Adventures in Healthy Cooking: Liver, Heart and Kidneys [mini-experiment!]

by Charlotte on July 27, 2011 · 65 comments

If the zucchini turds, nasty banana bread and other delicacies I’ve cooked haven’t yet made you glad that you’ve never come over for dinner, last night’s dinner should do the trick! (I like to discourage people from visiting – that way I can keep pretending that I can’t see the ketchup hand prints my kids left all over the wall a year ago that still make it look like Scream 4 in here.) See last night I had a very special menu lined up. The stars aligned and thanks to two fortuitous events – Farmer Bob bringing me my 1/4 cow complete with innards and Jenn of Girl Heroes declaring her intention to cook offal – I finally got to live out my dream of cooking offal (animal guts and yes it’s pronounced “awful”) and serving it to my loved ones! Dream big, I always say. So when Gym Hubby called to say he was bringing company home for dinner, I threw on the pearls and cackled maniacally.

Liver. Whether you love it or hate it, you probably know it’s supposed to be good for you. Yes it is the “filter organ” of the body but apparently it stockpiles vitamins like nobody’s business (no really, nobody has any business in there) and as long as you get a healthy grass-fed-and-finished-and-serenaded-by-angels type cow it’s supposed to be awesome. Of course, so is cod liver oil and that’s considered a culinary punishment. At best. Ah well, I’m known for eating stuff that looks like crap just because it’s good for me.

 

 

The liver (left) and heart (right) of my recently slaughtered cow. I asked Farmer Bob what it’s name was. He didn’t answer me but his look distinctly said, “idiot.”

 

I looked up a bunch of recipes on the web only to discover that everybody recommends cooking offal for like 2 days before eating it. I had one hour before our guests arrived. So I decided to wing it. That bodes well, doesn’t it? I started by frying up 6 pieces of organic, nitrate free bacon because everything’s always better with bacon!

 

This right here almost made me quit and call the pizza guy even though we haven’t had pizza delivered in like 10 years. That is one disgusting liver. Look at the bloody knife! Gah.  Because people usually complain about the texture of liver, I chopped it up as teeeeny tiny as possible. Basically I minced it. Or maimed it.

 

Cows have big hearts. Awwww! I cut the heart into bite-sized chunks. My counter looked like a blood donation bank during an earthquake.

 

Jelly Bean loves to help me cook. And by “help” I mean get under foot and try to burn herself every time I turn around. She pushed that chair up to the oven all by herself, she sure did! Proud: how smart and independent! Freaked: how am I going to explain to the ER doc how you got on top of a hot stove?

 

I stir fried the meats in the bacon grease and added 1 sweet onion and some chopped peppers. I tasted it. Gross. So then I added 1 can of mexican diced tomatoes, 1 can tomato sauce, some water, some jalapenos and possibly a few other things I can’t remember. Desperate times…

 

I figured if I made it look all pretty no one would question what it was. I served the offal stew with brown rice, a tossed salad, a big bowl of fresh fruit and little mini cupcakes for dessert.

 

Ta-DA! Looks totally not “offal” right? By the way, Jenn is pretty much my Internet Twin and we both love Tulle vintage clothing so it turns out we have like 10 matching outfits. We decided to wear one tonight for your viewing pleasure. You’re welcome. (You should really go check her out – she’s so gorgeous that I’d be jealous if I didn’t have a massive girl crush on her. You should see her wield a kettlebell!!)

 

Jelly Bean started out with a plum (and a clean white shirt – oops). And a binkie. Stupid binkies. She’s soooo attached to those things!

