Nomad Jay

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About Nomad Jay

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  1. Yeah, "tripe" and "tripas" aren't true cognates. I've always seen tripe labeled in English so that's how I refer to it. I know just enough Spanish to get myself thrown into jail, but not enough to talk my way out, so I usually just point and say "Este, por favor." Mea culpa, next-to-impossible was hyperbole. I ate a lot of barbacoa when I lived in San Antonio, though I didn't know it was cheek meat at the time. I miss barbacoa. And getting tamales at Christmas. And, oh man, I'd almost forgotten about Big Red until you brought it up. Dang it, now I'm hungry.
  2. Put simply, consumption of organ meat is regionally dependent in the US*. For example, kosher and halal butchers won't carry organ meat due to religious prohibitions about consumption of blood and meat with blood still in it. On the other hand, a lot of chain markets in the US carry packages of chicken giblets. I can only speak for regions I've lived in but I've traveled a fair bit and lived a lot of places and I've got a good bit of caffeine in me so here goes. Commercial organ meat in the US comes from larger mammals (cattle, pigs, sheep), turkey, and chicken. While you can farm/ranch alligators, I've never seen alligator organs for sale in a brick-and-mortar store in the US. I'm excluding wild-caught animals from this discussion because only about 4.3% of the eligible US population (11.5 million out of 269.7 million) hunts every year so it's not really representative of the population at large. However, judging by anecdata, hunters consume more organ meat than non-hunters. Packages of chicken giblets (lungs, kidneys, heart, liver), chicken hearts, or chicken livers are pretty easy to find in the American Deep South. They become more rare as you move west or north. For example, in Texas and Georgia I could find giblets on the shelf next to whole or cut-up chickens. In Tennesse and Missouri I could find whole chickens with giblets included but not giblets by themselves. In Montana it's nearly impossible to find chicken giblets unless you specifically ask a butcher or a meat counter to reserve them for you when they slice up the chickens for packaging. Oddly enough, whole turkeys generally come with giblets but we only usually cook turkey at home once or twice a year and I suspect the giblets get discarded most of the time. When I can find whole duck at a US market it generally doesn't have the giblets included, but they do give you an utterly disgusting package of pre-mixed, over-salted orange sauce, so a big shout-out to the hack who thought that one up. Personally I like giblets best as gravy: sauté and use the renderings/fond/bits-in-the-bottom-of-the-pan as the basis for the roux. It's delicious and I find most people really like so long as I don't mention to them what they're eating. In Louisiana, chicken liver is diced up, seasoned, sauteed, and added to white rice to make something called dirty rice. Personally I don't care for it (it's got a weird texture) but I have relatives who love it. I do know some folks who deep fry chicken livers but I've never eaten a fried chicken liver. In areas with high(er) Mexican populations I see tripe (edible stomach lining**) pretty easily. Mexicans make tripe into stew called menudo, which is the world's greatest hangover cure. Aside from tripe, I don't find organ meat from larger mammals in most chain markets but decent butchers will have usually have some reserved. Heart is basically entirely lean muscle so it takes well to hot, dry, fast cooking. If I can get sufficient quantities I make it into fajitas. I've never eaten tongue and I'm not terribly fond of liver on its own. I've only seen these in one or two specific stores that weren't dedicated butcher shops. I mentioned chicharrones in my earlier post. Those are usually found in the American Deep South and places with higher concentrations of Hispanics. They're an excellent beer snack. If you find a bar that serves these (the real kind, not the vegetarian version), stick around. I've generally found those to be very interesting and entertaining places. There's also something called "scrapple" in the Northern US. Traditionally it's made from the pig and uses "everything but the oink". From what I've read it's, similar to blood sausage and is supposedly popular in the Mid-Atlantic states but I've been to Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland and never found anywhere that sold or served it. While it's not strictly organ meat, I have noticed that finding cheek