Winston Churchill famously said it was absurd to grow an entire chicken only to eat the breast, but it took a less famous Brit, Fergus Hederson, to make eating offal — an animal’s innards and extremities, from brains to testicles — trendy, and even moral.
The celebrity chef and unofficial leader of this food movement dubs it “nose-to-tail” eating, and says that using every part of an animal honours its life, while reducing waste and cost. The results are tasty meals from ingredients once thought only fit for dog food. It’s something many cultures, including Chinese, Persian and Scottish, have done for centuries.
Brayden Kozak is a believer. “We want to respect this animal rather than take all the good stuff and discard the rest of it,” says the chef and co-owner of Three Boars Eatery. For his terrines and pates, “liver is the go-to organ meat.” Don’t like liver? “ Try the pastrami beef tongue, served on rye with spätzle (tiny German noodles), micro greens and a buttermilk and beet emulsion. Feeling brave? The beef-heart tartar “is a complete hit every time.”
Over the bridge at Cafe Amore Bistro, “tripe nights” are popular events exulting the cow stomach. “Only my father Giuseppe makes it,” says co-owner Cristo Crudo, “from my grandfather’s recipe.” It takes three days to prepare the 200 portions of tripe, which are served stew-style with potatoes in a savoury tomato broth with a homemade water bun — a dish popularized by yet another British gastronome, Gordon Ramsay. “We usually sell out by 8 p.m.,” says Crudo.
Another Italian restaurant, Cibo Bistro, is also getting crafty with carcasses. The porchetta di testa — better known as a pig’s head — is “an appetizer for the adventurous,” says Rosario Caputo. The preparation, too, is an adventure.
The chef and owner takes the face off the skull and removes the brain. He marinades the ears, tongue, cheeks and snout for three days in herbs. Then the head is rolled, tied and poached for eight hours. It rests for three days, then is sliced and served with greens. It tastes like roasted ham with a gelatinous texture. “I didn’t think we’d sell much of it,” he admits. But he’s gone through 11 in just three months. Customers, it would seem, are head over, well, head.