the grocery store to grab a quart of chicken-flavored sodium-bomb water for your risotto.
But let’s up your game a bit and start eating more offal. Organ meats from grass-fed, fully pastured animals are some of the most nutrient-rich foods you can eat. Offal is incredibly nutritious and loaded with minerals, vitamins and amino acids that are vital to our health. Liver is one of nature’s most concentrated sources of vitamin A. Heart contains an incredibly unique mix of nutrients that boost stamina and endurance and build muscle. It’s also rich in vitamin B12. And kidneys, while being incredibly lean (if you trim off all that delicious fat) and also loaded with B12, come packed with riboflavin and iron.
Okay, so with all this nutritional content, you’re going to have enough energy to run a half marathon as well as great-looking skin, but you still might be thinking, “There’s no way I’m eating heart!” Here are a few tips to make the transition a bit more palatable for the uninitiated.
Try anticuchos, our go-to dish for the newly initiated. It’s incredibly easy to prepare and cooks in minutes. You’ll want to marinate the heart overnight in a mix of spices, peppers, and, of course, an acid like vinegar. This will help break down the muscle and tenderise it. Skewer it, place it for three or four minutes on your grill and what you’ll have is a meaty, flavourful cut that will erase the words “stew cubes” from your lexicon the next time someone says “kebabs.” You will want to slice the heart into thinnish pieces so that the acid can penetrate quicker while it marinates. Those thicker chunks are better for braises, or — even better — grind some into your burger for a rich depth of flavour!
Liver is eaten all over the world using many preparations, and whether you enjoy it fried, whipped into a mousse or raw as sashimi, you’re getting an incredible amount of nutrients and flavor. Not quite ready to tackle a plate of beef liver with some fava beans and a Chianti? A mousse or pâté made with chicken livers is a great springboard into all things liver. You’ll need little more than liver, spice and fats like cream and butter before Chris Cosentino is calling you to be his next charcutier. If you want to go the simple liver-and-onions route right out of the gate, make sure to give the livers a soak in an acid or milk to reduce the metallic taste you might not be accustomed to.
Kidneys are a tasty cut and take on flavors easily. The freshest and best kidneys are plump and free of odors and discoloration. Again, like other organ meats, kidneys benefit from a soak; either in salty water or an acid is fine. One of my favorite preparations is to sauté with butter and herbs and serve atop a piece of crusty bread. An easier way for the offal-timid is savory pie. Seal diced meat and kidney — along with onions and gravy — in a flaky pie, and you’ll be able to sneak it past the pickiest of eaters.
If you’re looking to get a bit more adventurous, there are always things like brain, spleen, tripe and even lungs! Again, you’ll want to buy these items extremely fresh or frozen, as they are highly perishable, and only from grass-fed, fully pastured animals.