Hello, here we are in such a time of uncertainty no matter where in the world we may be. I feel somewhat superfluous and irreligious by wanting to continue my musings and creative activities. Perhaps it’s a way to maintain a modicum of normalcy until we know where what I call the swirling vortex of chaos in which we are trapped comes to a rest. Thank you for continuing to read and comment and please, most importantly, please take care of yourselves and those you love.
I realize that I was in Korea almost a month ago, just as what we now call a pandemic was taking hold there. I returned home and jumped right back into my normal life … a highly enjoyable wine tasting (see Feb. 22 post), an informative apprenticeship observation with an elderly Haitian master cook and storyteller and her apprentice, a delightful excursion to the Everglades with a group of seniors from our community. In it all, I’ve felt great, though I had vestiges of a residual cold that I took with me to Korea.
With that said, here are some cooking adventures in the past few months that used what is called offal or organ meat. Even though this inexpensive ingredient which has lost popularity in the US is thought to be “awful” by some, it’s that we had in our home growing up. Simple calf’s liver with onions and tongue were dishes our mother made regularly. She told us how she grew up eating organ meat such as brain and lung, meats difficult to acquire now.; one or more of her Greek-born uncles were χασάπης, or butchers – in our case, kosher. Since we started dating, Constant Companion has always enjoyed organ meat as well.
In the past few months, I’ve had the opportunity to cook veal tongue and lamb heart, as well as the old standby liver. Some came from the freezer from my final trip to the beloved and now closed Penn Dutch grocery store (see Sept. 21 post).
The lamb heart, like beef heart, is a bit more difficult to prepare because of the cleaning. Fat around the organ must be carefully cut away and a network of veins and arteries removed, jobs not for the faint of heart. With the cleaning done as much as possible, slice the hearts into thin slices. This goes into a frying pan with a bit of olive oil and sautéd for no more than five minutes each side. I probably seasoned the meat with oregano, salt, and pepper.*
This time, I served the lamb heart with a sort of risotto and steamed pumpkin, “sort of risotto” because I use only olive oil and do not add cheese to my rice dish. In this instance, I added chopped shallots and chopped celery to the rice. As they cooked and I added the liquid, chopped mushrooms and chopped yellow pepper were added. Cut the pumpkin (calabaza) into thin slices and place it over the meat, covered for the last five minutes.
More recently, I prepared the veal tongue along with beef liver. I cooked them both because Daughter admitted that she’s not a liver fan. I knew she enjoyed tongue when my mom had cooked it. I’ve not seen beef tongue in the market for quite a while and when I do see it, the price has increased almost prohibitively. Tongue is not a lovely thing to look at, but if you enjoy it, it’s really delicious. This one was about 8-10 inches in length.
Into the pot of water went the tongue with a handful of “pickling spices,” a mixture you can find in the spice section. Following the cookbook instructions, the meat simmered for the requisite amount of time. When finished carefully remove the tough skin, then slice, and enjoy.
The beef liver came already sliced. I’m not good at removing the veins and stuff, so we cut around them after serving. First, sauté lots of sliced onions in olive oil until nice and soft. Move the onions to the side of the pan and add the liver (seasoned as above with oregano, salt, and pepper). When browned, about 10 minutes depending upon the thickness of the meat, turn and cook the other side.*
Our meal was completed with whole grain pasta and roast eggplant. My family frequently eats pasta plain with just salt and pepper or grated cheese. Don’t ask, it’s just how we’ve come to enjoy it.
*Note: Sautéd organ meat such as heart, kidneys, and liver benefits from a splash of red wine vinegar in the final minutes of cooking. It adds to flavor and perhaps softens the meat.
Constant Comment just emerged from behind his computer. He observed that the three of us are on voluntary quarantine today. Except for a few forays for some fresh vegetables and kitty food, I’ll be home the next few days. Let’s see what I can get into. And, please, stay safe.