Scary but Delicious: A Comprehensive Guide to Basic OffalOctober 30, 2014
Before offal (or what I like to call guts and bits) became incredibly trendy, it has been cooked for centuries and has been essential to many cuisines. The old tradition of cooking offal came from the most basic of peasant food, where people made sure that none of the animal went to waste. In more recent times, Fergus Henderson pioneered offal at his restaurant St. John, using almost all parts of the animal on his menu, and calling it “nose-to-tail” cooking. Here, we’ve outlined some of the most basic chicken and beef offal you can get at almost any supermarket in Manila. Don’t be scared—offal can serve you the most delicious things you’ll ever eat.
1. Chicken Hearts
One of the best ways to cook chicken heart is to simply grill them—the tiny things are all muscle, which lends itself to faster cooking methods. Cooking them yakitori-style is one of the easiest ways to tackle the tiny hearts. This Japanese way of grilling leaves a charred exterior that makes the meat’s flavors smokier and more robust. Place at least 5 of the hearts on a skewer, and marinate lightly using green tea powder, Japanese chili powder (togarashi), sesame salt, and finish with citrus notes (either yuzu powder, ponzu, or even a squeeze of lime). Place them directly on the grill, turning over every few seconds, just to make sure that each side is charred consistently. After around 5 minutes on each side, the skewers should be cooked perfectly, retaining the muscley bite one expects from grilled chicken heart.
2. Chicken Gizzards
Gizzards are one of my favorite parts of the bird; wildly underrated, I grew up eating these disguised as balunbalunan, grilled over coals alongside other chicken bits displayed on roadside carts. Without any real distinct meaty flavor, the best thing about gizzards are their toothsome, chewy texture. Frying offal seems like a cop-out, but doing it in a Southern style means that the breading will impart all the flavor onto the otherwise blander cut. Mix flour or your fine bread crumbs with a ton of Cajun spices (I like using the Paul Prudhomme’s seasonings), dredge the gizzards, then deep-fry them in hot oil. Serve once they’ve rested on a paper towel, and the gizzards should be juicy.
3. Chicken Livers
Often, chicken livers are dismissed as either boring or disgusting, because it is usually churned into paté. Don’t be afraid to keep them whole, because they have a distinct taste and texture that can be surprisingly tasty. Try turning them into sugo, the Italian slow-cooked sauce that is good with almost any meat. In a saucepan, heat up some garlic and onions in olive oil. When just colored, toss the livers whole and begin to sear them. Once almost cooked, smash the liver but keep a few chunky pieces, then toss in with oregano, sage, and parsley. Add cream, wine and reduce. Let it simmer until the livers continue to break apart, letting its flavors intensify. Toss into your favorite type of pasta—I like using thinner noodles so that the sticky thick sugo has more to generously cling onto.
4. Beef Intestines
Cleaning intestines are a nightmare, which is probably why people stay away from cooking or eating them. Leave your phobias at the door, and prep them properly by cutting them in half, cleaning in cold water, and trimming the ruffled fat at the sides. If you’re still afraid of the funky taste, using strong Korean flavors will help introduce you to this more challenging part of the cow. After cleaning your intestine, cut them into smaller pieces and marinate with sesame oil, sugar, garlic, gochujang, and a bit of vinegar, or add kimchi to add some spice and sourness. After seasoning, assemble like you would a bibimbap, placing the intestines on top of white rice and surround the mound with julienned vegetables of your choice, which you can leave raw or cook quickly. Add a raw egg yolk on top, and mix all of them together after serving.
5. Beef Heart
A more uncommon part of the cow in Filipino cuisine, beef hearts are one of the tastiest things you can cook. The taste is very similar to hanger steak or onglet—it is a little more muscley than the average steak cut, but it has the same beefy flavors, just slightly gamier. I love this cut because it is cheaper than your average tenderloin or ribeye, but you get mammoth pieces for the price, and even more flavor. You can cook this almost any way; grilled like a steak, or even stewed for a long time. Prep the heart by taking out bits of the sinew or silver skin, and cut into whatever suits your preparation—cubes for a stew, long, thin pieces for pan-searing, or cut into a tiny dice for a beef heart taco. Rub with pepper, salt and cumin, then toss quickly in the pan using olive oil. Place it on top of a warm tortilla, and top with garlic sauce, salsa verde, and onion, which are always great components to any taco. Squeeze liberally with lime.
Everyone has a love-hate relationship with tripe; we all grew up with it in either kare-kare or callos, which were staples in quite a few childhood homes. Some can’t get over the silky, fatty texture, or the funky smell that permeates kitchens once it’s stewed. It can be worth the trouble, especially when extremely tender and devoid of the smell. If you want to try a different recipe with the delicious stomach, trippa alla romana is an excellent homey stew that will have you curled up with a steaming bowl stuck right under your nose. Pressure cook the tripe first before doing anything with it, to make sure it is tender to the bite. Once finished, cut up the ruffles into thin pieces, and add to a pan with olive oil, onion and garlic. Add canned chopped tomatoes with its juice, some hot paprika for a slow, warming undertone of heat, then cook while covered for at least 30 minutes. I like to add chickpeas and olives with the tripe to make this a meal in itself, otherwise, scoop the stuff onto hot rice or crusty bread.
7. Beef Skin
Beef skin is incredibly daunting—cut in odd pieces, sometimes still with bits of hair, it is slimy to the touch, and has all the characteristics that make it scary and weird to those unfamiliar with it. However, its fattiness is what makes it perfect in soups; after braising or pressure cooking it, its natural fat create a very thick, decadent but flavorful stock. The stock is so thick that it reminds one of tonkotsu broths from Japan, but made quick and easy. Try adding a Chinese twist to this broth, and eat the skin like you would beef tendon. After pressure cooking, remove the beef skin, and strain the liquid of its excess fat. Add black vinegar, sliced ginger, star anise, dried shiitakes and lots of coriander. Let it simmer and infuse for a while before adding your diced cooked beef skin.
8. Beef Liver
Another favorite cut, beef liver is intensely gamey, almost like duck, but with a texture and taste that is distinctly bovine. It is popular in countries abroad, where they usually have it tossed and cooked with onions. To enhance its beefiness, we turned it into a kebab, a recipe that is sure to get everyone eating the stuff. Marinate it in turmeric, paprika, cloves, cumin, cinnamon, salt and pepper, then skewer the cubes. Pan fry or grill them using walnut oil, which makes sure that the spices don’t burn, but still release their intense aroma and flavors. Serve with a cooling raita on the side, or pick up and eat like the carnivore you are.