There’s been a lot of talk in the last couple of years about eating “nose to tail.” That’s to say, we shouldn’t just be eating steaks and roasts (i.e., animal muscle), but organs, skin, sinews and the like. This is a tough one for many. Most of us in the West haven’t eaten these cuts for a generation. How many people remember getting a pass on mum and dad’s liver and onions? I sure did. So did my missus. She would hide in the basement to escape the smell!
I’m not squeamish when it comes to food. I will give pretty much anything a try. Balut? I think I’d go for it if I was in the Far East. Mopane worms? If I’m ever in southern Africa, sign me up. As I wrote earlier this week, I gave calf’s liver a go over the weekend. Why? It’s nutrient dense. It’s good for me. We are made to eat these things. I also had a Gordan Ramsay recipe in an old book where he raves about calf’s liver. I figured it may be a good way into offal. Oh boy was I wrong.
I cooked it just like I was instructed: don’t overcook it, pink in the middle. I also figured it may be a struggle to just sit there and eat 10 oz of liver, so I fried up some leeks in butter and garlic. How did it go? Not bad at first. Yet, every bite was harder than the last. The texture, the taste got worse as the meal wore on. I should add that I had a glass a red wine with this. This was the first glass of wine in nearly three months. I figured I’d need something to wash down the liver. I was right.
So, the experience was not a good one. I chucked out the last quarter of it. Maybe Ken Berry is right. It’s just a matter of getting my palate used to it. Like I wrote the other day, I’ll cook a small piece with my steak and go from there.
Of course, there are other dishes to try. Liver is an obvious “go to” because it’s so quick and easy to prepare. Still, one type of offal that I’ve eaten for years now is oxtail. This is exactly what it says on the tin: the tail of a cow or bull. This is a great cut for stew. There is so much connective tissue in the tail that slow cooking makes this a giant collagen feast. The meat is delicious too. I’ll write up a recipe on this. The only problem with this cut is that you need hours to stew it: at least six! You can braise them, but again we’re talking six to eight hours.
Another one that is tasty is ox cheek. Feel your own cheek for a moment. Doesn’t it feel soft and spongy? So too does the ox’s cheek. These are very good for slow cooking. I must confess that I’ve only had this at the restaurant. It’s on my list for the holidays.
Speaking of which another way to get some offal into your stomach with no pain is using it to create a stock. Goose has been my roast of choice at Christmas for nearly a decade, and I always make a lovely red wine gravy. The base is a stock that I make from the goose’s neck, liver, heart, lungs and kidneys. I do the same whenever I roast duck.
Bone marrow is another dish I’ve had at the restaurant. It is really, really good. However, it’s so rich that I don’t know how much I would want to have it. Still, it’s something I probably should have more of.
There’s a final cut that I’ve been curious about for years but have just never got round to doing anything about it: ox tongue. There are many recipes out there and advocates swear by it. This is one I’m ordering from my butcher over the holiday season.
This is largely new ground for me. I really did not like liver but will persevere and see where it goes. I’m very curious about ox tongue. I should have more marrow, ox tail and ox cheek too. The problem is really about time. So these dishes will be for the weekends. Watch this space.