Offal and friends

This topic was requested in the “calf liver” thread. I look to learning a lot here. My experience is mostly in restaurants and mostly in France where offal is revered, and rightly so. Offal falls under my umbrella of “There are. no bad foods, only bad cooks.”

What shopping and cooking wisdom have you to share?


Thanks Pilgrim. I do not have much wisdom to share as I did not cook my own offal because I was afraid of messing up. I relied on restaurants for the tripe, tongues, hearts, head cheeses that I enjoy. I am now curious of the Korean specialties described by JoonJoon. I have never been to Korea but will be willing to try some of these dishes in NYC/New Jersey. As I am getting old, I do not want to miss out on some of the unexpected treasures abound.

I’ve cooked calf sweetbread, ox tongue, tripe of pork and cow, pig’s trotters, ox tail, kidney, liver, poultry heart, gizzard, chicken feet, duck foie gras, chicken blood… My favourites are tripe and ox tail. I tried to cook sweetbread twice, but find it too much work to clean and better in restaurant. Prepared foie gras, it’s better leave to professional unless I need the raw ones for a recipe.

One thing I don’t think I’m comfortable to try is the brain. H said he has eaten as a kid as it was more common then.

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Hat’s off to you, naf! I think you’re the winner out of the gate! Like gofish, my experience has been mostly in restaurants. While I have really enjoyed every oddbit I’ve tried, dh is not so keen on them, and they seem a bit of work for one person.

While I don’t consider them offal, oxtails are a favorite and something that I not only cook but am happy to serve at dinner parties. Guys, particularly, love this homely dish, I often combine with shortribs and served with spaetzle.

An amusing memory was when a Paris waiter refused to take my order of pigs’ feet. “Pas por vous, madam.” I asked him why, were they “mal”? He returned the menu to me and told me to order something else. DH said, “If you want them, order them!” So I did. A table of businessmen next to use were highly amused and watched with smiles as I cleaned every morsel and left only a pile of bones.

My mother used to cook brains with eggs. And of course we’ve all enjoyed them as classic ravioli fillings albeit well disguised. More recently, I remember lamb brains as an appetizer, again in France. In my experience, brains are more about texture, with very gentle, mild flavor.

I think that andouillette (are they offal or sausage or a crossover?) are the most inaccessible bite in my experience. I personally love them but they are “an acquired taste” and again depend on both producer and cook. Most often grilled and sliced or grilled/“stir fried” with white wine, they are an intriguing morsel. DH won’t touch them, so YMMV.

Tongue is another mild and delicious meat. Very recently, we enjoyed lamb tongues, poached, sliced thinly and served as a cocktail “spoon” in an herbal marinade. Divine!

I REALLY look forward to hearing ideas here! TIA…

My mother used to make an Italian “delicacy” she called Spetzi. The chicken gizzards took awhile to properly clean. Then they were sautéed in olive oil with hot peppers and spaghetti sauce. My parents loved it but I wouldn’t touch it with a ten foot pole. My main memory of this dish is that her friend’s son-in-law owned an appliance store and anytime my mother needed a service call he would only accept a bowl of “Spetzi” as payment.:slightly_smiling_face:

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Yes, I guess they had many plates returned to the kitchen, the waiter should explained rather than just made the assumption.

They are tripe sausages. Personally I love them, especially grilled with a crispy skin. Can be consumed hot or cold. There are 2 styles, one more free style and another one more geometric.

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These days, many of the offal bought are cleaned already and ready to be cooked instantly, things like kidney, gizzards or even tripe.


I do have problem with that, the idea of that soft stuff just made me uncomfortable. Although I don’t have problem eating bone marrow or tendon. Maybe due to the story of consumption of live raw monkey’s brain, heard it when I was too young.

I grew up on calves’ liver and chicken livers. My moms recipe for these is delicious, and I’ll post them another time. Cooked with sherry and mushrooms, they’re a treat! Even my offspring (deemed anaemic when we lived in France would eat them as part of his remedy. He said they’d never be a favorite, but he liked them).

Probably because of my own French connection, I also love the big slabs of meltingly tender liver served there…plus tongue, heart, fromage du tête, and chicken gizzards S prepared in the Quercy region…fork-tender and delicious.

I dont prepare tongue in my own kitchen because of the PITA factor, but Ive made most of the rest, plus my own duck foie gras, when I can buy a liver.

Dont care for blood sausages, though I’ll eat them if they’re there…but wouldn’t touch andouillette or tripe with a barge pole.

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My companion in life eats a smaller range of foods than I do. Which means we don’t cook much offal. At home it’s restricted to liver and kidneys. So, most of my offal eating is in restaurants.

