Wednesday, August 11, 2010

5 Unlikely Animal Parts You NEED To Learn How To Cook -'Cause They're Awesome

(Looks good, no? See #5)
photo by Emily Fleischaker

My friends Kat and Sarah asked me to pick 5 things I'd really love to mention on their (big-time) company's food site Eatocracy. So I got thinking about how we've all been getting ripped-off lately. With more and more bits and bops showing up on chefs' menus, I think we can all admit, the times they are a-changin'. Truth be told, these chef characters are taking us for a bit of a ride. See, bits and bops are really cheap and with only a little know-how, they're really good. So you can either shell out all your hard-earned cash to this guy, or this guy, who will rip you off, OR you can learn a few simple tips to make these things yourself.

It's time to grow up and cook some nasty bits. Here's how you can get started:

1. Chicken Hearts - You'll find these at almost every butcher's counter (if not, they can order them for you). They're super-cheap, and when grilled, they taste like meat candy. In South America, you'll find them skewered, sprinkled with coarse salt and grilled until they're just pink on the inside. Every single person who tries them becomes an instant convert.

(Try not to think about what the tongue tasted before you tasted the tongue.)

2. Beef Tongue - The only gross thing about tongue is that it looks like a big ol' tongue. Oh, and you'll need to peel it, but that's the fun part. Buy a tongue, put it in the pressure cooker with 1-inch of beef stock and cook for 30 minutes. (Or do it this way.) Let it cool, peel it, and serve slices on sandwiches, crostini, or chopped up in a ragout. The meat is silky-soft and absolutely chock-full-o-flavor.

3. Monkfish Liver - This is a surprise to a lot of folks, but monkfish liver is the foie gras of the sea. If the fish guy at the market has monkfish liver, I'm buying it. Seared in a little butter, it has a rich flavor and texture and makes a perfect first course with some pickled shallots or a lemony-jalapeño slaw.

4. Turkey Gizzards - Gizzards are the un-chewable tough bits that are shoved into the hole of the Thanksgiving bird. (Chickens have them, too.) You could add them to the gravy, but a much better use is to confit them. Once you've collected a few (freeze them as you come across them), salt them and cover them with fat in a pan (olive oil works, so does turkey-duck-chicken fat) and let them simmer for 11/2 hours. Sliced thinly, they have a super-soft-yet-meaty texture and a very mild flavor.

(Who doesn't?)

5. Testicles of Any Kind - As you know, I've covered gonads here before. Recently, I found some lamb balls at the butcher and they surprised (happily) my dinner guests (albeit, after they got used to the idea). Peel away the sack, pierce the membrane, and roast. Whether you want to then slice and fry these bops (like the first picture in the post) is up to you, but their texture is cloud-like (think sweetbreads, but smoother) and their flavor so mild that they pair well with just about anything. Those lamb balls were the star of a spring salad of beets, beans, shallots, and mache. The dish was awesome.


  1. I read your CNN profile today. Honestly, despite my delight in epicurean fare and my status as a carnivore, I couldn't get past the photo. No offense, but you're one of those guys whom I loathe on sight; Aryan Nation-esque looks, wearing a SCULLY cap of all pretentious things, holding up carnage with the hubris of a Gestapo major, decorating your home with mid-eighties gothware from the Cher home furnishings catalogue. You delight in mooshing your fingers through detritus organs of farm animals, you eat chicken hearts, and YOU'RE A BEEKEEPER. All we need are some death head moths and a little fey poodle and you'd be a Pennsylvania Dutch version of Buffalo Bill from Silence of the Lambs.

    I have only one question--what on Earth was Gourmet Magazine thinking?

  2. Anonymous: I LOVE your sense of humor (I ate that deer's brain, tongue, eyeballs, everything...nothing was wasted). Really, have the balls to tell us who you are. We MUST get together... good times to come. (I don't get the Aryan Nation reference, though...that seems a little mean-spirited.)

  3. Get together? To roast some weenies?

    Oh, it was all mean-spirited--and please, like you've never heard the Aryan Nation reference before. My partner is from Germany, and even he winced at the resemblance to neo-con skinheads.

    I will say this--what I wouldn't give to have a look in your freezer! It's probably a Grand Guignol version of Noah's Ark in there!

  4. Anon: Irony of ironies - suggesting that someone is a member of some Aryan Nation simply because they have blue eyes is full-on racism. There is no place for that here; take your anger issues somewhere else.

  5. Since this is your blog, I will honor that request. But understand--it isn't the blue eyes and Teutonic features. As I mentioned, my partner is a German citizen, and I'm far from a racist. It's the photo of you with a shaved head, wearing an olive scully cap vaguely reminiscent of Nazi-era police uniforms, standing in front of a brass human skull wall sconce, holding the severed head of a deer, bubba.

    You put the image out there for everyone to cope with--and many of us found it deeply disturbing and offensive. You willfully chose the celebrity spotlight, you've profited handsomely from the attention, and you can't possibly claim that your polemics aren't purposefully designed. So it's a bit hypocritical and disingenuous for you to act pious when one of us pushes back.

    I'm sure you're a fabulous chef, and you're clearly talented, but even those of us who are dyed in the wool meat lovers are entitled to object when you turn the culinary arts into a display at Madame Tussaud's. I don't need anyone to thrust animal carnage at me while I'm trying to digest--I have Fuddrucker's for that.

    And just so you won't continue to hurl ad hominem attacks my way, my name is Steve, and you can feel free to email me anytime at

    Enjoy those eyeballs.

  6. Must be my Semitic naiveté, but I was thinking, "Hmmm, he's kinda handsome." Oh yes, and also, "I've got to get me some chicken hearts and lamb balls!"

  7. Glad to see you touting the nose to tail ethos. I went to St John recently, really enjoyed it. I tried a few bits of offal I hadn't had before, my favourite of which was bone marrow.

    Now I can see why you are fan of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall as well, all about making the best of what you've got. Waste not, want not and all that.

    Love what I have seen of your blog so far, will be visiting again soon!

  8. Chicken hearts. I haven't had them since I was a kid. Then the other summer, one of my dad's neighbors was frying them up at the annual goat roast. I have to admit, they creep me out, but after a few lagers, I can't lay off.

  9. Thirty years ago I could pop down to my local supermarket and pick up a tongue, fresh or smoked. Today I need a search party to find one. Had a great recipe for sandwich spread that combined tongue and chicken breast.It was orginally meant for "tea sandwiches".

  10. Hi Ian, please keep writing!!!
    I'm from México and I often eat tongue or intestine as an after-party snack, I know what you're talking about.
    Now if only I could find a monkfish liver in Baja :)

  11. Miss Jim, A new post is just days away... stay tuned!