The Offal TruthPosted by Johnathon Vaughn on Monday, September 7th, 2009
Tags for this Article: brains, offal, Pied A Terre, sweetbreads, tongue
The Truth is… the dining public does not appreciate the entire animal and all it can provide for our table or our taste buds. Thankfully, there is a class of chefs who are unafraid of these under appreciated ingredients. They may feature dishes on their menus, or in this case, specifically design a menu to highlight the offal!
While enjoying lunch at Pied a Terre, I asked chef Ryan Mielty why more offal was not featured on the French bistro’s menu. This conversation initiated the dialogue and planning for an “Offal Dinner”. Our table was host to eight great dishes of unusual menu items which were thoroughly appreciated for both the effort and the delightful ensuing tastes. It was a privilege to be able to enjoy chef Ryan’s creatively “offal” dishes.
The first couple dishes came out a bit quickly, but soon the pacing was perfect for the amount of food we were to consume.
Roast Bone marrow, parsley salad
With a respectful nod to the infamous house of snout to tail dining, St. John Restaurant in London UK, the roast bone marrow with sea salt and parsley salad was a fantastic start to the meal. The gelatinous melt in your mouth goodness of marrow as host to a sprinkle of sea salt and a pinch of the parsley salad on toast points was bite size pleasure.
The marrow was paired with a refreshing Kronenbourg pale lager.
Jerusalem artichoke soup, crispy pigs ears
The Jerusalem artichoke soup provided a velvety and creamy contrast to the pieces of crispy pigs ear surfing the surface. Not only did we have the crispy tidbits in the soup, chef dropped a bowl of them in the middle of the table to assist the great conversation, quite literally chewing the fat.
This dish and the next were paired with the deliciously balanced acidity and depth of a bottle of Alain Voge St. Péray “Fleur de Crussol” 2004 (N. Rhône).
Deep fried calves brains, anchovy, caper & preserved lemon
Once the zombie movie references died down, I believe we were all very pleasantly surprised by the deep fried calves’ brain. Especially the fluffy, creamy texture as soft as agedashi tofu. The lemon and capers complimented the taste and texture of the brain with acidity and saltiness. Absolutely everyone polished their plates at the table.
Stuffed ox heart, Horseradish & celeriac remoulade
Stuffed ox heart was a fantastic follow up to the brains as we went from soft and fluffy to a tender meat, rich and tantalizing with a crisp sharpness from the horseradish. The ox heart has a hint of liver in taste and is a dream meat with no fat, no gristle, just pure dense muscle… and just a bit smaller than your head.
This dish and the next were paired with a brilliant bottle of Mas de Daumas Gassac 2000 (Hèrault).
Lambs tongues, papperadelle, peas, mint & ricotta
The pappardelle and ricotta (both of which were al dente, expected of the pasta but a normally soft ricotta was firmer and appreciated in this dish) set the ambiance of romance to do a little french kissing with the lamb. The peas and mint provided a fresh counter to the lambs tongue and its luscious full flavour.
Black pudding, watercress, pommes paille, mustard sauce
After suffering too many mealy and dry black puddings, I was really impressed with this one. I loved the texture play on the plate as the tender sausage complimented the crisp crunch of the petite pommes paille; a lovely touch. Actually thinking back at this point, chef did a great job combining textures the whole dinner through.
This dish and the next were paired with Chave St. Joseph “Offerus” 2005 (N. Rhône), which is always perfect for big meat dishes.
Dry aged steak, Grilled Kidney, Sweetbread pithivier, madeira and spinach
At this point, drunk from fine food and wine, I honestly expected four and twenty blackbirds to come out of the pithivier, and would not have been the least bit surprised. I really appreciated the deconstructed Steak & Kidney Pie approach to this dish. As a stand alone plate, I would love to see this on the menu regularly but as the seventh plate in this dinner, satiated is an understatement.
Rhubarb Eton Mess
Even though we were all patting our bellies like Roman Senators, the Eton Mess was scrumptious and definitely a welcome delicacy. Rhubarb and strawberry mixed with the crunchiness of the meringue made for a perfect ending to the evening.
Paired with a delicious Loupiac Gaudiet 2003 (Loupiac)
The truth is, we need more brave dishes like this gracing more menus in more restaurants, more often. More please!