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According to the British father of food history, Alan Davidson, in The Oxford Companion to Food, "the term offal literally means 'off fall' or the pieces which fall from a carcass when it is butchered." But, what do you know, a quick restaurant trend and seemingly awful cuts leap to choice status -- with short ribs (the subject of this week's contest) leading the way. Thanks to offal's poster child (and Piglet judge!) Chris Cosentino, however, such is the fate of all offal. "Don't be fooled," warns Cosentino on his online hub for all things offal, Offal Good. "This isn't a candy coated website, and I am here to tell you that meat doesn't come in little color-coated Styrofoam containers at your local supermarket." Warning duly noted -- this website is not for the faint of stomach.
Obsessed with these "lost cuts of meat," the Rhode Island native grew up in an Italian American family where Atlantic seafood was king. Now the Executive Chef of Incanto in San Francisco, it is Cosentino's business to churn out rustic Italian food in the Bay area culture where food is religion. If "meat is his muse," Offal Good is perhaps best understood as his homage to the whole animal. With each banner photograph more gruesome than the next, the website is a wonderful "educational and inspiration tool for those who are interested in learning and cooking with offal."
While the photo albums may shock you as much as an episode of Fear Factor, they actually serve as fantastic tutorials on how-to handle this stuff (take, for instance, the ones entitled "Goose Intestines" or "Giant 85-lb Pig's Head"). Cosentino, the central persona and producer of the site, appears in the flesh in much of the photo and video content, which is lucky for us, given the known realities of the life of a full-time restaurant cook. Nevertheless, he is featured in countless videos demonstrating happy little tasks like butchering a beef heart with same calm with which Secondo (Stanley Tucci) fries an omelet in olive oil at the end of Big Night.
There are recipes strewn throughout the site (like an especially heart-warming one for Italian sausage with cannelini beans) as well as extremely useful resources for nose-to-tail junkies in the way of restaurants, producers, and contacts. And the blog itself is full of enough interesting nuggets of information for even the most avid gut-lover to fill a terrine -- or, at least stuff a sausage or two.
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