We love offal (you know, the edible internal organs of the animals we eat) because it’s cheap, delicious, and it makes us feel good to use every part of an animal, rather than just the steaks and chops (though those are delicious). The nose-to-nail movement has grown exponentially in the United States these past 10 years, so it’s not rare to see things like liver, tripe, and heart on the menus of a variety of different restaurants. But for many cultures, offal never went out of style, and they are deeply ingrained in their cuisine.
“The flavor is what we love about offal,” says Frenchette chef Lee Hanson. “When you travel in France, anywhere you go you’re going to have those off-cuts available. We like the variety of flavors that they offer, we like the variety of textures, and we like to utilize all those parts, not just the ribeyes and lamb chops.”
If you’re new to cooking organ meat, liver is a great place to start because you can easily sauté it with not much other than salt, pepper, butter, and some herbs. When you visit your butcher, ask them to slice the liver so you have a steak that’s about 1/3-inch thick. After adding salt and pepper to the meat, Lee suggests coating it with flour to soak up some of the moisture and give it a nice crust. “Get a nice hot pan and sear the liver on one side over high heat,” Lee says. “Turn it over and throw some fresh butter in the pan along with a little sprig of fresh thyme, a clove of fresh garlic, and baste it while it sautes. And it’s a quick pickup — it’s only going to be a few minutes on each side.”
Once you’ve mastered a liver steak, the possibilities are offal-y endless. We’ve gathered recipes from three of the most talented chefs in the country so you can try your hand at duck hearts, chicken offal, and veal kidneys at home.
Grilled Duck Hearts with Cheese and Pepper Jelly
If you’re a fan of duck but have never made it, grilling the hearts is a good place to start. “Duck hearts have the great meaty flavor and texture of breast but at a fraction of the cost,” says The Publican Chef de Cuisine Sieger Bayer. “Their lean profile is perfect for grilling, and they cook in minutes. Allowing the hearts to dry slightly in the refrigerator for 20 to 30 minutes helps get a better sear while grilling. They are the perfect gateway to the offal world. If my friend’s six-year-old will eat them, anyone can.”
- 2.5 tbsp salt, plus more to taste
- 1 qt water
- 1 lb duck hearts
- 1 cup pepper jelly
- 4 pieces thick-cut sourdough bread
- Olive oil
- 1 cup Boursin Shallot & Chive Gournay Cheese
- 1 head escarole, cleaned, trimmed, and torn into bite-size pieces
- .25 cup slivered red onion
- 2 tbsp dill fronds
- .25 cup coarsely chopped marcona almonds
- 1 lemon, cut in half
- In a large bowl, combine the salt with the water and stir until the salt dissolves. Add the hearts and let them sit in the fridge for 1 hour. Drain the hearts, pat them dry, and season them with salt. Get a grill or grill pan nice and hot. Sear the hearts over high heat. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, turning occasionally.
- Set aside 2 tablespoons of the pepper jelly for finishing the toasts. Dunk the hearts in the remaining pepper jelly and return them to the grill. Cook for another 2 minutes; the sugars in the jelly will start to caramelize. Remove the hearts from the grill and let them rest.
- Spoon olive oil onto the bread, spreading it with the back of a spoon, and then grill the bread on both sides until golden brown and toasty. Evenly spread the butter cheese over the bread and cut each slice in half. Set aside.
- To make the salad: In a medium bowl, combine the escarole, onion, dill, and almonds. Toss with olive oil, lemon juice, and a pinch of salt. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if desired. Cut the duck hearts in half and arrange them over the cut bread. Spread the salad over the top, drizzle it with a bit of the leftover pepper jelly, and serve.
Chicken Offal with Szechuan Pepper, Potato, and Celery
Don’t let the long list of ingredients for this recipe from chef Nico Russell of Brooklyn’s Oxalis scare you off. After brining the chicken offal, they are quite easy to cook and garnish. If you don’t have the proper equipment to make the potato espuma, we think this dish would be just as delicious with a slice of good crusty bread.
Ingredients for chicken offal:
- 6 chicken hearts
- 6 chicken livers
- 12 chicken gizzards
Ingredients for brine:
- 1000 g water
- 50 g salt
- 20 g toasted coriander seeds
- 10 g toasted black peppercorn
- Bay leaf
Ingredients for potato espuma:
- 4 Yukon gold potatoes
- 100 g cold diced unsalted butter
- 50 g milk
- 50 g creme fraiche
- 200 g small diced celery branch, lightly blanched
- 6 yellow celery leaves
- Szechuan pepper oil
- Lemon juice
Instructions for the potato espuma:
- Add potatoes to a pot of cold water, and slowly start to heat but never boil (about 170-180 degrees Fahrenheit) for about an hour.
- Once cooked, peel through a tammis, and immediately after passed, add to a pot with the butter and milk. Start to heat up, and finish with a bit of creme fraiche and salt.
- Add to an isi whipping container, charge with two charges, and keep in a warm place.
Instructions for the chicken offal:
- Make the brine: Combine water and salt, and bring to just below a boil to allow the salt to dissolve. Add remaining ingredients and cool. Add the offal and let sit for 24 hours.
- After 24 hours, separate the hearts, livers, and gizzards. Set up a small pot of duck fat on low heat and add the gizzards. Slowly confit until tender and falling apart. Place the hearts and livers in a steamer at 160 degrees F for 30 minutes. Let cool. Cut livers into four equal-sized pieces and the heart into a large dice.
- Heat up a charcoal grill. Toss the hearts and livers in a bit of oil and add to a small sauce strainer. Hold directly over the charcoal constantly stirring (it will be smoking and might flare up if you don’t keep them moving).
- After grilling, add to a small serving bowl with diced celery and Szechuan pepper oil, and season with lemon juice.
- Separately in a nonstick pan, add the shredded gizzards and crisp them up. Once crispy, add gizzards to the bottom of a serving bowl, and place the grilled offal on top of the gizzards. Season once more with Szechuan pepper oil, then top with whipped potato espuma.
Kidneys are succulent, flavorful, and actually pretty easy to cook at home. All you really need is a small list of ingredients that you probably already have in the fridge. Here, Chef Harold Moore of Bistro Pierre Lapin walks us through the cooking process so you can try this dish for yourself.
- 2 lbs cleaned veal kidneys
- 1 tbsp white vinegar (plus additional)
- 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp butter
- 1 tsp shallot, diced
- .5 cup chicken stock
- .25 cup fresh heavy cream
- 3 tbsp Dijon mustard
- Soak the kidneys in water with a tablespoon of white vinegar for 24 hours. Change the water-vinegar mixture several times until the water is clear.
- Roast the kidneys for 15 minutes at 350 degrees F in a large sauté pan. The kidneys will purge their liquid. Remove the kidneys from the pan to a dry paper towel and let rest. Discard liquid.
- Put the cleaned pan on a medium flame, then add oil and butter and allow to foam. Add the kidneys to the pan and brown on each side.
- Cook to desired doneness. Then add diced shallot to the pan and allow to become translucent. Flambé the kidney in cognac. Add chicken stock, heavy cream, and Dijon mustard. Allow to reduce and glaze the kidneys. Serve immediately.
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