 

The crew! Our guests were the LDS missionaries. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m LDS (a.k.a. Mormon) and we love to feed the missionaries. I know that you guys probably run in fear when you see them (“I said noooo, I’m not interested!!”) but they’re actually really awesome kids. And yes, I mean kids. Boys typically serve missions for two years from 19-21 and girls go for 1.5 years at 21 – all totally on their own dime. They have to sacrifice a lot to do a pretty thankless job. So feeding them dinner is the least I can do. Plus, most missionaries usually go far away (Gym Hubby went to Spain!) but since these guys stayed in the U.S. I figured they deserved a good “cultural experience” like offal! Anyhow, if you do ever see any of our missionaries, you don’t have to invite them in if you don’t want to but, you know, try not to run them down with your car and maybe give them a glass of water sometimes? For me? Thanks:)

Son #1 enjoyed his napkin best of all. His verdict: “It’s okay. Can I have dessert now?”

 

Missionary #1 loved it. Even after I told him what it was!

 

Gym Hubby did not love it. He said he could taste the liver a mile away and made a show of spitting it out into his hand (much to the kids’ amusement). He liked the heart though. I personally thought it was really good and I liked both the liver and the heart. People talk about how the smell of liver cooking is awful but it didn’t seem overly smelly to me…

 

Son #3′s opinion. Yeah. He spent the rest of dinner under the table.

 

Both missionaries cleaned their plates and even had seconds! Either I’ve morphed into an awesome cook or they’re tired of cooking for themselves… hmmm.

 

For dessert everyone had mini cupcakes but I opted for a perfectly ripe peach with unsweetened full-fat whipped cream and cinnamon. I think I won!

Check out Jenn’s experience with cooking up her liver and heart (wow, that sounds wrong!)!

Any of you cook offal? What’s the weirdest thing anyone’s ever made you eat at their home?

 

{ 62 comments… read them below or add one }

Sigi July 28, 2011 at 2:37 am

I really want to try liver and kidney and brains and all sorts of awful/offal, but I’m afraid that my cooking “skills” will render them inedible, and then I’ll be put off potentially good things for life. (NB, when I cook bad, I cook baaaaaaaad.)

Charlotte, I need someone like you to sneak some organs into my dinner before I know what I’m eating! Or alternatively, take me to a fancy-schmancy French restaurant where I’m sure they can do magnificent things with offal that will make me rave about it. And try to cook it myself at home. And fail. (And thus the cycle continues…)

Oh hey, I just remembered I love liverwurst. So I’m halfway there, right?

Have you had brains? I’ve heard they’re delicious when done right, creamy on the inside, crumbed and crunchy on the outside. But I’m too chicken to try them – again, I think someone needs to trick me into having (and then no doubt loving) them.

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Charlotte July 28, 2011 at 2:02 pm

You should totally come over for dinner! I will make you something totally disgusting!! ;) And I’ve had brains served to me – once, in Spain, as a student – but I’ll admit that I didn’t eat them. Maybe I would now?

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Kelly Michelle July 28, 2011 at 2:47 am

omg, no offense or anything but all I can say is ewwww.

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Kelly Michelle July 28, 2011 at 2:48 am

I mean it nicely I promise I do love you, just not that food……

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Heather July 28, 2011 at 10:20 am

I’m with you. Ewww….

The worst thing I’ve had was cow tongue and I was tricked into it. Disgusting.

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Charlotte July 28, 2011 at 2:02 pm

Hahah, no worries! I kinda grossed myself out too:)

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Averie @ Love Veggies and Yoga July 28, 2011 at 3:46 am

I had a 3 day trip to the mexico city markets as part of my photography workshop tour where I saw dead animals, blood everywhere, dead chickens upside down, dead pig snouts, cow intestines, livers, hearts, and much more. And let’s just say I have ALWAYS eaten a plant based diet but that reinforced it. You can have the the organs my friend. I’ll take the broccoli and raw vegan dessert balls :)

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Charlotte July 28, 2011 at 2:03 pm

Oh I’ll take the broccoli and raw vegan dessert balls too! Can’t I have it all?? ;)

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Tara July 28, 2011 at 4:19 am

Love you, Charlotte, but I think I just threw up in my mouth a little……just sayin’
and I say that in the nicest possible way….

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Charlotte July 28, 2011 at 2:06 pm

Hahah – I kinda grossed myself out a little too. I haven’t touched the leftovers, lol.

