As a food devotee and wannabe food critic, I sometimes cross obstacles that challenge my sophisticated palate.
Sometimes, I am offally challenged.
Offal, or connotatively known as organ or variety meats, is the stuff that reminds us that our filet minion actually came from a cow. The word derived from the Old English “off” and “fall,” referring to the organs falling off the animal while being butchered.
This past weekend I finally met my offal nemesis. It swam in a sizzling bronze pool. Its claws griped the sides of the lacquered dish. Before it had a chance to slip away from my fake-ivory chopsticks, I wolfed it down. That chicken foot fought back.
Chicken feet are a common ingredient in many cuisines. It can be found in the American South, Chinese, and Filipino cuisines, to name a few. In Chinese cuisine, it is most commonly found in dim sum, a la carte dishes. Usually, it is served with three to four feet.
Training for this challenge took awhile. For years I trained my palate to adjust to variety meats. Many were good, and many were awful. My dad raised my sisters and I with chorizo, a fatty intestine goodness fried to a bubbly perfection. The Filing Station makes a great chorizo breakfast burrito. Just make sure to wash it down with Pepto-Bismol.
Then there are some offal dishes that make me gag, like dinuguan. This infamous Filipino dish is a savory pork stew slow cooked in a bath of vegetables and pork blood. When I attempt to eat dinuguan I pretend the gravy looks like a vat of chocolate fondue. However, when I take that first bite I cannot help but reflect upon the days of getting my wisdom teeth pulled.
Not all offal dishes are as stifling as this one. Organs have a delicate flavor, and the flavor and richness of the meat varies from which animal the organ came from. For example, braised chicken liver has 35 percent fat in comparison to lamb, which is 49 percent. Bacon has a little more than lamb. I always fight for the fatty bacon pieces.
Orange has many places that serve offal dishes. Any authentic Mexican taco stand and Vietnamese ph? restaurant offer variety meat options. If you are over the fish taco craze, try tacos de cabeza, cow cheek tacos. The meat is richer than beef. Or instead of chicken ph?, order ph? tai sach, a rice noodle soup with brisket and cow tripe, stomach lining. The tripe soaks up the broth’s flavors, and overpowers the tripe’s iron-like taste.
I spat out the last pieces of foot cartilage with victory. Who knew chicken had so much fatty goodness stuck between its toes? Along with the bits of cartilage laid its skin. I love my chicken skin buttermilk-fried, rather than rubbery. So next on my list of challenges are pig feet. I heard they don’t fight back.