October 8, 2008
You may not be familiar with the term ‘offal,’ but if acclaimed British chef Fergus Henderson has anything to say about it, you soon will. Offal refers to the parts of animals generally not considered good eating. Parts like the stomach, glands and bone marrow-- or in chef’s parlance: tripe, sweetbreads and, well, bone marrow.
Henderson is credited with sparking the current offal trend with his cookbook The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating a few years back. Now his London restaurant St. John is a must-stop for culinary travelers, and he’s part of the international celebrity set (he’ll be doing Bette Midler’s upcoming Halloween bash).
Henderson’s annual autumn visit to New York culminates in an evening when he takes over the kitchen of noted gotham gastro-pub The Spotted Pig (an event Spotted Pig owner has dubbed ‘FergusStock’). Last year, FergusStock attracted nearly every one of America’s top chefs and food writers, all there to sample the chef’s carnivorous delicacies. Small wonder chitterlings, trotters and veal cheek began appearing more regularly on high-end New York menus. After this year’s event, will we be seeing sweetbreads on the menu at Applebees?
In these uncertain economic times, that might not be a bad idea. Most offal meat is highly affordable compared to choice cuts of meat. When the Wall Street Journal asked chefs their strategies for cutting food costs, organ meat was mentioned more than once. Top chef Michael Psilakis, put it this way: "It's really a test of a true chef to take something that may not be the best part of an animal and make something beautiful with it."