Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
8 Mar

6 Sneaky Ways to Work Offal Into Your Diet

Take a look at that picture to the right. Appetizing? While I wouldn’t be surprised by numerous affirmatives from the Mark’s Daily Apple community, for most people even the sight of brains, kidneys or tongue is enough to turn their stomachs. Nutritionally, of course, we can all agree that offal is fantastic stuff. Leading the pack is liver, also known as nature’s multivitamin and the best source of pre-formed vitamin A. There’s the heart, full of CoQ10 and taurine, and the kidney, a rich source of selenium, B12, and tons more. Brain (rich in omega 3s) and marrow (rich in awesomeness) got mankind involved in our million year-old torrid love affair with animal flesh, while tongue is rich in fat, protein, and B-vitamins. The nutritional content of tripe, thymus glands, eyeballs, blood, intestines, and other miscellaneous parts are less studied but undoubtedly just as impressive. But truly enjoying offal – diving into a slab of liver, a heart kebab, or a plate of brains with slavering hunger and conspicuous salivation because you crave it – can be a hard sell. You know it’s good for you, intellectually, but the hunger often isn’t there. It’s kinda like forcing yourself to like a highly lauded yet obscure French film or listen to some underground experimental rock band that no one’s really heard of but who influenced just about everyone. You know it’s supposed to be amazing, and everything points to it being objectively good, but you simply can’t get into it. I even see a strong undercurrent of Primal folks who actually feel guilty about not eating organs.

With this in mind, the Bees and I have been devising methods to sneak offal into our families’ diets, because I know it’s a common stumbling block for people, and successfully hurdling it means getting better nutrition. So, whether you want to eat more organs without suffering or you want to trick your kids into eating them, read on for some pointers. And guard this (publicly accessible to billions) article and its contents with your life.

Liverwurst/Pate/Braunschweiger/Other Pureed Organ Blends

Okay, so “liverwurst” isn’t exactly inconspicuous, but it tastes damn good and I’d argue that most people say the name without pausing to realize that “liver” actually means liver. Liverwurst is simply a type of sausage to most people, and a tasty one at that, so you can usually pawn it off without trouble. It’s especially effective when dealing with tiny humans who can’t read, like your toddler. A favorite of mine is the German braunchweiger (traditionally pork liver, sometimes beef or calf; try frying slices of it in butter and onion, served with cinnamon apples), and there’s also a Chinese sausage made of duck liver that’s very good.

Pate, being a spread, often promotes cracker or bread usage, so beware. I find a few tablespoons in scrambled eggs added right before serving is very palatable.

Look for quality sausages with simple ingredients listed (animals, spices primarily). A good online order option is US Wellness, but check out your local meat supplier and ask if they make liver sausages. Or, you could just make your own.

Pet Food Mixes

I know, I know. It sounds bad, but one of the Worker Bees swears by it. Whenever he makes a stop at his local grass-fed farm in the Bay Area he always makes sure to grab a few pounds of pet food. And no, it’s not just for his dog – he eats it himself. The particular blend he picks up consists of 70% beef trimmings (meat and fat from steaks and roasts that were, well, trimmed off), 10% liver, 10% kidney, and 10% heart. Apparently, it looks like ground beef from afar, but if you look real closely you can see darker streaks representing the organs. By his trustworthy account, it’s a tasty source of organ meat that tastes just like ground beef and makes great meatza dough, tomato meat sauce, chili meat, and stir frys. He’s been feeding his organ-averse wife the stuff for months now, usually via meatza loaded up with garlic, onions, cayenne, salt, pepper, and oregano, and she loves it. Any grass-fed beef supplier or butcher will probably also offer “pet food” at a bargain, so check. Slanker’s carries it, for example.

You might also check out the Whole Foods frozen section near the meat counter. They’ll often grind up heart, liver, and ground beef, freeze it, and sell it for $1.50-$3.00/lb, though it’s generally not exclusively grass-fed. And, of course, you could grind your own pet food mixes. Start with low concentrations of offal and work your palate slowly.

