Offal or Viscera refers to any of the internal organs and innards of an animal. We unsuspectingly eat offal every time we eat a sausage (the skins are usually made from sheep, pig or ox intestines), or spread chicken liver pâté or foie gras on toast, yet we hesitate at the thought of eating heart or brain. In fact, the less popular cuts can be delicious, as well as nutritious.
Over the centuries and in most cuisines, it is acknowledged that no animal part should go to waste. As well as being cost-effective, this approach displays a respect for the animal that has given up its life to sustain you and your family.
Liver is probably the most eaten and widely accepted offal but other more “hard core” viscera include tripe, the stomach lining of cows. This particular delicacy needs a little more preparation to make it palatable but is definitely a favorite in many cuisines. Tripe dishes are very popular in Italy and France, but probably Scotland’s infamous haggis, which contains an assortment of chopped sheep or cow offal mixed with oatmeal and suet, and stuffed into the stomach sac of the animal is one of the most well-known and much maligned offal dishes..
Sweetbreads the pancreas of an animal is stunning when dredged in flour and sautéed in butter and olive oil. Braised pickled beef tongue brings back memories of family and upbringing..
One of the latest culinary hits is beef cheek. Although technically a muscle they are also considered offal. Slow braised with root vegetables and a really good red wine make this one of the most succulent and delicious meats.
Offal can be divided into four overlapping categories: tender or tough (kidney, for example, requiring quick cooking, and tongue or tail, requiring low and slow cooking to tenderize them), and red or white (liver or heart, for instance, and sweetbreads or brains). Other categories of offal include ears, feet, intestine, cheeks, head, spleen, stomach, coxcomb, and testicals. They tend to be especially high in cholesterol, iron and vit