This article is based on the Koch.Campus lecture by butcher Franz Dormayer and
Heinz Reitbauer - Chef of the Steirereck (**) and
awarded with "Chef of the Decade" (Gault Millau Guide 2006) -
from 19.08.20 in Steirereck, Vienna
"Epi-food and offal, does that fit?" was a question we asked ourselves at the beginning. And relatively quickly the answer was clear, "Yes, of course! Why? Maybe you have already read our article about the "New Normal". This article is about the trends that the corona virus has brought with it or favored (title ""What goes, what stays? - How Covid-19 has changed our eating habits). This article explains how important it is that the meat industry changes. Quality, working conditions, housing conditions, rearing, feed, animal health, slaughter and maturation come to the fore. A holistic quality is demanded and therefore also the transparency of the products. It is time for the fair appreciation of the living being that dies and is slaughtered for you. And to the whole animal belongs not only the meat, but also its organs. So it was the idea of the "utilization of leftovers" that first (!) came to our minds as an answer to the question. In the Steirereck we became relatively fast conscious that qualitative innards are not only used, but even wonderful nutrients with itself bring (particularly in punkto Vitamin A and Vitamin B12) (pregnant woman, rheumatism and gout ill persons should do please without innards! Yes, they can even stimulate culinary creativity and be incredibly enriching in upscale gastronomy. However, it takes time and muse to interpret offal in a new way and to prepare unique dishes. In the Steirereck, chef Heinz Reitbauer and his team have made it their business to create unusual offal creations. But first we have to clarify how important the quality of offal is. On invitation of an event of the Koch.Campus in the Steirereck Vienna we had the unique opportunity to attend a lecture by Heinz Reitbauer personally - followed by offal creations.
Although it is not located in the abdominal cavity of the animal like most organs - except sweetbreads and brain - but since it is not a muscle (almost!) or organ either, it still counts as offal. Cured or smoked, it is extremely tasty, but must be cleaned thoroughly. It also increases in roughness with the age of the animal. The younger the animal, the finer the tissue of the tongue, which is one reason why calf and lamb tongues are the most popular. It is also interesting that it is one of the most popular offal, along with liver and heart. Here too, the fat content is quite high, because about 70% of the calories in a cow's tongue come from the fat it contains (but this also makes the tongue extremely tender). Besides fat, it contains iron, zinc, vitamin B12 as well as B vitamins and trace elements. It is also ideal for beginners to offal due to its tenderness and mild taste.
The thymus gland is called sweetbread and is located under the animal's chest. It is often confused with the brain in appearance. The animal needs this gland to grow up. In adult cattle, sweetbreads are no longer present. Its vitamin content of 56 mg per 100g and the potassium content of 386 mg per 100g are impressive. Sweetbreads are a specialty of the Austrian cuisine.
As puzzle we were presented with 6 different animal hearts. We had to assign them to the respective animal by taste and size. By taste you could recognize if it was a wild animal or not. The consistency was also very different. The best known are probably chicken hearts.
In two other dishes the Steirereck cooks used pigeon stomachs and fish hearts (carp). In the first picture you can see - Alex their favorite of the day - pigeon stomachs and hearts Ragú with crispy chicken skin and marjoram. In the second picture you see hearts of carp (freshwater fish from Austria) with paprika, medlar and celery, also cooked in a ragú.
The difference in quality and thus the difference in lung health is most impressive. In factory farming, the lungs are small, grayish-pale and often covered with white or black spots. These spots / coating indicate a lung disease of the animal, which seems almost logical for a fattening farm. The healthy liver of a free-range bovine is almost twice as large, has a smooth skin and healthy color.
The Steirereck cooks have created two dishes with the lung: Lungen-Bratwurst - one "regional" with a vinaigrette of citrus fruits, sage, shallot, mint and lemon balm and another "oriental" with an apricot-plum ketchup.
The second dish is grilled lung with grams (a by-product of the extraction of tallow and fat from animal products) with lime & seaweed.
The color of the liver does not vary due to a difference in quality, but purely nutritionally. As soon as a calf is fed roughage, the organ becomes darker due to the iron content. A milk calf is often deliberately deficient in iron to keep the liver light. However, the calf would like to "nibble" something, as it quickly develops a great hunger and requires some kind of supplementary feeding after only a few weeks.
Nutritionally, the liver contains a large amount of vitamin A (good for our eyesight!) and has thus even made it into one of the dishes in our cookbook. By the way, the so-called "white liver" is not a liver, but the pancreas. However, if you should ever come across a light liver, you should avoid it!
Processing spleen is extremely complex. The kitchen teams of the Steirereck designed a stunning dish, but for a long time they did not know how to use the spleen. The outer "casing" is thick and is thus often used as a sausage casing. The inside is scraped out and so often used as a dish "milk slices" or put into Spätzle. These are probably the best known traditional processing methods. Veal spleen is one of the offal that surprises us the most.
The leafy stomach or rumen of the beef is also known gastronomically as tripe. The taste is "gelatin"-like and pleasantly sweet. Tripe is low in calories and easily digestible. They are often used in traditional Italian cuisine.
The kidney is coated with a fat dress. The fat is a sign of quality and used to be far more valuable than it is today. The difference in quality in taste is obvious. The kidney of a fattening animal is really highly inedible even after good preparation.
Of course there was the perfectly seasoned wine to accompany each course. But we would like to talk about the Austrian wines in our next blog article.