Offal: It's Not Awful!

Maybe the thought of eating liver, kidney, and heart makes you say “gag me with a spoon!” – but it doesn’t have to be like that. Organ meats are probably the superfoodiest food there is, favored over muscle meat by many cultures around the globe, but they’re not exactly tasty to most modern Americans. Some people worry that they’re toxic, thinking that if the liver or the kidneys filter out toxins, they must be filled with those toxins, right? That’s not how they work though: these are organs of elimination, and it is their job to move trash out of the body, not to trap it. But that’s not their only job. The liver is also a storehouse of nutrients for the body, and as long as the animal was healthy, eating liver means a major nutrient boon for you! But, how do you get past the taste?

First, if you’ve never tried organ meats before, I’d recommend starting with kidney or heart. The flavor is fairly mild and the texture is firm and reasonably familiar. You can simply chop it up small and fry it up along with some muscle meat. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also fry up some liver in bacon fat with onions, as per tradition, and you might even like it – Ryn did the first time he tried it, though I can’t say I care for it one bit. But not liking it is not a good reason to avoid it, so if you’re fairly certain the flavor will be a turnoff, here’s the trick that’ll fool even the pickiest palate:

Ask your butcher to grind it up.

And that’s all there is to it! Ask to have roughly equal parts liver, kidney, and heart ground and packed in one pound packages. The mix will end up a bit pastey, but that’s fine, because the next step is to hide it in recipes like chili and keema. I’ve found that a two-to-one ratio – two parts ground beef (or lamb, if you’re making keema) to one part ground organs – is perfect for complete undetectability. So now you’ve got three pounds of meat, and everything else you do just like you always did. Follow your favorite chili, keema, or even curry recipe. As long as you don’t skimp on the seasoning, you’ll never know there’s organs in there, and neither will your kids!

To get you started, here are my recipes for chili and keema:

Chili
2 lbs ground grassfed beef or buffalo
1 pound ground liver/kidney/heart
1 or 2 chopped onions
1 small jar Bionaturae tomato paste (because it’s in glass!)
1 jar Green Mountain Gringo salsa (medium or hot)
several fresh chili peppers – I like red serrano, but whatever you like is good
one bunch of fresh parsley (cause it’s good for you, and you won’t taste it anyway)
one or two chopped red or orange bell peppers
three or four dried red chili peppers, crushed
a lot of fresh garlic
cumin, coriander, chili powder to taste
salt, and pepper to taste

fresh cilantro and scallions to put on top

Some folks like to toss in corn, or beans, but I’m from Texas originally, so I’m a bit of a purist. If you like them, though, feel free!

The best thing about chili is that you just take all that and throw it in a big pot, and let it simmer for a good while. In the beginning you have to stir often, while the meat is cooking, but then you just turn it down to low and let it do its thing. Taste it once in a while, and adjust flavors as needed. Don’t be afraid of seasonings, though if you don’t like spicy, then use more cumin, coriander, and garlic than you do peppers.

This is best served with a whole lot of fresh guacamole – which is nothing more than avocado mashed up and mixed with a bit of lime juice (or kimchi juice), chopped cilantro, chopped tomato, salt, and pepper. If you like, you can also put in some garlic, cumin, and coriander, but it’s not required. And if you got your chili mix a bit too hot, just have some guacamole with each bite!

Keema

I don’t claim to know much of anything about traditional Indian cooking, but this is one recipe we like quite a bit.

2 pounds ground beef or lamb
1 pound ground liver/kidney/heart
1 small jar Bionaturae tomato paste (in a glass jar!)
1 or 2 onions
a bunch of garlic
1 jar Eden diced tomatoes (now in glass jars too!)
roughly equal parts coriander, cumin, turmeric, ginger, and garam masala
a spoonful or two red curry paste
several dried red chili peppers, crushed

fresh scallions and chopped tomato to put on top

Again – just toss everything in a big skillet or pot, and cook it all up together. After the meat is mostly cooked through, turn the heat down low and let it simmer so the flavors get nice and friendly. Once that’s simmered for a good while, we usually add a half a bag or so of frozen peas. A lot of folks like lentils or diced potatoes too, so toss some in if you’re into that kind of thing!

So there you have it! Head out to your local butcher today, ask him to grind up some organ meat, and make yourself a great big pot of delicious!

3 comments to Offal: It’s Not Awful!

  • CL

    I’ve been eating organ meat my entire life and I find adding a little bit of ginger to recipes helps with getting rid of the “raw” taste of it. I’ve never thought about grinding them up though. Liver is really easy to overcook (turns hard and grainy) which is why some people don’t like it I think.

  • michael

    it’s great that our bodies have organs that purify ourselves. but there is overtime a build up of toxic chemicals that our human bodies will not ever be able to expel because our own physical limits. even the chemicals that our bodies do expel can take long periods of time to cycle thru. these toxins have can detrimental effects immediately after their introduction, during their presence, and even after expulsion. i would never encourage anyone to ingest animal tissue that has high concentrations of these substances. these tissues are the very ones that process toxic substances. two of which you named above, liver and kidney.

    • ryn

      michael,

      liver and kidney will only be “toxic” in animals who are sick. animals (and people) fed their natural diet will be healthy through and through. native cultures all over the world recognized the nutritive value of these organs and favored them above other foods. so, yes, it’s prudent to avoid the liver or kidneys of a CAFO cow, but if your animal is pastured, the offal is very healthy and safe.

      the general concept of toxicity deserves a more extensive treatment, and i’ve been meaning to post some thoughts about it for a while now. i’ll try and get to that this week!

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