meat in the US is next-to-impossible pretty difficult. From what I gather this has to do with both butchery methods in the US. The Food and Drug Administration, the US agency that regulates stuff we can consume, has decreed that bolt-gun butchery renders cheek meat unfit for sale. I find this both 1) completely stupid and 2) a real shame because cheek meat makes some of the best taco filling I've ever had the pleasure of consuming. When I lived in Europe (I say this in the least pretentious manner possible) it was pretty easy to find cheek meat at both at the butcher and at chain markets. Pretty much the only way to get cheek meat in the US is to kill the animal and butcher the animal yourself. EDIT: Tanktimus pointed out that Mexican meat markets often carry it. I'm assuming they're getting it from kosher butchers? And of course, no discussion of organ meat in the US is complete without Rocky Mountain Oysters. Also known as prairie oysters or huveos del toro, these are peeled, battered, deep-fried cow testicles.*** Yes, really. Personally, I've never eaten one. The folks I know who have eaten one did it mostly out of curiosity, novelty value, or look-how-bold-I-am-machismo. On the other hand, I know of two or three towns that have annual Rocky Mountain Oyster festivals. I expect there's only so much novelty value one derives from eating these, so there's probably people who really do enjoy the flavor and texture of the dish. If you're still reading at this point, you really aren't bored aren't you? Overall I think there's a pretty big "ick" factor for most Americans when it comes to organ meat. On the other hand, it keeps the prices of this stuff pretty low so when I do find it, I can afford to stock up and make myself something delicious. *Expanding a bit, it's tied to culture, history, ethnicity, and socio-economic class. That discussion has the potential to be radioactive, and possibly go critical, so suffice it to say consumption of organ meat is more widespread in historically-impoverished groups. ** Yes. Really. *** Yes. Really. Again.
  3. I've had black pudding before, but what is lorne sausage and sassermeat?
  4. Since I haven't seen anyone talk about it yet, I'll talk about schnitzel. Schnitzel (German for "cutlet") refers to breaded, fried meat cutlet. Take a piece of meat, pound it flat, dredge and bread, then pan fry. If you top it with mushroom gravy it becomes jagerschnitzel ("hunter's schnitzel"). Wienerschnitzel ("Vienesse schnitzel") is schnitzel that uses a veal cutlet. Wienerschnitzel is the Germanic precursor to chicken-fried steak in central Texas* and other parts of the American south. Personally, I like my schnitzel sans gravy or sauce and served with fresh slice of lemon that you can then squeeze onto the dish. In my home country of Texas, white gravy isn't quite bechamel but it is close. Traditional Texan recipes use bacon fat or lard instead of butter for the roux*** and water instead of milk, since dairy was in short supply in the early 19th century. If you've been extra good, the cook uses black coffee to thin out the roux and you've got red-eye gravy for your biscuits or the aforementioned chicken-fried steak. Other things you might run across in Texas: Kolaches are a Czech pastry similar to a Danish, but more chewy and less flaky. A kolabznek is a pig-in-a-blanket using kolache dough Posole or pozole is a Mexican soup made with chicken and hominy, usually ladled over uncooked shredded cabbage. Chicharrónes are chunks of fried pork belly or pork rind, traditionally seasoned with chili powder. They're pretty messy to make so I usually only make them if I'm rendering out the fat from a fatty cut of pork. *Fun fact: central Texas was settled by Germans and other Eastern Europeans at the invitation of the Spanish and later Mexican governments, partially as a shield against the Commanche. That's why New Braunfels is 30 miles from San Antonio and San Marcos is 56 miles from Pflugerville (pronounced flew-gur-vil) **This cut roughly encompasses the topside, silverside, and thick flank for you Brits ***Any animal fat will do, really. Theoretically you can use beef fat, but I think it would be too strong for most traditional uses. I've yet to try duck fat, but I'm betting it would be delicious.
  5. This doesn't strictly meet the criteria for this thread, but I'm gonna share it anyway. This week I'm observing a muay thai class (deciding if it might be something I want to take up). There's a couple of high schoolers out on the mat. About half-way through one of the parents sitting nearby turns to me and asks "So, which one of these kids is yours?"