We want to take this opportunity to sincerely hope that everyone had a great holiday and look forward to what 2013 will bring us all. For our New Year’s Eve dinner this year, we decided to stay in and cook up a feast: an offal feast that is. We have excellent friends where in lieu of Christmas gifts, we give each other a themed meal to remember every year. This year’s theme for us was “offal” because we wanted to challenge our friend’s palate and rid her fears of animal parts unknown.
We strongly believe in the philosophy of eating head-to-tail as part of paying respect to the animal that nourishes us carnivores. Offal is usually thought of as organs, but it can also mean other parts of the animal usually discarded after butchering. Although this particular meal used less desirable cuts from animals, it was meant to be a very nice multi-course dining experience.
This is the menu we prepared for our guests. There is no particular rhyme or reason to this total menu other than it was made from offal parts from various animals (click to enlarge):
The “Skin” course comprised of pig skin turned into crispy chicharrón. It was made by boiling the skin for about 2.5 hours, scraping the fat off, dehydration for 24+ hours and then deep fried. This image shows the skin post-boiled prior to overnight refrigeration to prepare it for the scraping process. At this point, the skin is so soft that it could be cut into strips and used as ‘noodles,’ but we had a different purpose for it:
The finished product is shown after deep frying the skin chips and seasoning with Kosher salt and Japanese Togarashi spice. The chicharrónes were airy and crispy:
The “Gonads, Ink and Fat Back” course was inspired by a dish from Michael White’s Marea restaurant in New York with an update from Chris Costentino (Incanto) tweeting about squid ink bread he saw on a trip to Japan. I make no-knead bread quite often, so it was simple to add 2 packets of squid ink to the bread to make the crostini. The lardo in this case was 4505 Meat’s Smoked Fat Back that was frozen and sliced thinly on the bias. Ink bread slices were brushed with olive oil and toasted, then topped with the uni and lardo slices:
We chose this dish since we thought it would be good to have a seafood course in an otherwise meaty experience. A kitchen torch finished the crostini to “melt” the lardo enough to form an almost translucent window to view the sea urchin. The lardo added a velvety texture in addition to a nice smoky flavor:
The “Liver” course of Foie Gras wasn’t challenging our friend’s palate as much as it added some decadence to the meal since it is now banned in California. The liver was quick seared and served with a rum-based Mostarda made with dried persimmons. We served the dish with fresh fuyu persimmon slices and a simple escarole and parsley salad to cut back some of the richness:
The next course featured a beef tongue that was rubbed with spices then cooked in a sous-vide water bath for 48 hours:
The tongue was sliced and cooked on a stove top grill pan and glazed with its cooking juice. It would be served as a slider on home-made black sesame buns. A horseradish mousse made with home-made crème fraîche and the root was used as a spicy spread:
The tongue was topped with peppery arugula and sweet pickled red onions:
Our friend told us that this “Tongue and Foot” dish was the one that scared her the most on the menu since she didn’t like the thought of eating a tongue or trotter. She overcame her fear and was able to enjoy eating the items. In this case, the foot was represented by “Trotter Tots” that were made with potatoes and the meat from a pressure-cooked pig’s foot and leg. A winter chicory salad dressed with anchovy and parmesan cream completed the course:
The “Stomach and Tail” main course was a deconstructed version of the Filipino Kare Kare oxtail and tripe stew made with a peanut sauce. The oxtail and tripe were oven-braised in beef stock for 3.5 hours and the tail meat was deboned prior to serving. Eggplant and green beans were oven roasted to bring out the sweetness of the vegetables. The tail and tripe strips were served on rice vermicelli cakes with drizzled peanut sauce (made with peanut butter, braising juices and salted shrimp):
During menu planning, we figured we needed a lighter dessert to finish off the heavy meal with. This dessert does not feature any offal, but instead we went for the flavor profile that our friend loves: a layered Black Sesame Panna Cotta topped with a white wine piloncillo gelée. The only recipe followed, I would suggest adding more gelatin to the base of the panna cotta since these weren’t set enough to unmold. The black sesame custard was very tasty:
We pretty much consumed one bottle of wine per person between the 4 of us to help us ring in the New Year with style. Champagne and Grenache Blanc were paired with the earlier courses. The Barbaresco paired well with the tongue and tail courses, and we went back to some bubbly to toast to 2013 at midnight along with the dessert course:
All in all, the dinner was considered a success where our guest even chose to bring some of the leftover tongue and trotter tots home with her. We could have chosen more awful offal but decided that we would reel her in slowly then continue the challenge over the next year. It was a great way to start an Offaly Great New Year.
Note: we did not post any step-by-step recipes in this post, but we may in future posts, or send on any on request.
I’m onest with you, I don’t like offal parts, although I have never taste them (except for “ciccioli” – crunchy chip-like fatty leftover pieces of pork), but you know, I think that is because my mom doesn’t like them and in some ways she has affected me, so I’m feeling like your friend, but I have to tell you that you did really an amazing job!!!
They were absolutely not simple dishes to make, you had to pay attention and care a lot to obtain the final result and you were able to combine perfectly the “senses” in every dish, so good job!!!
And you have to believe me that I certainly would have liked to taste them!
Ilaria, Thanks very much for the nice compliments. We will need to take you on an offal challenge as well. Italy has so many great offal dishes. One of the best examples we had was the Finanziera at Antica Corona Reale in Cervere – maybe you can try that one day if you are ever in Piemonte. Many of the lesser cuts like oxtail and tripe do require longer cooking times to break down the muscle tissue. But in the end, it is all worth it since it becomes very tender and tasty. Hopefully one day you will agree.
Here I can find offal parts at every grocery store, there are traditional dishes that involve them in every region, my husband love them so it’s just me that if I have to choose between an offal and “normal” part I choose the second one;)
My mother in law makes the best Trippa/Tripe ever (told by everyone who eat it), so one day I’ll ask her the recipe and write it on the blog.
My purpose is writing also traditional best dishes so I don’t have boundaries (in writing) 😉
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