I’m usually happy to try most things and will often give things a second chance. But there will never be a second chance for Andouillete de Cambrai which I bought from a shop actually in Cambrai. This smells like shit and tastes what I imagine shit tastes like.


I did my level best…at various culinary faires, I would try the samples handed out by vendors proudly displaying the medailles d’or that they’d been handed at various competitions (including the revered one at Troyes).

But I’m with you on the smell and taste! I. Just. Can’t.

When the high school where I taught has it on the menu, I’d bring my lunch so I didnt have to smell it.


Andouillette CAN taste as you describe but does not necessarily. I have encountered probably in excess of (20 years x 3 visits/year x at least one andouillette per visit) 5 dozen and have had only a few “stinkers”. They are for. me a reliable order in small village restaurants where they are a ataple.

The old reliable is lamb tongue with potato salad first course at Bistro Jeanty in Yountville. Our predictable deli order is chopped liver (quality is all over the board) and warm tongue on rye. Elsewhere, foie gras or marrow bones on the menu means it ends up on our plate.


Agreed. It’s a specific characteristic of the one from Cambrai (not that I knew that at the time, of course). We’d been in the area and came into town in search of coffee. First place we came across was a supermarket with cafe, so we decided to do a bit of food shopping to bring home with us. The local thing seemed just right.

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Oooh, I love offal. I generally don’t mind cooking offal, but I do get squeamish about prepping some types of offal (I may have shared this before). I’ve cooked beef tongue (hot pot, grilled), tripe, sweetbreads, gizzards and liver, and have eaten a lot more cuts of the unusual bits.

I would never prep tongue; a big reason is not just the look of the muscle, but the work you have to do. I believe there’s typically a to layer that has to be removed, almost like removing silver skin. I usually buy sliced tongue, so I can avoid this.

Tripe, stomach and gizzard aren’t too bad. A little blanching to remove a gamey or organ-y smell helps. My mom (she’s of the old school, every thing by hand kind of person) has prepped gizzard from a freshly killed bird, and I remember this being kind of gross. :nauseated_face: Not sure I would do that either.

The trickiest I found to clean and cook was actually sweetbreads, due to lack of practice and also the time and precision. Cleaning the sweetbread requires patience, and the cooking in order to maintain the soft texture without overcoming was harder than I thought.

Though I’ve never cooked brain (another not so good memory of watching my mom prep the pork brain), but I have enjoyed brain dishes a few ways. The most recent was a few years ago in Brussels at Viva M’Boma, known for its offal dishes. It was calf brains sauteed in a buttery meuniere sauce - really good! This is one ingredient I’ll leave to the pros to cook and clean.

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I don’t find the prep of various variety meats off-putting. Just following good instruction as one does with any other meat part.
The only problem I’ve encountered in cooking bits (sweatbreads, andouillette) is negative input from other householders. I remember plating what I thought was magnificent sweetbreads, to find that dh wouldn’t touch it. I chucked our plates down the disposal. The doorbell rang, and a close bachelor friend came in. “OMG, what are you eating? Please let there be enough for me…” Sorry, charlie, it’s down the drain. And when sensory appreciation depends on approbation, sadly but true. Like the little kid who eats anything until his playschool peers go “Yukkkkkk”.

This classic may appeal to you:

Some 60 years ago, when I was 10 or so, my mother floured and sauteed calves’ brains and told me they were veal cutlet. I don’t recall if I tasted them first, but still remember that they were mushy. I flatly refused to eat them and demanded to know what they were. I KNEW they were yucky, no playmates needed. She never made them again…

I do love liverwurst, and liver with onions. I never roast a chicken or turkey without putting the diced, sauteed liver in with the rest of the stuffing ingredients. And upon the recommendation of the late, respected Chowhounder, Sam Fujisaka, I made chicken gizzard stroganoff. He said it was scrumptious, and it was. The trick is to cook them slowly over gentle heat, to get them meltingly tender.

I’m not very adventurous with offal I haven’t tried. The few things I ate as a child I will sometimes look for - I certainly remember chicken gizzards and what I thought of them as a child - “Hm. Pretty good. A bit tough in spots but that’s OK. I wonder if there’s more”, and I still like to eat liver once in a while.

My wife doesn’t eat meat, and while she’s OK that there’s meat around and OK with people eating it as long as she doesn’t get any, she’s sometimes easily overwhelmed by smells, so I don’t cook liver or other strong smelling meat (strong smelling to a vegetarian with a sensitive nose, that is) while she’s in the house. I’m happy to reserve liver, strong smelling fish, and whatever else for some time when I know she’ll be out, so it all works out fine.

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" The trick is to cook them slowly over gentle heat, to get them meltingly tender."

Your last line is the key, I think. So many people have only ever had livers and gizzard cooked to absolute leather, that they have no idea how lovely it can actually be.

(I have the same theory about fish).

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