Chili/Curry/Any Intensely Flavored Stew

Stews are wonderful, are they not? You toss a bunch of tasty items into a pot, turn up the heat, cover, and forget about it for a few hours. Sure, you could get more complicated with it, but simply doing those four steps will generally produce an acceptable meal. Another thing I like about stews is that they’ll turn anything into gold – even offal. The dozens of flavors meld together to form something unique. You don’t taste the tomatoes or the turmeric or the ground beef; you taste the curry. Slipping half a pound of finely diced heart and liver into that burbling brew will only enhance the flavor profile, not disrupt it. Stray closer to a pound, especially with liver, kidney, or some of the other stronger tasting organs, and people might notice.

Keep your organs frozen solid and grate them into your stews, or run the frozen offal through a food processor to save on time, if you worry that even diced chunks will be too obvious.

Liver Powder or Pills

Old school powerlifters and bodybuilders used to take liver pills and swear by their benefits to strength and stamina; today, you can order Argentine low-heat processed beef liver powder online. I haven’t sampled it myself, since eating actual liver is pleasurable and probably more beneficial than eating powder, but it looks like a good compromise. Plus, most Argentine beef is still pastured. Add a few tablespoons to a shake or a glass of water and choke it down. You may not be fooling yourself or anyone else into thinking it’s not beef liver, but a master chugger should be able to bypass most of the tongue’s taste buds and get it down quickly enough. Heck, make it a beer bong and I bet you’ll down it even easier.

Pills are also still an option (also from Argentine beef).

Make Heart Jerky

Heart, being nearly pure lean muscle, makes excellent jerky. Get a half-frozen heart and carve as thinly as possible (freezing makes accurate slices easier). For three pounds of heart, marinate slices in a 1/2 cup red wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon cumin, 1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne, 1 tablespoon salt, 2 teaspoons black pepper for at least twelve hours. Let them dry on paper towels completely before drying. Obviously, a food dehydrator works best but an oven set to its lowest heat with the door ajar works, too. They’re ready when completely dry. Everyone will enjoy it, and best of all, you won’t be lying by calling it beef jerky.

I suppose you could use a similar method to make your own dried liver treats, though I haven’t tried it. I bet the flavor would be tough to hide.

Make Organ Slurry

Assemble several pounds of various organs. You could go all liver or mix it up with a variety; your choice. Cram your food processor full of offal, add a few tablespoons of water, and hit the switch. After twenty or thirty seconds, your organs will have become a smooth reddish brown slurry. If chunks remain, process it until they disappear. At this point, you have a few options:

Pour out shots of slurry (I never said it would taste good).

Add a couple ounces of slurry to a shake (again, not tasty).

Immediately use a cup of slurry in a soup, stew, chili, or curry.

Freeze your slurry, using tupperware, ice cube trays, or even just plastic baggies, for later use in soups, stews, chilis, or curries.

Use an approximation of Richard’s method for making red wine reduction sauce. I reduce wine to syrup, add equal parts beef stock and organ slurry, reduce again to a beefy red wine syrup, add a bit of cream, let it reduce some more, then turn off the heat and add cold butter to thicken. Bam: delicious organ gravy/sauce.

Be careful with this one, and exercise caution when dosing. Organ slurry can be powerful stuff. And your slurry will be raw, so if you’re going to eat it raw make sure you trust the source.

This isn’t about learning to enjoy the taste of offal. While a valiant quest to undertake, that can also be impossible for some, because it often means overriding a lifetime of cultural and culinary programming. This is about eating offal without knowing it, either by deception or taste-bud detours, in order to reap the nutritional benefits.

Any other novel ideas, readers? Let me know in the comment board!

