Would you ever dine solely on various courses of offal?  No, but doing so, is exactly as illuminating as Chris Cosentino intended it to be on Tuesday night’s offal tasting at Astor Center (described here by gothamist and here and here, by two diners at the same table; video by grub street).  There were highlights for me—the beef heart tartare (ground rather than diced because beef heart, Cosentino explained, can be almost crunchy it’s such a sturdy muscle) with chillis and mint and tomato and capers, I loved the fried tripe, noodle-like shaved beef tendon, the extraordinary texture of the coxcombe.

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I was genuinely not looking forward to eating the liver crudo, and so it was a revelation to discover that it was at first, not unpleasant at all, and then increasingly interesting and pleasant to eat, with the crunchy raw sugar beets and excellent acidic juniper balsamic.  It took three pieces to get to get to that enjoyment place.  Yes the texture was a little spongy (like under-sauteed foie gras) but I found the forbiddeness of texture exciting.  I asked the crowd for response and at least two thirds thought it a successful dish, with the dissenters unable to get past the texture.  I shamed Adam Roberts into eating all three pieces.  Excellent dish.042

The second excellent part of this dish was learning about the ranch that provides the liver.  Broken Arrow Ranch sells free range, in fact wild, venison.  They work with ranchers in the Texas hill country and “harvest” (kill) the deer using long range silent rifles.  They have trailers to drive immediately to the animal to process it immediately.  The deer and antelope live natural lives, Broken Arrow Ranch helps their fellow farmers and ranchers by controlling the deer population, and the animals are killed in a stress-free manner.  It’s a brilliant model of humane animal husbandry. (Photos are by Michael Harlan Turkell, thanks Michael.)

UPDATE: Here’s another excellent post on the evening by novelist and economist writer Jon Fasman.  The guy has a problem with eggs, so he’s immediately suspect in his judgments.  Then again he wrote a great article on charcuterie for the economist and writes serious fiction so what can we know about him truly?

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34 Wonderful responses to “Liver Crudo and Broken Arrow Ranch”

  • Mantonat

    Sorry to jump in on this so late, but a few of the comments just did not make sense to me. The use of offal in modern cooking is not white people appropriating or demeaning the cuisine of other cultures, nor should it be insulting to those who come from backgrounds where little else but offal was available. To think this way is to assume that offal is somehow inferior or less tasty than the more traditional cuts of muscle. Cosentino and those like him are showing respect to the animal by using all of it. They show respect to other cultures by bringing traditional dishes to a larger audience. I was unaware of the Sicilian fondness for cured tuna heart until I had it at Cosentino’s restaurant.
    Think of it this way: there are as many kidneys in a cow as there are tenderloins. Why should the kidneys be significantly less expensive? Maybe if more people were willing to use the whole animal, there would be a little more equity in the prices of the different cuts and pieces. Consumers would then be able to choose the cuts they want based on taste preference rather than price.

  • Tommy

    Broken Arrow’s a great company. I ordered some antelope bones from them about a year back to make antelope stock.

  • Techie

    Wow, so it’s all “rebellion”? Obviously, “White Americans” as you put are have no culture and cuisine and must “appropriate” (did you want to write “steal”) it from others.

  • luis

    Ted, TMI…. that is too much information dude. As for the flavor…. Look if Cosentino can pull off the event he just did and serve tha type o’crap he did….
    Exotic game shmane…. Cosentino can make the most production raised bit o’anything taste great. Capish!.

  • White On Rice Couple

    One of the best things about growing up and eating mom and dad’s Viet cooking was the familiar appearance of offal. As kids, they never really told us what offal was and so we grew up to enjoy the crunchy texture of garlic gizzards and the gritty-ness of stir fried liver. They just told us it was “…meat. Now eat!”. But I can empathize with those who choose not to consume offal . If it wasn’t a weekly part of my childhood meals, I’d probably never want to consider it as a food item.

  • Dervin

    Wilmita, it’s the culture of trendy white folks to co-opt and appropriate the resourcefulness of the minorities and the poor. It takes thought and creativity to get the least desired ingredients to taste good. And it takes something else to actually pay $250 to eat it.

    Your lamentations, remind me of something a third generation Italian American said to me. “My Grandmother said ‘No matter how tight money got, I never served my children Polenta.’”

    The move to CSA, Local Produce and craftsmanship in general is the culmination of white-American-self-hatred we are rebelling against the very system we created and benefited from for so long.

  • RI Swampyankee

    Dervin, of course those wacky white folk appropriate the cuisines of others. We don’t have one of our own. Unless you consider tater tots and texas toast cuisine.

