My first culinary adventure in life involved mud pies, insects and leaves in the backyard at the age of six. So it should come as no surprise that now, at 25, I’m finding myself playing with odd ingredients again.
Our current apprentice, Noah, and I were talking one day about all the peculiar bits of meat that the average Joe doesn’t consume…we’re talking organs, offal, and other leftovers after the meat is fully processed. We began to formulate a lofty goal of trying to make these odd bits taste good – and what has ensued has been a sometimes successful, sometimes disappointing, yet always memorable escapade into unfamiliar recipes. Relying heavily on Sally Fallon’s masterpiece, Nourishing Traditions, we began our first attempts last month.
First, we slow-cooked beef tendons in a soy sauce blend; all our tasters gave that a hearty two-thumbs-down, mostly based on texture. Next came beef heart, which was a considerable step in the right direction. We then learned how to de-bone a pig’s head, getting by with a little help from our friends in the form of a YouTube video. We slow-cooked beef tongue in jalapenos and onions for tacos, and this has been our greatest success yet. Most recently we went through the extended process of prepping, poaching, breading, and frying beef sweetbreads. These were hard for me to get down, based on a very distinct aftertaste. Up next are chicken hearts and livers, which we’re finding to be endlessly inspiring.
These odd bits have incredible nutrition, no question – and I’m sure there are some readers out there shaking their heads at how I am just now learning to appreciate these pieces and parts. So I am curious:
What meats have you cooked that are a little unusual? Did you grow up eating these or learn to appreciate them later?
Why do you think some of these pieces have fallen out of “fashion” with the modern American home cook?
Do you have any tips for us?