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Odd Bits: How to Cook the Rest of the Animal Hardcover – September 13, 2011
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Featured Recipe: Wine-Braised Beef Cheeks
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 Instructions
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.”
“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)
Top customer reviews
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This book is a valuable asset given the movement in the US toward real food. The classic French philosophy of using the entire animal resonates in McLagan's book, bringing the art of "les abbats" to non-gallic tables.
McLagan sprinkles her treatise with insights from a lifetime of preparing these neglected foods, and gives us a multitude of ways to add interest, flavor, and tradition back into our kitchens and into our lives.
I brined and poached a beef tongue for the first time--to good outcome!--using the book's very clear recipes and instructions. I enjoyed the author's narrative and a delicious hash. Even my husband, who typically is not a fan of odd bits, enjoyed the meal(s) very much.
Even if you cook nothing from this book, it is a wonderful read. You can pick it up and open it to any page and find some anecdote, photo, or bit of culinary history to delight you.
First off it's a lovely book to simply sit and read. The introduction to how so often "offal" was considered a delicacy in the past, the way different cultures respect and use organ meat that many American chefs have no interest in...this was very inspiring. There is also a good amount of practical information on cleaning, storage and preparation of various cuts of meat which are useful no matter what kind of meat you are talking about (beef, pork, lamb, etc.) I've so far cooked a few of the simpler recipes, particularly using liver (which I loved already) and had very good success with them.
If I had a criticism it's that I think the book could have benefited from some instructional diagrams, such as showing how to trim heart or maybe showing step by step the practice of bringing and skinning toungue before cooking. Just some more pictures in general to make some of the more perhaps "shocking" recipes become more appealing to the average reader out there.