In a world of costly prime cuts—stately crown roasts, plump pork chops, and regal racks of lamb—it’s easy to forget about (and steer clear of) the more economical, but less lovable parts of the beast—bellies, brains, cheeks, combs, gizzards, hearts, hocks, kidneys, lungs, marrow, necks, shanks, spleens, tongues, trotters, and, oh yes, testicles.
Historically, these so-called odd bits have had a regular place on our plates and in our culinary repertoires. In fact, many are considered delicacies and routinely appear in regional specialties. So why do we eschew and waste valuable protein? When have our sensibilities become so squeamish? In short—when did we decide offal had become awful?
Jennifer McLagan, award-winning author of Bones and Fat, is on a crusade to bring the nose-to-tail style of cooking and eating out of the closet and back onto to our dining tables. Her mission: restoring our respect for the whole animal, developing a taste for its lesser known parts, and learning how to approach them in the kitchen as confidently as we would a steak or a burger.
Serious food lovers will delight in the sheer variety of the dishes that await, ranging from simple to challenging:
• Headcheese for the Unconvinced
• Veal Cheeks with Swiss Chard and Olives
• Cheese and Just a Little Brain Fritters
• Lamb Neck with Quince and Turnip
• Brisket Braised with Caramelized Onions and Chile
• Sweetbreads with Morels and Fresh Fava Beans
• Moroccan-Style Braised Heart
• Minted Tripe and Pea Salad
• Wild Boar Shanks with Cranberries and Chocolate
• Bone Marrow and Mushroom Custard
Much more than a cookbook, Odd Bits delves into the rich geographical, historical, and religious roles of these unusual meats. McLagan’s enthusiasm for her subject is contagious, and with her insight and humor will convert even non-believers to the pleasure of odd bits.
About the Author
Jennifer McLagan is a chef and food stylist and writer who has worked in Toronto, London, and Paris as well as her native Australia. Her previous books, Bones (2005) and Fat (2007) were both widely acclaimed and each won Beard and IACP awards. Jennifer is a regular contributor to Fine Cooking and Food & Drink. She has lived in Toronto for more than thirty years with her sculptor husband, Haralds Gaikis, with whom she escapes to Paris as often as possible. On both sides of the Atlantic, Jennifer maintains friendly relations with her butchers, who put aside their best fat, bones, and odd bits for her. Visit www.jennifermclagan.com.
Praise for Odd Bits: How to Cook the Rest of the Animal…
Finalist, IACP Awards 2012, Single Subject Category
New York Times Notable Cookbook of 2011
“Odd Bits is the most informative and enthusiastic book about weird organs you'll ever encounter.”
—Philadelphia City Paper, 11/17/11
“Readers will be hard-pressed to find a more well researched, interesting and useful cookbook in 2011. McLagan has triumphantly capped her trilogy, and regardless of why you buy the book, you will no longer fear the odd bits, but rather you will be striking up the grill to savor them with enthusiasm, confidence and joy.”
—The Gastronomer’s Bookshelf, 9/26/11
“It's all here, from beef cheeks to cow's back and calves' brains. It is a tribute to Ms. McLagan's talent as a writer that, even when she is describing the least appealing of her "bits,” her informative text, good humor and contagious enthusiasm will keep readers engaged and amused.”
—The Wall Street Journal, 9/24/11
“When the James Beard-winning author of Bones(2005) and Fat (2007) releases another cookbook, it's wise to stop for a moment and take a closer look at those Odd Bits.”
—LA Weekly, Squid Ink blog, Cookbook of the Week, 9/16/11
“This one's a little out there, but stick with me. In the fresh-off-the-press Odd Bits: How to Cook the Rest of the Animal, Jennifer McLagan educates us how to use the "more economical, but less lovable parts of the beast." Plus, the photography looks stunning.”
—YumSugar, 10 Foodie Books to Crave For Fall, 9/16/11
“It takes a daring author to list a recipe for headcheese as the first recipe in her cookbook. . . Consider that daring author a bit of a renegade in the world of cookbooks. Prior to Odd Bits, she tackled topics unsavory at the time in her cookbooks Fat and Bones and elevated them into something worth savoring. Her introductory recipe for headcheese may be intended to snap you out of thinking that the best parts of the animal are the ones that everyone eats. . . . [Odd Bits] will challenge your cooking skills as much as it will your palate.”
