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.
Traditional French cuisine has a certain degree of ick to it. Your mom always told you to waste not, want not, and French cooks have been taking this advice to heart for centuries. Coq au vin thickened with blood, smooth liver-y pate, sausage casings made from intestine, and head cheese composed of just about any other meaty bits left on that critter. It may sound a bit foreign to a Wonderbread American palate, but offal meat can make a damn fine feast if done right.
In celebration of the most ghoulish holiday of the year, Chef James Porter of Petite Maison took full advantage of his classical French training to craft a very special Halloween feast. The First Annual Offal Halloween Dinner was served over the weekend and included a four course meal celebrating the sophistication of organ meat.
More gory details after the jump.
The first course of the evening was a homemade head cheese that included pork snout, cheeks, ears, lips and lungs. It was accompanied by house-made stone ground mustard, a current-based Cumberland sauce and grilled rustic bread. The texture of the head cheese was well balanced, and if you didn't know what was in it, I guarantee you would wolf this down. The spicy ground mustard and sweet currant sauce balanced the salty slice well, and a smooth consommé layer at the top was positively silky.
The second course ushered in a sweetbread and trotter crepinette topped with fried chicharrones. In plain speak, a thalamus gland and bits of pig feet wrapped in caul fat and topped with bits of crispy fried pig skin. The sweetbread was crisp fried with a texture similar to white meat pork, and the trotters were fall apart tender. The caul fat provided flavor and moisture, while the fried chicharrones added an airy crisp to the dish.
Sous vide veal tongue with crispy bone marrow and foie gras jus was the third course of the evening. A smooth mound of pureed pommes (potatoes) were surrounded by poached celery leaves and mushrooms in foie jus that added an earthy flavor to the dish. The veal tongue was sous vide until fork tender, and could have passed for any other cut of slow cooked beef. It was topped with a crispy bit of bone marrow that practically floated on our tongue before melting into a luscious puddle of heavenly fat with an unctuous mouthfeel similar to that of a soft cooked egg yolk.
While it's hard to pick a favorite dish of the evening, the foie gras crème brulee may very well have taken the cake, or custard if you will. The crisp burned sugar was topped with a sprinkle of coarse ground salt that complimented the sweetness of the sugar. The crème itself was lightly whipped with a soft and silky texture unlike any other crème brulee we've ever had. A light sweetness complimented the crème without overwhelming the distinctive foie gras flavor.
We savored every nibble of this delicious desserts, and while we have no idea how Petite Maison managed to integrate duck liver into crème brulee, it may very well be one of the best desserts we have ever had. Put that on the menu full time and you may end up converting some offal skeptics out there.