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Rachel July 28, 2011 at 5:42 am

Hats off to you for eating heart since I really never quite fancy that. Liver, yes I’ll eat it but it doesn’t need much cooking at all. See here http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/lambs_liver_with_64064 that’s for lamb’s liver which is less iron-y tasting than beef or pork liver. If you overcook liver, you might as well throw it away or feed it to the dog. Kidneys on the other hand are absolutely delicious. Lamb’s if you’re a kidney ingenue, but for my money pork kidney is the best!

All you offal-haters, that’s how I feel about beans and legumes, btw. Show me a garbanzo and I’ll show you my puke!

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Charlotte July 28, 2011 at 2:06 pm

Well I love the legumes too:) Good know about lamb kidneys!

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Naomi/Dragonmamma July 28, 2011 at 6:37 am

Rachel beat me by telling you to cook the liver lightly. Got another one? Five minutes, tops.
If any of you were suffering from iron anemia, you cured it with that one dish. Good job!

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Charlotte July 28, 2011 at 2:10 pm

I have several actually. I think cows have big livers. After my husband’s reaction though I think it’s going to be awhile before the next liver experiment;)

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Charlotte July 28, 2011 at 7:21 am

My mother’s recipe for liver – which is actively tasty, not just tolerable – involves frying it briefly and making a sort of sauce with the pan juices, yoghurt and lemon. The acidity seems to lighten the rather earthy liver taste.

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Charlotte July 28, 2011 at 2:12 pm

I love anything with yogurt!

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Terri July 28, 2011 at 7:24 am

I’m so glad right now that I’m a pescetarian ! I really should have skipped the preparation photo’s ! I can’t even gut a fish without getting all queasy these days. I keep threatening to go completely vegetarian but I think my family would kill me. If there isn’t some kind of “meat” on the plate then it’s not a meal. Luckily they count seafood :)

I love your desert though. It sounds fantastic !

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Charlotte July 28, 2011 at 2:13 pm

Dessert really was the best part;)

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Joshua July 28, 2011 at 7:41 am

No offense, but it’s food like this that makes me glad to be a vegetarian. Salad, fruit, and cupcakes sound good to me.

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Katie July 28, 2011 at 8:19 am

I’m all about meat and all, but you are ambitious. I’d have tried it, but ah….I have a feeling I’d have been hanging with son #3 under the table.

Good call on the bacon though!

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Holly @ The Runny Egg July 28, 2011 at 8:40 am

Charlotte I am impressed that you did this! It doesn’t matter how healthy those foods are, I cannot imagine ever touching them, much less eating them.

Weirdest thing I’ve had prepared for me: sheep stomach. I know there is a name for it, but that is what it is. The texture was so strange and I hope to never have it again!

(I really like your dishes!)

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Charlotte July 28, 2011 at 2:16 pm

Thanks! I got them at a thrift store. I dunno about sheep stomach… that sounds awful. Offal?? Oh dear.

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Colleenzo July 28, 2011 at 9:06 am

I’ve not tried offal before, but i definitely would if someone were to make it for me! I love experimental eating!

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Gesosomin July 28, 2011 at 9:57 am

You are brave. I would have thought the heart would be very chewy. After workign in pathology and seeing lots of autopsies I jsut can’t eat organ meat…it looks like…well…yeah, you get the idea.I’ve never liked liver except when it is breaded with lots of chilli powder and fried with onions…end ven then, the texture gets to me. I’t rather have schnitzel if I”m going to do all that work :)
Worst meal I’ve had is some of the “traditional meals” I’ve been given after marrying into a german mennonite family. Yes – who can resist cracklins and butter soup? Blech. (Of course I should say there are some things I’ve been given that I swoon over …so I guess it all works out).

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Charlotte July 28, 2011 at 2:19 pm

Oh the heart was really chewy actually. It was like stew meat but… denser. And yeah, if I had your job I don’t think I’d be able to eat it either! I’ve never had German Mennonite food but my maternal family is German and I’m convinced German is the second-worst cuisine on the planet.

