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: Head cheese served up by Lee's Sandwiches.
The Ick Factor: Head cheese is in no way related to any kind of milk-based diary you've ever encountered. It's an amalgamation of all sorts of meat scraped off a pig's head, including all those cartilaginous bits like ears, and sometimes other organs you're better off not knowing are in there. These pieces are then mixed up with sausage-style spices into a slice-able loaf of meaty bits. Slice it thin, don't look too close, and dig in!
(all the juicy details after the jump)
The Offal Choice: Lee's combination sandwich. One freshly baked baguette packed with thin-sliced head cheese, pork liver pate, ham, pickled carrots and radishes, jalapenos, cilantro and some sort of delicious special sauce.
Tastes Just Like: Cured lunch meat. Despite the strange and offal nature of head cheese, it tastes just like any other salty cured meat on the market. Think a combination between salami and ham. Hamalami.
If you look closely, there are some strange swirls of whitish cartilage throughout the "cheese," but it doesn't impact the texture much. You might hit a strange and chewy patch, but that's to be said for just about any lunch meat on the market. Those moldy swirls mottling bleu cheese are way more daunting than an occasional whitish unknown bit in a slice of head cheese.
What was more startling than the contents of the head cheese at Lee's Sandwiches was the electric pink color. Perhaps some sort of pickling process was involved, similar to the radishes and carrots complimenting the meat. Definitely unnatural, but undeniably delicious.
Bonus! Liver pate. Two offal bits for the price of one.
You Know It's Cooked Improperly When: It's advisable that you slice that head cheese thin. That way you get all of the flavor with none of the strange textural cartilage pieces. What more can you possibly do to head cheese to make it any stranger than it already is?
Know of some offal that we just have to try? Let us know in the comment section.