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. We make a traditional British dish, Faggots –

    Roughly two pounds of pork, one pound of offal (we like a mix of heart, liver and kidney), an onion, a couple of slices of bacon and some herbs.
    Grind it all roughly, bind with an egg and a couple of teaspoons of coconut flour.
    Form into “meat balls”, slowly pour over some hot stock/wine/cider/whatever you fancy and cook very gently so they don’t break up. We do ours in the crockpot. Also freezes well once cooked for a ready meal another day.

    We also love liver and bacon. Really easy – a portion of liver per person with two slices of bacon per person laid on top. Add stock, cover, and cook in a medium oven.
    We find that it helps if you soak the liver for a while – it loses some of that strong liver taste.

    Steak and kidney is great, even if we don’t have the pie or pudding around it. Just slow cook braising steak and quartered kidney with an onion, red wine and a sprig of thyme – perfect winter food!

    French Margaret wrote on November 3rd, 2013
  2. Liver Stroganoff is an absolute culinary delight! Ex.

    Dmitri wrote on January 22nd, 2014
  3. You know, there are better ways to refer to organ meats than “offal” – which makes everyone think “awful”…! I love many organ meats, and would like to point out that if anyone is at a loss as to how to prepare and serve them, they can always look to a classic French cookbook. There they will find lovely recipes such as Veal Kidneys Madeire, and Omelettes of Chicken Livers and Shallots, etc., etc.
    I think the place for most to begin is with liver and onions. And with the knowledge that liver and kidneys are at their most delicious when cooked gently and lightly. And with such accompaniment as garlic, onions, shallots, or leeks! And then add to that! Maybe some tomatoes, or dried tomatoes, or fennel, or fresh sage… Etc. Or you can always pour Béarnaise sauce over them. There is nothing on the planet that does not taste great with Béarnaise. And how primal can you get, since Béarnaise is made of egg yolks and butter, with some chopped herbs and vinegar added.
    And by the way, if you can find sweetbreads at all (and they will cost you an arm and a leg), they have the most subtle, gentle, delicate (and delicious!) flavor of any of the organ meats.
    Not so awful at all.

    Marge wrote on July 31st, 2014
  4. I love all organ meats, liver is the one I eat the most often. It’s not really about being ‘deficient’ in anything, except energy. When I first ate liver, I did not like it at all, I was amazed when I got up how easy it was to move all of a sudden. I will never be without liver again.

    It’s worth mentioning that the grass fed organs taste way better than the grain fed ones. i can’t eat grain fed meat without any issues, but for some reason the grain fed offal always tastes ‘wrong’ to me and the grass fed organs are delicious. Also, it is important: DO NOT OVERCOOK ORGANS! This makes them taste horrid! My foolproof method is to stew and slowcook them.

    Organ meats are absolutely delicious when cooked properly, Heart tastes like a lean pot roast, kidney tastes kinda like sausage, rare liver tastes like a steak, and sweetbreads are just delectable, as people have said here tongue is so tender and flavorful it just tastes like another cut of meat – and no one has said how amazing the fats on top of the heart and kidney is! THE BEST tasting fat ever, as good as marrow!

    Renee Katz wrote on February 2nd, 2015
  5. Today I ground heart, tough muscle meat, kidney and liver, mixed it together and seasoned it to make meatballs I could freeze as a sort of vitamin dinner. My husband can’t eat egg and I did not add enough corn starch so I will be making sloppy joe’s, spaghetti sauce, etc with the portioned out frozen bits. It also makes wonderful breakfast as is or with catsup (homemade no sugar).

    I now soak the liver and kidney overnight with a little vinegar which makes it extremely mild. I second the comments about grass fed beef organs tasting better, there is no comparison.

    Also beef kidney can be prepared like any snail dish. The strong and flavorful sauces go well. Duck and chicken hearts are delicious deviled.

    When I eat liver regularly my eyesight improves and I don’t need reading glasses as much. I get extra free when I buy my whole steer because their other clients don’t want it. Free meat was my biggest motivation.

    Liz wrote on March 5th, 2015

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