The less common parts of the beast
As you’ve seen in my posts on offal before, there are edible parts of the animal that you won’t find in the supermarket–Americans seem to focus on only the really choice (not referring to USDA grading here) parts of the animal–like steaks and roasts. We relegate some really tasty parts to pet food (not that I don’t love the cat–I’ll share).
If you want to sample some of these tasty bits, you’ll need a local supplier who butchers their own animals or you can likely find some of these other edible parts in an Hispanic or Asian market, though I’ve noticed that pork belly has been showing up in the meat case at my local Harris Teeter recently.
For cooking instruction for the odd bits, some of my favorite cookbooks for this “nose-to-tail” or “everything but the oink” eating are by Fergus Henderson and Jennifer McLagen. See Bibliography page.
This really isn’t offal–it’s not an internal organ, but it is part of the beast that we don’t usually cook (except as bacon), kind of like jowels or cheeks. For some really luscious pork, you should try pork belly. This is going to be more like what you’d get if you attend a “pig pickin'”, rather than the usual pork roast that shows up on the dinner table. If these pictures from Eat the Earth don’t have you drooling on your keyboard, I can’t imagine what will.
The method used there was from Jamie Oliver.com; here is a recipe for roast pork belly. This is serious comfort food–and it’s good to be able to get this without having to wait for an occasion where the whole pig has been cooked. Now that you’re acquainted with “less common” parts of the beast you should check out true offal: heart, liver, lungs, kidneys, and even the stomach and intestines. (Frankly, I have cooked and eaten tripe (stomach) and chitterlings (intestines), and probably will not ever cook those two bit of offal again–unless it’s the intestines as the casing of sausages. That’s a whole different thing. I’ll happily have a go at most of the other organs.
Since I’ve an easy supply of offal from Rose’s Meat and Sweet Market and a large Li Ming’s Global Mart (Asian) I’ve no problem getting the odd bits–like duck gizzards–so there will be more about offal as we go along.