In a world of costly prime cuts — stately crown roasts, plump pork chops, and regal racks of lamb — it’s easy to forget about (and steer clear of) the more economical but less lovable parts of the beast: bellies, brains, cheeks, combs, gizzards, hearts, hocks, kidneys, lungs, marrow, necks, shanks, spleens, tongues, trotters, and, oh yes, testicles.
Historically, these so-called “odd bits” have had a regular place on our plates and in our culinary repertoires. In fact, many are considered delicacies and routinely appear in regional specialties. So why do we eschew and waste valuable protein? When have our sensibilities become so squeamish? In short, when did we decide offal had become awful?
Jennifer McLagan, the award-winning author of Bones and Fat, is on a crusade to bring the nose-to-tail style of cooking and eating out of the closet and back onto to our dining tables. Her mission: restoring our respect for the whole animal, developing a taste for its lesser-known parts, and learning how to approach them in the kitchen as confidently as we would a steak or a burger.
Serious food lovers will delight in the sheer variety of the dishes that await, ranging from simple to challenging:
• Headcheese for the Unconvinced
• Veal Cheeks with Swiss Chard and Olives
• Cheese and Just a Little Brain Fritters
• Lamb Neck with Quince and Turnip
• Brisket Braised with Caramelized Onions and Chile
• Sweetbreads with Morels and Fresh Fava Beans
• Moroccan-Style Braised Heart
• Minted Tripe and Pea Salad
• Wild Boar Shanks with Cranberries and Chocolate
• Bone Marrow and Mushroom Custard
Much more than a cookbook, Odd Bits delves into the rich geographical, historical, and religious roles of these unusual meats. McLagan’s enthusiasm for her subject is contagious, and with her insight and humor will convert even non-believers to the pleasure of odd bits.
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