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Odd Bits: How to Cook the Rest of the Animal Hardcover – September 13, 2011

4.7 out of 5 stars 52 customer reviews

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Frequently Bought Together

  • Odd Bits: How to Cook the Rest of the Animal
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  • Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipes
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  • Bones: Recipes, History, and Lore
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Featured Recipe: Wine-Braised Beef Cheeks

Serves 6

3 cups / 750 ml red wine
1 onion, halved and sliced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 stalks celery with leaves, sliced
4 cloves garlic, germ removed
2 fresh bay leaves
1 large sprig rosemary
1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns
2 to 3 beef cheeks, about 3 pounds / 1.4 kg total, trimmed (see page 29)
Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons beef dripping or lard
1/2 calf’s foot, about 1 pound / 450 g, prepared (see page 100) (optional)
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

Pour the wine into a large saucepan and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat so the wine bubbles gently. Tip the saucepan slightly away from you and, using a long match, light the wine. Once the flames die out, light it again, and keep lighting it until it no longer flames. Pour the wine into a large bowl (there should be about 21/2 cups / 625 ml). Add the onion, carrots, celery, garlic, bay leaves, rosemary, and peppercorns. Set aside to cool.

Cut the beef cheeks into 2 or 3 pieces so that all the pieces are the same size. Place in the marinade, cover, and refrigerate overnight, turning a couple of times if possible.

Remove the cheeks from the marinade, pat them dry, and season with salt and pepper. Strain the marinade, keeping the liquid and the solids separate.

Preheat the oven to 300°F / 150°C.

In a heavy flameproof casserole or Dutch oven, melt half the fat over medium-high heat. When the fat is hot, add the cheeks in batches and brown. Transfer the cheeks to a plate. Lower the heat, add the vegetables, herbs, and peppercorns from the marinade, and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes, or until they soften.

Pour in the reserved marinade liquid and bring to a boil. Return the cheeks with any juices to the pan, add the calf’s foot, and return to a boil. Cover the meat with a piece of wet parchment paper and the lid, transfer to the oven, and cook for 3 to 4 hours, or until the cheeks are very tender.

Transfer the cheeks and the foot to a plate.

Strain the cooking liquid through a sieve into a bowl, pressing on the vegetables to extract all the juice; discard the solids. Let the cooking liquid stand for 5 minutes, then skim off the fat and set the fat aside for another use.

Return the cooking liquid to the pan and bring to a boil. Continue to boil until the liquid coats the back of a spoon. Meanwhile, cut the meat and skin from the calf’s foot into small dice; discard the bones. Return the cheeks and diced foot to the reduced sauce and reheat gently. Add the vinegar and taste, adding more salt, pepper, and/or vinegar if necessary. Sprinkle with the parsley and serve.

Alternatives: Oxtail, beef shoulder, or shank


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.”
—Uncrate, 8/31/11

“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. 
People Magazine
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)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Ten Speed Press; First Edition edition (September 13, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 158008334X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1580083348
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 1 x 10.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #76,045 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By William D. Colburn VINE VOICE on September 16, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I own all three of her books. The first two, Bones and Fat, are amazing. So far I've only skimmed this one. It covers a lot more territory than the first two do. She says in this newest book that if she writes a fourth, it will be called Skin. I'd buy that book too.

One problem with this book is that it is so broad in comparison to her first two. Bones was just about eating bones. Fat was just about eating fat. But everything else is a lot of stuff. Ears, feet, hearts, lungs, gizzards, kidneys, brains, testicles, intestines, and I'm sure there are things I'm missing. The first two were quite focused, but this one is all over the place. It does group recipes by the region of the animal, which is somewhat helpful. Ears show up early, and udders show up later. See, udders! I forgot to list them in my earlier list.

Even just skimming this book taught me a a lot. There is a kind of sausage that is made with pork intestines. Obviously you'd use a real pork intestine casing on your pork intestine sausage, or it just wouldn't be right. Having made my own chitterlings from a freshly killed pig (I still have its feet in my freezer) I can honestly say that I'm just terrified of making intestine stuffed intestines. The recipes and suggestions all look pretty sound.

There are no eyeball recipes. But you'll have them cooked as a side effect of a few dishes since the eyeballs will just be part of the whole presentation. And she gives advice on how to eat them, to make it easier on the timid diner.

Overall, my biggest hope for this review is that is scares off the timid. It would be a shame to waste such a beautiful book on someone who thinks that meat is only what gets shrink wrapped in the meat market at the grocery store.
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Format: Hardcover
While I am sure many will pick up Odd Bits as an "Iron Chef meets teenage boy dare meets Fear Factor episode", the reader will be swiftly and joyfully swooped up into one of the top books of 2011. Jennifer McLagan's final stage of her trilogy, including the much lauded Bones (2005) and Fat (2007), is a comprehensive exploration of those animal parts that are ignored or tossed in the bin, and the word fascinating would be the ultimate understatement in describing this book.

The Australian-born Jennifer McLagan is a Toronto-based chef and writer who is a regular contributor to Fine Cooking and Food & Drink. She is committed to the use of the full animal (à la Fergus Henderson) not only for purposes of economy or sustenance, but also culture and tradition. Odd Bits is her final manifesto to the world of daring or squeamish cooks to take a new look at less common parts of the animals.
At 256 pages the book is divided into five chapters and one "Interlude":
* Get a Heat: Challenging
* At the Front: Comfortingly Reassuring
* A True Snout of a Tail Meal
* Stuck in the Middle: Familiar and Exotic
* The Back End: Convention and Beyond Belief
* Basic Recipes: Odd Stocks

I presume for most readers, the front and the back of the animals will be the most challenging, however McLagan's knowledge and her reassuring voice are like a mother holding a child's hand as they walk to the haunted bedroom closet to reveal the monster. In each chapter she begins with an overview of the body parts and what we might expect to see (thereby removing the scary monster). Next she has an overview of how to select, prepare and cook the parts. And then she opens the closet door by presenting a relatively easy, but sure to please recipe for the body part(s).
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Jennifer McLagan is a chef and writer who was awarded the prestigious James Beard Award for her previous book released in 2008 called Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipes. Now she's back again in 2011 with a rather unique new book entitled Odd Bits: How to Cook the Rest of the Animal. I even got into the action a couple of months ago when I tried cow tongue for the first time. Jennifer says there are so many parts from the tongue to the testicles to the tail...that are delectable pieces of meat people are missing out on. If you're even curious about eating all kinds of animal parts, then you need to get this book!Read more ›
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