The traditional practice of nose-to-tail eating makes use of every bit of the animal, including super-nutritious organ meats such as liver and heart. While the thought may leave you feeling a little squeamish, these easy offal recipes are a great way to try these nutrient-dense foods.
What is it?
Offal is organ meat, the odd bits of the animal such as liver, kidneys, heart, and tongue. These odd bits tend to be the most nutrient-dense parts of the animal, and are more nutritious than roasts, steaks, and ground meat.
They're also affordable cuts of meat and easy to cook. You just need a little experience working with liver and similar ingredients in order to cook them well.
Traditionally, offal was a regular part of the American diet, and it remains that way in many parts of the world. Classic offal recipes include savory terrines made with pork liver, pâté made with chicken or goose liver, grilled heart, steak and kidney pies, braised and pickled tongue, as well as marrow custard.
Types of Offal
There are several different organ meats used in offal recipes. They have a rich, intense flavor and are typically more nutritious than muscle meats such as steaks, ground meat, and roasts.
Liver is one of the most common organ meats, and commonly used in recipes for pâté. It's an excellent source of minerals such as iron, zinc, and copper, as well as vitamin A and B vitamins including riboflavin, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and folate.
Heart is also an excellent source of co-enzyme Q10, B vitamins, copper, zinc, and selenium. It has a meaty texture and mineral-like flavor. Typically, heart is sectioned and either grilled, braised, or stewed.
Marrow comes from marrow bones and it is rich in fat, and a good source of various minerals. Traditionally, it was either roasted or extracted for use in both sweet and savory custards.
Blood is often used in traditional European sausage recipes, although it also flavors the classic Polish soup - czarnina. Blood is rich in iron and various minerals.
Other offal recipes include kidney, brain, sheep's or pig's heads, eyes, and sweetbreads.
Offal can taste intense, with a strong mineral-like flavor. For this reason, many people find the flavor off-putting. Old-world recipes from the 19th century and earlier call for clearing offal of blood, meaning that you would soak liver, heart, and other organ meats in milk or salted water.
Soaking organ meats in milk or water softens their flavor, just a bit, and makes them milder. An hour is sufficient, but if you can soak organ meats overnight, you'll see even improved flavor.
These offal recipes are easy to make, an have a delicious flavor - especially when you partner them with herbs and spices.