    One of my guilty pleasures is collecting cookbooks from the 50′s and early 60′s. No wonder trendy white folks were so thin back then. They were smoking like chimneys, drinking like fish, and, for the most part, eating dreck.

  • luis

    Well I spoke with an elder cook from a harsh land about venison kidneys and Hanks technique for preparing it.
    Basically she said there is nothing in the world that will turn off the natural smell of a kidney. Not that I want to test anything but it is what it is, a kidney.

  • Ted

    Being from the same neck of the woods as Broken Arrow Ranch, I feel you need to say that these “harvestees” are not the native ungulate species (the white tail deer: Odocoileus virginianus). All species harvested are from elsewhere. (Asia, Africa, etc) Exotic game ranching is big bidness in Texas.

    You can’t sell native venison legally in Texas. Only exotic venison. Some of the best exotic meat I’ve ever had from the Texas Hill Country was mouflon, a type of non-wooly feral sheep from the Mediterranean area. It’s much better than aoudad, a similar, but more pungent feral sheep-critter.

    My brother has a friend who is a manager at one of these exotic game ranches. He keeps an electric chain saw handy that’s lubed with corn oil to do the major splitting and quartering of the carcasses after they have hung in a “deer locker” (cold storage) for the appropriate interval.

    T.

  • luis

    Well, I have reconsidered. To do this I need to step outside MY BOX. Look at this in a different light. I read the links Ruhlman provided us. I think the whole event was great. Super palates tasting dishes from Cosentino and Aaron Sanchez. Oh please.
    It is a chef thing. Take something Owfall and make it appealing to Rulhman and others. That takes NO SMALL MEASURE OF TALENT. Imagine if Road kill Larry Cosentino would just take on something more popularly accepted. He would hit it out of the park. No doubts there.
    Also I heard a rumor that Ruhlman has this book out that will free us from the eternal recipes and show us how to apportion the right proportions to make a fine meal.
    Is it a rumor? a tease? or is Ruhlman doing something along those lines???….Personally I await the publishing of tha book!

  • Wilmita

    On one hand, I am deeply insulted as an American of African and Latin descent. We survived slavery and Jim Crow on the ‘leavings’ of slave owners and made them tasty.

    I remember when chicken wings, backs and necks were practically free in butcher shops and supermarkets. NOW one has to scrounge for backs and necks and wings are expensive in comparison to what they were.

    Pig’s feet, chicken gizzards, pig’s ears and tails the same.

    Markets now charge for bones for soup!

    I do not like eggs or organ meats even though I have tried to MANY times.

    Now it’s ALL so vogue.

    I just don’t know. It just baffles me why people would now pay so much to eat offal.

    -Sincerely,

    Wilmita

  • Erika

    Broken Arrow Ranch! Forget the venison…try the wild boar! I’m sure their venison is tasty, but their wild boar is incredible.

  • Garbanzo

    Sounds like offal can do nothing wrong. But, as one poster pointed out, the function of several of these organs is to filter things out of the animal’s body that shouldn’t be there in the first place. And there’s dramatically different cells in organs that have different chemical compositions. Cooked offal just seems to be a matter of taste, but crudo? Sounds like we’re tempting biology. Also, how is this different from “zoo food” dinners (braised exotic animal parts, etc.) — just because we can eat something doesn’t mean we should (apologies to AB).

  • e. nassar

    “Liver Curdo”..cool fancy name. Growing up in Lebanon and everytime I visit, RAW liver is always on the menu. The best is the one you get at home from the local butcher, especially the one from a younger goat. It is cut into cubes (as is the raw fillet), and served dipped in some salt and pepper. you wrap it in a small piece of bread and eat it with raw sweet onions. No ‘Mezze’ spread would be complete without it. Some people , but not me, enjoyed raw fresh liver for breakfast!! It is not odd or weird, it’s just food.

  • Bob Gercak

    I wasn’t entirely happy with the word “stunt” when I wrote it, which is why it’s in scare quotes, but I’m not sure what other word would be more appropriate. That one course seemed so out of character with the tone of the evening. It was as if we were served eight dishes to prove how normal and mainstream offal could be if diners were a bit more open-minded, and one dish to showcase how very alien offal can seem.

    It was the only course that began with an exhortation from Chef Cosentino to “try just one bite”. It was the only course that ended with a “yay or nay” show of hands. Nothing else served came close to the level of far-outness provided by the liver crudo.

    I hope that my comments aren’t misinterpreted as a complaint – I was very pleased to have the opportunity to try this dish.

