One of the hottest trends in the gourmet food scene right now is offal. The term offal is a British name for the non- muscle parts of a butchered animal, such as the entrails and internal organs. Offal is becoming more popular, thanks to growing interest in Food Network TV shows, increased culinary travel, and the proliferation of innovative edgy neighborhood restaurants.
Although these “variety meats” (also called organ meats in the U.S.) have been used for centuries in ethnic cuisines, they are relatively new to most 21st century Americans. We’re familiar, however, with such things as foie gras, pâté, chitterlings, and those infamous Rocky Mountain oysters, which are all technically offal.
From a nutritional standpoint, there’s good news and bad news about offal meats. The good news is that they are an intensely flavorful and economical source of protein. The bad news is, with a few exceptions, they are rich in saturated fat, cholesterol, and calories.
Next time you pick up a menu at a dining hot spot, you might see one of the following offal featured:
Some types of offal are rich in purines, substances that can exacerbate a gout attack in at-risk people. And, as when planning all meals, be sure to have a moderate or even modest portion of these meaty choices. I often advise my patients to use the palm of the hand as an offal portion guide.
Because many “variety meats” are tougher than cuts of muscle meat, they might require slow cooking, tenderizing, mechanical chopping, or grinding. Some examples of creative cookery methods for offal include:
To avoid potentially dangerous bacterial contamination, never eat raw or undercooked offal.
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