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Carly July 28, 2011 at 11:12 am

You. Rock.

I would definitely try this, but you would have to make it for me! I don’t think I could prepare it at all. Also, you have given me new found respect for Missionaries. I will offer them cookies next time for sure!

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Charlotte July 28, 2011 at 2:20 pm

Aw thanks:) You are so sweet! And yeah, my dad, my brother, my husband and many of my friends were/are missionaries so I have a soft spot for them.

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Amy July 28, 2011 at 11:35 am

Honey, I love ya, but woah. Ewwwww!!! Your missionary guests must have been the most polite young men ever! We have had them stop by. . . they always seem nice. I feel bad for them, esp. the women, because they look so hot during heatwaves in their dress clothing. Even if I don’t agree, I do admire their conviction in living the life and following through. I agree with the previous poster – next time, I’ll invite them in for water. And chips or nuts or shredded chicken that we have around, lol.

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Charlotte July 28, 2011 at 2:35 pm

Hahah – they are very polite, yes. And I’m sure that applies to my cooking as well as anything else! Thank you, in advance, for your kindness:)

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Melanie July 28, 2011 at 11:50 am

Remind me not to read your blog at lunch again – LOL!! My mom used to make chicken livers when we were kids and i couldn’t force them down – yuk! I think i’ll stick w/ all “normal foods” thankyouverymuch! :-)

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Javachick July 28, 2011 at 11:57 am

Ugh. No.

In theory, I’m all for it. I believe if you are going to slaughter an animal, you should waste anything. In practice, I barely manage to eat the more common cuts of meat. No way could I choke down offal. My Mom used to cook liver – my parents would buy a half a cow, so they’d get that stuff as well. I could never get past the texture. A lady in our church gave my Mom a recipe to grind up liver and make meatballs with it; she promised that everyone would love it, but we still didn’t like it. I think Mom pretty much gave up after that.

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Javachick July 28, 2011 at 11:58 am

Oops – that should be you should NOT waste anything.

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Charlotte July 28, 2011 at 2:38 pm

I knew what you meant, lol! And I agree that on principle if you’re going to take a life then you should not waste any of it.

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Julie July 28, 2011 at 1:31 pm

OMG I shouldn’t have read this while eating my salad. I think it taste funny now! I often get a 1/4 of a cow, but always end up trying to give the heart and liver away. If I have no takers I throw it away. You are brave for cooking this and eating it. My family would have asked to order some food for sure!

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becca (bellebottoms) July 28, 2011 at 1:44 pm

Okay, the only liver I’ve eaten has been in pate form…and it was AWESOME! SERIOUSLY. I have eaten a lot of weird things, so I couldn’t really tell you all the crazy that has entered this stomach…(that sounded weird..) but your peaches looked delish!! (again, what’s with the inappropriate comments from me?)

oh well…

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Charlotte July 28, 2011 at 2:43 pm

I’ve had pate but it was years ago and I think I liked it. And hey, you can compliment my peaches anytime;)

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Jenn (GH) July 28, 2011 at 2:37 pm

Ha ha! You are soooo soooo sooo funny! Brent read it as well and was reading funny parts out loud. Thanks for the kind words and for doing this “mini-experiement” with me. I’m sure my organs would have sat in the freezer had you not come along side me. That’s what friends are for, right! ;-)

Reading from one of the comments I think I may have overcooked the liver? Maybe that’s why I didn’t like it? I should have definitely cut it smaller and put it in strong sauce like you. I still really want to like it so I hope I didn’t ruin my chances of liking it in the future.

