Offal: what they are, recipes and benefits

Offal: what they are, recipes and benefits

Meat offal has been living a second life in recent years, much better than the previous one If at one time they were in fact considered waste parts and were mostly eaten by people who could not afford anything better, today they are also increasingly used by great chefs , who revisit some popular recipes that have fallen into disuse in a modern key.

Offal is also known as the fifth quarter and the reason is that it is part of meat that does not fall within the four main cuts of the animal . Being made up largely of internal organs , they are sometimes also identified as hidden cuts.

What are offal

  • Tripe ,
  • kidneys or kidneys ,
  • lungs ,
  • liver ,
  • heart ,
  • sweetbreads ,
  • spleen ,
  • small intestine ,
  • testicles ,
  • brain ,
  • tongue,
  • udder ,
  • tail,
  • legs,
  • taione,
  • head,
  • legs.

How to cook offal

All these parts of meat lend themselves to being cooked in many ways. Many cuts can be stewed, or boiled and served in broth , or still cold in salads, accompanied by tomato sauce , fried or as a filling for sandwiches .

The best known dishes based on offal

Offal or fifth cut are key ingredients of many local recipes and if over the years some have been forgotten, others resist. Many are part of the street food category such as the Lampredotto from Florence , a sandwich made from one of the four stomachs of cattle, the abomasum , or the Pani câ meusa from Palerno , a sesame sandwich stuffed with pieces of veal spleen and lung .

In traditional dishes, on the other hand, the most used offal is tripe , present in recipes from many regions. Formed from different parts of the stomach of the bovine, it can be cooked in many ways such as stewed or with tomato sauce .

The Piedmontese mixed fry is also very well known and is prepared with sweetbreads, kidneys, veal loaves, brain, liver and testicles of the veal and the leftovers from pork and lamb slaughter . Also from Piedmont comes the financier , prepared with veal offal (specifically sweetbreads and back) combined with beef , livers , crests, barbels and chicken eggs , to be sautéed in a pan.

In Veneto, on the other hand, Venetian-style liver is eaten , in which the strong flavor of the liver is accompanied by that of the onions and, although not appreciated by everyone, it represents a local delicacy.

Veal intestines are the basis of a great classic of Roman cuisine: pajata , served as a first course to season rigatoni or as a second course stewed, grilled or baked. Also from the capital comes the oxtail , which is none other than the oxtail sautéed in a pan with onion , carrot and celery cut into small pieces, peeled tomato and white wine to deglaze.

How to clean offal

Some offal (not all) needs a specific process before it can be eaten without running risks , or even just to make it palatable.

The fundamental part in the preparation of this offal is cleaning , which is essential and must be done in a very meticulous way. The reason is that since we are dealing mainly with internal organs, they are likely to be rich in impurities that are difficult to digest or harmful, which the body is unable to eliminate as it does with normal toxins – think of the animal’s stomach or intestines.

When choosing a piece of fifth quarter therefore, before thinking about how to cook it, it is essential to dedicate yourself to its cleaning, or rather the whitening process.

The most immediate way to do this is to immerse the cuts in boiling water for a few minutes . This step is usually sufficient to eliminate impurities but offal can often have a bad smell, which can be mitigated by boiling it in the following liquids.

  • Water and salt . The fastest way to reduce odors is to add a little salt to the water in which you boil the offal.
  • Milk . Boiling offal in milk is a little known but very useful practice, which gives the meat a very delicate flavour.
  • Water and lemon . This solution, on the other hand, not only allows offal to be whitened and perfumed, but also to disinfect it. You can also replace the lemon with other acidic substances such as apple or wine vinegar.

It being understood that cleaning offal is not a suggestion but an indispensable option, it should be emphasized that the cooking methods envisaged for the various recipes also help to eliminate bacteria , impurities and any harmful substances. The spleen fried in boiling oil , for example, or the head that needs to be boiled in water for hours to be consumed can already be said to be quite safe.

However, in order to avoid taking unnecessary risks, when you decide to cook dishes based on meat belonging to the fourth fifth, it is always good to make sure you have a few more minutes to spend in the kitchen, so as not to neglect any fundamental step, not only for the good success of the dish, but also for health.

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