    It was a wonderful and memorable evening. Thanks again to all involved in making it happen.

    BTW, any chance of this becoming a recurring event?

  • Courtney

    I had liver sashimi the last time I was in Japan. It was just thinly sliced beef liver, thinly sliced white onion, and a sesame vinaigrette. It was suprisingly delicious.

  • Darcie

    I would have liked to try the heart dish – I “heart” heart. But I’m not too keen on the filtering organs, so while I would have tried the liver, I probably would have been one of those who couldn’t really get into it. Thanks for the update.

  • ruhlman

    I agree with moneymoy. not a stunt by any means. and it was something that really did grow on me. the liver was very mild, and not livery in the least. the livery flavor comes from cooking it. it was more a vehicle for the flavors of what amounted to a vinaigrette.

  • C

    I’m squeamish about liver and can’t imagine eating it raw — closest I’ve come is antelope liver, sliced very thin, and seared in a very hot cast-iron skillet. It’s lovely that way — carmelized on the surface, but pink inside and still juicy. Even then, 2 or 3 slices is my limit … mostly a texture thing, but also just too … well, livery …

  • Doodad

    I could have used that “silent” rifle last year. I eneded up harvesting a deer with a Camaro.

  • Ben

    I’ve been to many places that eat raw liver. Personally though I would prefer it cooked :)

  • MoneyMoy

    I can understand if the venison liver’s texture wasn’t to everyone’s liking, but I’d disagree with the notion of that dish being inserted as a stunt. The flavor really grew on me and by the third piece I found its slight minerality to be pretty addictive. It’s not hard to imagine chef Cosentino also finding that flavor to his liking and crafting this dish as a result of that inspiration, not as a gimmick. The only thing I could find fault with in that course was the wine pairing. I appreciate the thought process, pairing it with something sweet as you’d do with foie gras, but since the venison liver lacked foie’s richness, it occurred to me that sake would probably have been absolutely fantastic with it. Anyway, I may be in the minority, but I thought that dish was one of the highlights of the night.

  • luis

    It’s a chef thing right??? bully for you guys. Offal yourselves silly. Still when you consider how lucky we are to live in the U.S. with so many exquisite cuisines to choose from, I personally realize that either I haven’t lived a well rounded foodie life or you guys have been every where and now you are were you are in the spirit of culinary exploration. This is a little antisocial to folks like Bob Newhart you know?…pencil in 90% of the freaking nation….

  • bluexmas

    I am sure in some countries people eat raw liver; I have seen some in my country, while I am just fine with grilled one. But the river generally tastes good.

  • Ben

    My friend Money (one of the links) loved the liver crudo, so I suppose there’s a place for everything. Granted, he also loved the chicken sashimi (!) he had awhile back, so his digestive system may in fact be non-human.

  • Karen Bowers

    perhaps this is not true on all computers, but I could not read your posting due to an insistent ad covering half the page.

  • Bob Gercak

    I wouldn’t call the venison liver crudo an “excellent” dish. It was certainly “survivable”, and very interesting. But given the qualty and presentation of the rest of the dinner, it was almost as if the liver crudo was inserted as a “stunt”. The fantastic beet salad did an amazing job of covering up the wiggly irony nature of the liver, but the dish itself seemed like weirdness for weirdess’ sake. I finished the course, but it felt like work.

    The rest of the meal was, however, perfect in almost every way. It was one of the most enjoyable evenings I’ve had in a quite a white. Thanks, Michael and Chris and everyone at Astor…

  • Bob delGrosso

    Sorry, but the liver crudo sounds like a dog. I’m sure it was thought provoking, and I’m equally sure that was its reason to be.

    How was the heart tartare; was it still a bit crunchy after grinding? I

  • RI Swampyankee

    I’m with Bob on the liver, MR. Nice to hear about Broken Arrow. Treating deer like cattle has really contributed to the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease.

  • Hank

    Hmmmm…that heart tartare makes me want to make a sausage solely from heart; I have several left over from deer season. I bet you could keep Chris’ seasonings but add some beef suet or pork fat…Wonder if it would taste any different?

  • The Yummy Mummy Cooks Gourmet

    You know, I was dying to go to this dinner and so intrigued by Chris’ menu, but you know, getting the husband to go was unlikely since he’s an offal wuss.

    Thanks for the play by play. I come from a hunting family and vividly remember the deer hanging in the garage. I believe I took a deer heart to 5th grade show-and-tell, but I’m pretty sure no one in my family thought to make a tartare.

    Kim