Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines offal as:

1: the waste or by-product of a process: as a: trimmings of a hide b: the by-products of milling
used especially for stock feeds c: the viscera and trimmings of a butchered animal removed in
dressing: variety meat
2: rubbish

I love definition number 2. Really doesn’t make it seem as if the stuff is edible at all. But yet,
these parts of the animal historically have produced some of the greatest meals because face it
(pun intended, head cheese, face parts get it?), you need to be a great cook to make these
tough, fibrous parts of the animal savory. Anyone can grill a nice tenderloin steak to perfection
in a couple of minutes but can you do the same with stomach lining?
We recently returned from our annual sojourn to the Bay Area and discovered several dishes –
one which was another one of our many food epiphanies – that had us rethinking “traditional”
menu selections versus eclectic selections, in this case the often discarded animal parts known as
offal… but definitely not awful.


Located just under the Casa Madrona in the heart of Sausalito, Poggio’s Chef Peter McNee
considers himself a novice in the world of offal having added selections of these underutilized
cuts only in the past 4 or 5 years. While most of Poggio’s menu remains traditional Italian faire,
there are always several selections of that… that other meat. While we were there, he offered a
couple of dishes with chicken liver – both chicken liver pate and sautéed chicken liver. I know
that since chicken liver is usually a traditional dish in delicatessens, you may not consider it as
you would that other meat but it still is an organ meat and qualifies as offal. See, you may have
already had offal in your usual diet without even knowing it.
We were lucky that Lingua or Lamb’s Tongue was on the fall menu while we were in town. And
boy was it good. Food epiphany good! Good enough that I’ll probably check to see if my local
food purveyor, Y. Hata carries it. It was grilled and slightly charred on the outside but one bite
was reminiscent of the texture of that thin strip of meat around the heart of a piece of Prime
Rib. All the flavor of lamb with the texture of Prime Rib served under a bed of arugula and
water cress tossed in a light vinaigrette so that the bitterness of the greens and acid of the
vinaigrette helped balance the richness of the tongue. Along with some roasted baby beets for
sweetness, this was a magnificent dish. A return visit just for this dish would be in order!

Supermarket Offal

Most supermarkets sell fresh chicken liver but the quality varies from market to market. Often it’
s pre-frozen then thawed or semi-thawed before sale which isn’t as desirable as fresh chicken
liver. I’m sure you’ve also run across beef or calves liver – the stuff of nightmares of my youth
due to the perceived nutritional qualities of liver (a multi-vitamin gets those same nutrients
without the nasty flavor of supermarket beef liver) – but once again these renditions are either
frozen and thawed or not just very… fresh. I’m not sure if the States offer beef stomach lining
or tripe as readily as you find it in the 50th. Tripe stew is a regular menu item in most Hawaii
local eateries – in fact most locals know the difference between the honeycomb versus smooth
versus leaf tripe. Like most of the “less’ desirable cuts of meat, tripe does take its fair share of
cooking time for edibility. Boiling (+/-) with several water changes for up to 3 hours is the
rule… and this best be accomplished outside because of the fragrance that boiling tripe imparts
to your kitchen… drapes… carpet. This is a big reason why the Tatsumoto clan never had tripe
on a regular basis. However I recently reacquainted myself with the stomach lining only a
mother (cow?) could love. As I mentioned, Hawaii locals do have a love affair with tripe, so
much so that it’s not uncommon to find tripe poke at the local market. The local Marukai
Market does sell tripe poke on a regular basis so I decided to purchase a pound on a recent visit. I
reasoned that since the 3 hour boil was already prepared by the Marukai staff, all I had to do was
add seasonings for my own rendition of an offal masterpiece (NO pun intended). I added the
tripe poke to 2 cans of chopped tomatoes, 3 slivered garlic cloves and 1 tablespoon of dried mint
and salt and freshly ground black pepper. I simmered it in a slow cooker for 4 hours then tossed
it with about 2 tablespoons of chiffonade fresh mint right before serving. I served this over
polenta seasoned with salt, black pepper and freshly grated Parmegiano Reggiano. Mighty tasty
if I must say so myself!
In the local markets, oxtail is another staple from the nether region of the animal. As a young
college student, I often shunned oxtail reasoning that its sole purpose was to swat flies from the
bovine’s butt. This reasoning persisted despite the Kam Bowl’s famous oxtail soup served with
copious amounts of grated fresh ginger and chopped cilantro. I don’t know when it happened
but at some point, I had some braised oxtail spiced with traditional Asian spices and boy was
that a food epiphany! Savory rich meat with an abundance of gelatinous broth, perfect with a
Central Coast Pinot Noir or Syrah. I’ve been on the oxtail bandwagon since then.


We also visited the unofficial king of offal, Chef Chris Cosentino of Incanto who annually hosts
a pure offal menu. On our visit he had no less than 6 menu selections featuring offal selections
incorporated into several starters and pastas from tripe to sweetbread to trotter to bone marrow
to tuna heart to liver. And since few chefs in the 50th highlight the treat of offals, we had to
sample a couple of these dishes. We tried his Veal Sweetbread Terrina with Dates and Pickled
Ramps which basically was a rustic pork based terrine with sweetbread. I’ll admit that I would
not have known that sweetbread was in the mixture if I didn’t see the menu. But I think that’s
part of the inherent nature of sweetbread which is either the thymus or pancreas of the animal.
My own assessment of sweetbread is that it’s the organ culinary equivalent of tofu – white and
slightly creamy texture but not much flavor on its own. But the terrina was very good none-
the-less with a nice balance of sweet (dates) and sour (pickled ramps and mustard) to balance
the richness of the pork. We also tried the Parsnip & Bone Marrow Ravioli with Sangiovese
Sauce. Being primarily slightly beef flavored fat, the bone marrow replaced the butter or other
fat that normally would have been incorporated into the pureed parsnips. It may seem like a
waste since bone marrow roasted in the bone fetches a hefty price in most restaurants. Incanto’s
version was a slightly more decadent version of the traditional ravioli with a sauce that helped to
cut any residual “fattiness’ of the marrow.

Going Green

If you would like to live a “greener” life and contribute to the perpetuation of the globe as we
know it, I encourage trying some of these “other” meat dishes. For starters, they utilize the
entire animal without waste. Remember that cows are more than ribs, ribeyes and filets. They
also come with heads, stomachs, tails and all that digestive stuff in between. And not all of
these parts goes to Kibbles and Bits. Some of these parts are actually healthier alternatives since
they often are full of connective tissue and lower in fat. And since preparing offals requires a lot
of work, it measures the true cooking skill of a chef so if it’s on the menu, it HAS to be good,
not awful.
Not as Offal as it Sounds