Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Fresh French Innards

In today’s issue of the New York Times Maia de La Baume wrote a great piece about ‘A Feast of Innards Nourishes French Nostalgia.’ There is great insight into the who and why of La Frairie des Petits Ventures or the brotherhood of small bellies. It’s a festival in Limoges, France that celebrates the old world culinary traditions that center on, well, sheep testicles cooked in garlic, parsley and port. If for no other reason and I greatly suggest you read the whole article as it is worth the time, there is a wonderful picture that looks almost medieval…and who gave those kids swords?

I would love to try some of the sautéed sheep testicles. I have not enjoyed testicles in my culinary adventures. I saw some bull’s testicles at the West Side Market, but I didn’t have the ‘balls’ to buy them and cook them for myself. It’s a lot like how I feel about tongue. Its great meat that I’ve enjoyed a few times, but if I am the one who has to peel that thick gross skin off it…yuck!

Blood sausage is another major item at this French festival. I’ve had Black Pudding in the setting of an Irish restaurant, and if I scoop enough egg yolk over it I’ll manage to get it down. By no means am I going to order a side of it though, and I said that before I even knew what it was I had eaten.

Tripe is another item that I’ve managed to avoid. It is featured in the hot counter of every Asian Market in town, but I just have not had the ‘stomach’ to order it. I am not offended by it. Nor am I avoiding it, the right time just has not come up. I’ve never asked, “instead of the General Tao’s chicken do you have a tripe dish.” I will have to think about that next time.

As for other innards…I love foie gras, sweetbreads, cheeks and tails. I’ve made pork head cheese and it’s great, but I’m not sure what that stuff is at the deli counter? Crackling, pig ears, braised snout, and even baby duck egg have all been agreeable to me. Chicken liver I’ll take ‘em or leave ‘em as they are great deep fried with a crunchy crust, but then again what isn’t? Other livers taste like eating a penny to me….yet I’ve not had them deep fried with a crunchy crust. Ha!

Rabbit hearts and livers skewered on a rosemary stem were very pleasing as they got sent to the grill on a whim one day. Pig’s feet I’ve used in stock, but there doesn’t seem to be enough there worth eating as a standalone item. Chicken feet are right next to the tripe at the Asian Market, but I’ve not ‘stepped’ up to the plate on that item either. They look crispy and good though.

We don’t eat much fish innards do we? Monk fish liver is something I’ve seen on TV. Shad roe was just downright nasty, and I was so excited to try it. Sturgeon caviars are just not worth it to me considering the environmental strain, even though farmed product is available these days. Tabiko is ok, it’s like fishy pop rocks, but unlike sheep testicles you wouldn’t dare to center a whole dish around it, let alone a whole festival.

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