Despite what the supermarket aisle may lead you to believe, there's more to an animal than neatly wrapped styrofoam trays of meat. From tongue to tail, offal (pronounced awful) encompasses all those taboo edibles that don't make the cut at your local grocer. Just Offal is here to explore these oft-neglected byproducts of butchering, featuring different offal meals from establishments across the Valley.
This week: Crispy Pig Tails served up by Big Earl's BBQ.
The Ick Factor: People are okay with eating something called rump roast or pork butt, but bust out the tail meat and they might look a little skeptical. Pig tails? Aren't those just a hairstyle for wee kiddos and those living out the slutty school girl fantasy?
Well, yes. But pig tails can also be one of the tenderest parts on the hog, provided you can get over that whole "eat meat straight off the vertebrae thing." If you're already in a rib joint and willing to indulge your inner Neanderthal by gnawing BBQ straight off the bone, then we think you're ready to level up to the next level of carnivore.
(bite into all the juicy details after the jump)
The Offal Choice: The crispy pig tails at Big Earl's BBQ. The tails were deep fried in a cornmeal batter and served naked, but we asked for a side of their fabulous green goddess dressing for dipping. A squirt of BBQ here and there complimented the tails as well.
Tastes Just Like: Dark meat masquerading as pork. Pork gets the reputation for being the "other white meat," which makes pig tails the black sheep (or pig if you prefer) of the family.
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The fat-to-meat content of tails is similar to pork belly and other succulent cuts, with lots of collagen that creates a velvety smooth texture to match the porky flavor. The closest relative to the pig tail, would be the "twitcher" from another animal, the ox. Oxtails are very similar in terms of being a tender, fatty cut of meat with a high collagen content that lends a velvety richness to the meat.
You Know It's Cooked Improperly When: Just like oxtails, pig tails are nothing but stringy meat surrounding vertebrae. So if you don't do some prep work like braising the little curly cues, then you're probably going to be stuck with some nigh inedible tail jerky. Take the time to slow cook your tails before you bust out the Fry Daddy.
Always been a DIY-er? Hit up Lee Lee's to procure your pack of pork tails, and don't try to substitute oxtails in these recipes. They're just too thick and meaty for most of the pig tail recipes we found. Despite the offbeat nature of eating tail, we stumbled upon plenty of tasty soul food recipes for crispy fried pig tails. Just make sure to braise those suckers something fierce ahead of breading and frying.
Know of some offal that we just have to try? Let us know in the comment section.