—Men's Health, Guy Gourmet, 9/13/11
“Judging from the titles of her past two cookbooks, Bones and FAT, you might guess that James Beard Award-winning author Jennifer McLagan has a slightly unconventional approach to cooking. You'd be right. Her latest cookbook, Odd Bits: How to Cook the Rest of the Animal, shows you how to tackle tongue, bone marrow, and all those other strange cuts that you may have tasted in restaurants but haven't had the guts (no pun intended) to make at home yet. . . . Use this informed, entertaining book to get in the fall spirit and make some comforting brisket-vegetable pie or surprisingly not-odd Peruvian Heart Kebabs.”
—Bon Appétit, BA Daily blog, 9/13/11
“Food writer Jennifer McLagan's single-subject cookbooks, like Fat and Bones, are always a treat. This time, she turns her attention to offal with Odd Bits.”
—Eater National, 9/12/11
“As a follow-up to her books Bones and Fat, chef and writer Jennifer Mclaghan is now getting into meatier territory, albeit from the perspective of preparing the "odd bits" (think snouts, feet, and organs). Her new book, Odd Bits is aimed at the offal-curious home cook who may want to get into nose-to-tail cooking, but who may have some trepidation about getting their hands messy (or bloody) with organ meats. . . . A recipe for barbecued corned beef is an intriguing and non-threatening entry point (who ever thought of grilling corned beef?), but before long you might find yourself whipping up some chocolate blood ice cream.”
—The Food Section, 9/9/11
“Anyone can slap a bone-in filet on the grill and have it come out delicious. But it takes a really talented chef to make a gourmet meal out of goat spleen. A talented chef, or this cookbook. You’ve always wanted to be a veal cheek expert.”
—Urban Daddy National, 9/8/11
“You can buy organic, grass-fed, conscientiously grown meat all you want, but if you're only eating one part of that chicken, cow, or hog, you're wasting a lot of usable protein — and that's totally un-green of you.”
“Jennifer McLagan, award-winning author of Bones and Fat, is on a crusade to bring the nose-to-tail style of cooking and eating out of the closet and back onto to our dining tables. Her mission: restoring our respect for the whole animal, developing a taste for its lesser known parts, and learning how to approach them in the kitchen as confidently as we would a steak or a burger.”
—The Huffington Post, 8/25/11
“unique, informative, and readable”
—Library Journal, 8/15/11
“It is tempting to say that this book is plain offal. But McLagan, who has authored two kindred collections, Bones and Fat, explores more than just innards. As the cover hints with its photo of two severed pig's feet, all sorts of extremities find their way to the table in this 100-recipe autopsy. It is perhaps the perfect gift for the host who has dreamt of announcing that the evening's meal will be ravioli of brains and morels, or heart burgers, or crispy testicles. McLagan puts the face back in preface with an intriguing 11-page introduction that places the odd bits in historical perspective and explores our loss of food literacy in the age of the supermarket. As the chapters progress from head to tail, there are also fascinating explorations of topics such as the wonders of tripe and how to choose a great neck. Even the meager duck heart and the fleshy cockscomb get their due. It's on to dessert: a tub of chocolate blood ice cream, which employs ginger, Grand Marnier and a half-cup of pork blood. McLagan earns linguistic points for exploring the derivation of such terms as sweetbread and head cheese. (Sept.)”
—Publishers Weekly, 5/16/11
“As an admirer of McLagan’s previous books as well as a cook and writer increasingly aware of the importance of using more than just the tender refined parts of animals and avoiding waste, I know of no other book this season more welcome than this one devoted to exploring the whole animal. McLagan comes through again. Thank you.”
—Michael Ruhlman, author of Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking and Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing
“Let Jennifer McLagan take you by the trotter and lead you through the odd bits. Hang on, surely some mistake: the good bits!”
—Fergus Henderson, author of The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating
"Enormously interesting and appealing...This is as wonderful an introduction to "odd bits" as you'll find. McLagan is unabashed in her exploration of these meats."
—Clifford Wright, thezesterdaily.com
Praise for Fat
McLagan’s book is a smart, sensual celebration of the flavorful animal fats prized by chefs and shunned by a generation of lipo-phobes. Her French Fries in Lard may change your life forever.
Jennifer McLagan’s cookbooks are joyously contrarian affairs. [Fat] is a rollicking journey through the kingdom of unrepentant, glorious, and filthy rich fat.
—T. Susan Chang, The Boston Globe
Persuasively arguing that the never-ending quest for “health” has gone too far, McLagan’s elegant and informed look at this most maligned ingredient is appropriately unctuous.
—Publisher’s Weekly (Starred Review)