02 December 2011

Odd Bits

As promised, one of the New York Times Notable Cookbooks of 2011, and one of our favorites...Odd Bits by Jennifer McLagan. We are big fans of offal. In the South the rule for eating pigs was: Everything but the squeal. That rule covered most every other meat. (Actually, Southerners were never big on fish with the heads still attached, but I digress.)

McLagan has made a bit of a career out of writing cookbooks for the parts of the animals that most people see, not as "odd" but as simply trash. Her other books were about fat and bones. I heard her talk of this book as being the final chapter in her trilogy. So Odd Bits offers up recipes for heads and cheeks and brains and tongues and our favorite "odd" bit, the gizzard.

One of our favorite uses of gizzards is in a confit. Every so often, D'Artagnan's, the gourmet meat purveyor has confit of gizzards or as the French would say, confit de gésiers. In France, they are a popular salad enhancement, like croutons. This recipe calls for prepared gizzards. Most of the gizzards one buys at a market are going to be cleaned. Occasionally, they will have a wrinkled, yellowish substance on them, just peal that away and discard. This method will work with gizzards of any type, chicken, duck or turkey.

We do like to see writes who use a particular spice blend, to keep us from constantly add 1/4 teaspoon of this and 1/2 teaspoon of that. For McLagan's confit of gizzards she offers up an easily changeable confit salt.

Confit of Gizzards

10 1/2 ounces / 300 g gizzards, prepared
1 1/2 tablespoons / 3/4 ounce / 20 g
Confit Salt
1 clove
garlic
Melted duck fat or lard

Sprinkle the gizzard halves with the salt, turning to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 1 day.

Preheat the oven to 200°F / 100°C.

Rinse the gizzards to remove the excess seasoning mixture and pat dry. Place them in a small, heavy flameproof casserole or Dutch oven and add the garlic clove and just enough fat to cover the gizzards. Place the pan over medium heat, and when you see the first bubble in the fat, remove the pan from the heat and transfer to the oven. Cook, uncovered, until the gizzards are very tender, about 3 hours.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the gizzards to a sieve placed over a bowl and let cool. Strain the fat into a large measuring cup and let stand for about 10 minutes so the cooking juices sink to the bottom.

Place the gizzards in a clean container and then pour enough of the fat over to cover them completely. Discard any cooking juices at the bottom of the measuring cup, and reserve any extra fat for another use.


Confit Salt

3 large sprigs thyme
2 fresh bay leaves, torn
1 1/2 ounce/40 g coarse salt
2 teaspoons black pepper corns
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

Remove the leaves from the thyme stems and discard the stems. Combine the thyme and bay leaves, salt, peppercorns, and nutmeg in a spice grinder and grind till powdery. Store in an airtight container; it will keep for several months. (
McLagan suggests that sage and fennel are excellent additions to the salt. Just add a bit to the grind.)

So if you are squeamish about gizzards do give this recipe a try.

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