Friday, January 25, 2008

Offal - Awful?

A few things I've read recently and a trip to the hyper market today got me thinking about offal and how in the states it seems to be increasingly unpopular, the same is true in England as well. Yet it seems as popular as ever here in France. Maybe its an Anglo-Saxon thing?
I'm old enough to remember that my Mother (who was not much of a cook) used to cook offal. We had liver, beef heart, & kidneys that I can remember. I also remember that pickled pigs feet which came in a big glass jar were a real treat. I still like all of those things.
In France everything is used it seems. And many of the offal items are not exactly cheap either; they're certainly not virtually given away, if you can find them, as they are in the states & England. There is a huge variety of 'bits & pieces' that one can buy. I'm going to go through as many as I can remember with some purely personal comment upon my like & dislikes.

LIVER. I like liver; especially calves liver. It needs to be gently cooked and the traditional bacon & onions do go well.
KIDNEY. Again a thing I like. I'm lucky enough to be married to a Northern English woman who knows how to make steak & kidney pie to die for. Her suet dumplings to go with it a equally heavenly.
TESTICLES. Can't think of a more honest name & I hate the euphemisms. In any case I'm pretty neutral about them. I'll eat them if presented, but I'd probably never order them in a restaurant. Too many other things I like better.
TRIPE. As far as I'm concerned there's nothing much to like or dislike about tripe. It doesn't have much taste or character as far as I can tell. I do, however, like some of the dishes that its put in. Its one of local local specialties here and they do some nice dishes.
STOMACH. Otherwise known as haggis in the English speaking world. It very much depends upon how the haggis is made. I've had awful & I've had divine.
T√ąTE DE VEAU. Yummy! A favorite dish. Rarely bad & usually delicious.
HEADCHEESE. Another euphemism, but I love it anyway. I am especially fond of the French version studded with chopped up little cornichons. I've also had a form of rillettes made wholly from bits of a pigs head. That was pretty nice too.
TROTTERS. Pied de porc in French. As I mentioned above I like them pickled. Most of the other ways I've had them are Ok, but pretty tasteless in my opinion. I did have some which had been marinated, pounded flat & roasted which were wonderful. This was at a restaurant in Madrid & I've never seen them done this way again.
PIGS EARS. The French love these, but I've never seen the attraction. Again, fairly tasteless in my opinion. Now then when we used buy baked pigs ears for our dog sthat was different story. They loved them!
QUEUE. Pigs tail, another thing the French seem to love. I can't say that it has much taste, but it does seem to add a certain nice consistency to the dishes where its used.
PATES, TERRINE'S & MOUSSES. Most tend to use offal of some sort even if its only liver. Anyway there are few that I don't like. Its great fun here to go into the charcuterie and have choice of 8-10 or more to choose from. Love it!
FRITTONS. I don't know just how local these are, but they are a type of pate made with various bits & pieces including types of offal. I've seen them made from duck, veal and pig. Some taste pretty good others are a bit off putting.
Around here there is another type of fritton as well. This is a duck's carcass (the breasts, legs & thighs have been removed.) which has been slowly cooked in duck fat so the meat that left has been turned into comfit. I only know of one place to buy them already done, but you can buy the raw carcasses fairly easily. Probably not really offal, but sort of in the same vein. Its an interesting alternative to using the carcass for making stock.
STUFFING. Most forcemeat stuffings are all the better for having the bird's offal included as are gravy's.

What have I missed? Don't know, but if anybody wants to remind me feel free.

Bottom line is that overall I like offal more than not. We'd have a poorer diet & cuisine without it. So...

Vive la France! for keeping it going.

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