Someone on my FB page wanted me to ask you why the misssionaries always wear white short sleeve shirts? (She also said you were “adorable”.) :-)

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Charlotte July 28, 2011 at 2:47 pm

Aw thanks! I thought your post was hilarious too! And with material like this, how could we go wrong?? As for the missionaries – the standard uniform is name tag, dark suit, tie & white shirt. They can wear short sleeves or long but seeing as it’s summer they try and stay as cool as possible. They also have to be clean shaven with hair shorter than their collar. Lady missionaries have more options but they’re all pretty limited in their style choices – part of that whole “focusing only on God for two years” business;)

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azusmom July 28, 2011 at 3:41 pm

My favorite missionary story: a few years ago 2 sweet elderly ladies showed up at out home with pamphlets, which they left on the porch because our dog started barking at them like she’d morphed into Cujo. The same day, 2 rather large male missionaries showed up at my sister-in-law’s house, and her big, “scary” pitbull ran to the door wagging his tail, and proceeded to lick their hands. She said “Yeah, thanks for protecting me from total strangers, vicious guard dog!”

It was very nice of you to feed those young men!

And I think I’ll stay away from the offal.

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Charlotte August 15, 2011 at 8:24 am

Haha – I bet the missionaries were very relieved!

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cbuffy July 28, 2011 at 4:12 pm

Aaaaah, Missionaries – they are practically teenage boys… they’ll eat anything! (Bless their hearts…) One of the local families always serves green jello with chicken feet sticking out of it (and olives threaded onto the toes…) to the “greenies”. Tries to pass it off as a “traditional southern” meal. They always let them in on the joke before any feet are actually eaten…

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Charlotte August 15, 2011 at 8:26 am

Hee – I’m going to have to try that one!! Love it.

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Molly July 28, 2011 at 4:38 pm

I love this post! And it’s true–organ meat is DELICIOUS!

However, I think it REALLY depends on presentation (and yours looks great, btw). I’m currently studying abroad in Russia where chicken organ meat is extremely popular. Popular to the point that they sell it in the fridge section of the grocery store, and there’s nothing quite as jarring as seeing individually packaged tubs of teeny-tiny livers and miniscule whole hearts on route to the yogurt section.

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Charlotte August 15, 2011 at 8:29 am

“there’s nothing quite as jarring as seeing individually packaged tubs of teeny-tiny livers and miniscule whole hearts on route to the yogurt section.” Shudder.

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Jody - Fit at 53 July 28, 2011 at 4:49 pm

I always love your pics & the kids, so cute.. that Jelly bean!!!

Me on the food – nope – not gonna happen! ;-)

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Kate July 28, 2011 at 4:53 pm

Eeek, the offal looks scary. I’m pretty sure if I tried to cook it my husband will revoke all kitchen privileges.

My freshman roommate in college was LDS (is LDS? She is still Mormon, but not my roommate). She had me promise I would be really nice whenever I see the missionaries come to my house. So far I haven’t had any visitors, but I live on a gnarly hill and no one likes to walk up it.

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Charlotte August 15, 2011 at 1:14 pm

Mormons (usually) make awesome roomies – we’ll never get drunk and throw up on your shoes;)

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Rebecca B July 28, 2011 at 6:30 pm

this reminds me so much of when I was a kid, and I was diagnosed as anemic. I had to drink a vile “cherry” flavored iron supplement every day(think cherry cough syrup that was stored in an iron pipe!) and my mom decided I needed to eat liver once a week. She only gave up when she realized that the only way I could swallow the stuff was to cut into tiny pieces, smother them in ketchup and swallow them whole. If I didn’t chew it I didn’t taste it.
As an adult I have only cooked liver for my dogs, and held my nose the whole time! The dogs all love the stuff!

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Charlotte August 16, 2011 at 10:32 pm

I had to take liquid iron supps when I was pregnant. Gah. You have all my sympathy!!

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Deb (SmoothieGirlEatsToo) July 28, 2011 at 6:53 pm

OMG you really do have matching outfits! I will take full responsibility for your girl romance as I’m the one who set you two up. haha kidding!

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Katie @ Wellness Mama July 28, 2011 at 8:07 pm

I love your writing… thanks for a great laugh that was much needed! I love organ meats (mainly for the health benefits, not so much the taste) and I’m always smuggling them in to foods. I actually make a smoothie in the vitamix of the organs or put them through a meat grinder and add a little bit when I cook ground beef or sausage. the husband and kids don’t notice.

