Paté. Sausage. Meatballs. Liver and onions? The list of culinary dishes that make use of offal, specifically pasture raised liver, are long, and with varying degrees of deliciousness. But with a little care and attention, these odd cuts of meat can be supremely tasty, incredibly economical, and enormously good for your health. And if you choose offal from pasture raised meat, you can rest easy know you are supporting humane treatment of the animals and responsible stewardship of the environment! Sounds like a win to me.
What is offal?
Offal is simply a term for the internal organs of an animal. We typically eat more of the exterior parts—the muscles and fatty bits that we call steaks, chops, ribs, and roasts. Offal can include the liver, the heart, the kidneys, the pancreas, and other parts that don’t get as much love. But most cultures around the world, from the beginning of time, have recognized the incredible nutritional value of eating offal, not to mention the need to make use of every part of the animal.
What are some of the benefits of offal?
Vitamin A is incredibly abundant in liver—it’s one of nature’s richest sources! It also has a ton of iron, zinc, and B12, which are all essential to a healthy and balanced diet. It also has plenty of other trace elements and minerals like copper, phosphorus and selenium, which are great for our immune systems.
As with liver, kidneys are high in protein and low in fat. They are also a very rich source of iron, B vitamins, riboflavin, niacin, and folate. And did you know that heart has about the same calorie and protein levels of chicken breast, not to mention tons more flavor?
But isn’t offal a bit… strong tasting?
Offal has a tendency to get a bad rap, mostly because these nutrient-rich cuts have a tendency to have strong, distinct, or minerally flavors. Now, some people aren’t bothered by this, and with frequent consumption, you might begin to crave these flavors as well! But it can also be preferable to sort of ease into things, and we have a few tips for you here.
One of the best tips to render cuts like liver a bit more palatable is to give it a nice long soak in milk before cooking it. Milk neutralizes some of the sharpness to the flavor of liver, and can make it seem more balanced and less bitter. This is a great technique to deploy if you want to puree liver into a pate or mousse (yum!) or give it a quick sauté and serve over a crisp, tart salad.
Another good one to keep in mind is that you can always grind up some offal and mix it with other cuts to make the most flavorful, nutrient-packed, and truly delicious meatballs or meatloaf of your life!
Speaking of meatballs, what are some of your favorite recipes for offal?
An easy way to boost the nutrition and flavor profiles of your stocks or bone broths is to include some offal into your mix of bones and scraps. Pretty much everything works here, though as livers can add a funky flavor, we usually save those for another use.
A simple liver pate preparation is one direction you can take. After cleaning and perhaps soaking the livers, sauté them in a several generous tablespoons of butter, then deglaze the pan with a healthy pour of port, cognac, or even some leftover red. Add a few thyme sprigs if you have them, and let the whole thing simmer and reduce for a few minutes. Let it cool a bit, then blend the whole thing up until very smooth. Spread the mixture into a ramekin and chill for a few hours. Then serve with some toasty bread or gluten free crackers! This one makes for a truly delightful party appetizer.
But one of the of the biggest recipe winners in our house is our Superfood Meatballs. These tender beauties pair fabulously with a slow simmered tomato sauce, or a creamy mushroom gravy, or even a soy-ginger dipping sauce — they are truly versatile and delicious!
We frequently offer our Offal Good Power Pack in Grotto Rossotti, our web store. You can sample some of our favorite offal cuts there, or see what we have at the Sunday Farmer’s Market in San Rafael! And please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions about offal—we’re always around for a chat!