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Charlotte August 16, 2011 at 10:34 pm

I have a Vitamix! I’ll have to try that – brilliant!!

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Nicky July 28, 2011 at 8:45 pm

I have three siblings and, as I child, I distinctly remember us all fighting over who got to eat the chicken hearts. My mother adores organ meat, but none of the rest of us will eat it (we grew up to be mostly vegetarian–I don’t know if the chicken hearts are to blame).
Regarding the missionaries, we get mostly Jehovah’s Witnesses in my part of Canada. A friend of mine tried to fend them off by speaking French to them, but the next time, they sent French-speaking JWs.

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Charlotte August 16, 2011 at 10:35 pm

I’ve never tried chicken hearts – I don’t know if I’m intrigued or horrified…

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Jeni Svestka July 28, 2011 at 9:35 pm

Gross. Just gross. Gah. I can’t even think about it. Please don’t bring that to movie night.

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Emily July 31, 2011 at 12:23 am

This has to be the one of the most disgusting meals / pics ever! Except your outfit – I LOVE your outfit (you look great)!

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Ariel July 31, 2011 at 1:40 pm

The most interesting thing I’ve ever cooked is a bison tongue. It was huge! Also, you have to peel it before you eat it. It turned out pretty tasty, though.

Usually I use the offal bits that come with whole chickens to make stock, but I’m thinking I might need to start cooking them up on their own.

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Charlotte August 16, 2011 at 10:40 pm

peeling a tongue… shudder.

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Another Suburban Mom August 8, 2011 at 8:36 pm

I have to hand it to you. I would never, ever cook organs. Just no, not happening. And just so you know, I am very polite to anyone who shows up at my door. However, I promise if some LDS kids show up at my door and I have some extra cookies around, I promise to share them.

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Jim C. August 14, 2011 at 1:33 pm

Organ meat casserole? Yes! About the healthiest thing in the world for you! Just to get it out there, hardcore Paleo/Primal here. Not looking for a debate, just wanted to throw some support to the “yes” side of the column. Keep it up, and for those of you that have never tried it, well, at least think about it, you might surprise yourself. Good stuff, will not make you fat, and is loaded with lots of nutrition.

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Lauren August 15, 2011 at 8:08 am

I’m over from MDA; funny post!
Since discovering Nourished Kitchen and Cheeseslave I’ve tried to add offal to our diet once a week. I include caviar in that. I now routinely use taramasalata in the yolks of devilled eggs. Even fish HATERS eat that.
Offal tip: soaking liver overnight in milk, beer, lemon juice & water, or the liquid from jarred jalepenos (if you’re going to serve the end dish with the peppers) will reduce the bitterness and chewiness. Contrary to what someone above said, I’ve had luck with part-cooking chicken livers (my favourite) and throwing the blood/liquid away – that also seems to reduce bitterness. From there you can add your other stuff or branch off to pate or chopped liver. For whole chinks, bacon and onions are a MUST! Cutting small is one way to go but then you’ve got to flash-cook them; grilling gently like a delicate steak is also an option. Once I made chili with finely cubed beef or veal heart, I decided I’d never go back – it’s not really organ meat like other organs, since it’s a muscle, so it tastes like beef, but beefier. Mark Sisson has a recipe for “organ slurry” which, with a bottle of red wine and some veg and peppercorns, makes the most delicious gravy ever. The thing that creeps me out about tongue is that it always looks like exactly what it is, but smoked and sliced fine, it’s delicious as lunchmeat with horseradish. I have no exerience with kidneys because I developed a distaste for them from steak and kidney pie. I live in Bavaria and, around here, “soured” organs – lung and kidney, particularly – are a delicacy. It’s offal, it contains bonus probiotics, but I can’t get past the pre-cooked grey appearance. And no pun intended, but I can’t get my head around brains.
Happy iron boosting!

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Lauren August 15, 2011 at 8:09 am

Wholel CHUNKS! Good lord, no racial slurs intended!!

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