Variety Meats

Variety Meats
Variety meats is a catch-all term for the organ meats, feet, and tails of butchered animals. Earlier civilizations treated many of the organs as prized delicacies, and deservedly so since they're often as tender and mildly flavorful as the finest cuts of meat. They're fallen into disfavor in our times, though, which means that you can get many of these meats for a song. Refrigerate variety meats and use them within two days of purchase, or else freeze them.
beef heart
beef heart
Beef heart is too tough to be sautéed or grilled, but it becomes very tender and delicious if cooked slowly using moist heat. You can buy it sliced or whole.
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beef kidney
beef kidney
Beef kidneys are tougher than lamb or veal kidneys, so they need to be cooked slowly using moist heat, say by braising them or adding them to a stew. To prepare them, first cut off the outer membrane, then cut them lengthwise to expose a white blob of fat in the middle, which should be discarded. Next, soak the kidney in acidulated water or buttermilk for about an hour. This will make the flavor much more mild.
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beef liver
beef liver
Compared to calf's liver, this is a bit tougher and less delicately flavored, but it's quite good if you're careful not to overcook. It should still be pink in the middle when it's done.
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blood
blood
Asian markets carry this. Europeans use it to make blood pudding, while Filipinos use it to make dinuguan, a stew.
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brains
brains
Even adventurous eaters often draw the line at brains, and it's just as well, since they're loaded with cholesterol. Those who do eat them often scramble them with eggs. It's very important that brains be fresh, so either cook them or freeze them the day you buy them.
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calf liver, calf's liver, calves' liver, veal liver
calf liver
These are highly prized for their sweet flavor.
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chicken liver
chicken liver
Like calf's liver, these are highly prized for their exquisite flavor.
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heart
heart
Long ago, primitive tribes believed that eating heart gave them strength and courage. Today, few of us bother to test that theory. It's our loss, because heart is tender and has a very delicate flavor. It's also quite inexpensive, thanks to its lack of popularity. To prepare it, you should rinse it in cold water, then cut out any blood vessels and connective tissue. Veal or lamb heart is delicious if you sauté or grill it until it's medium rare. If you cook it until it's well done, it becomes very tough. Alternatively, you can cook heart slowly using moist heat.
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Kidneys
Kidneys
Kidneys are nutritious and, if properly prepared, delicious. It's often hard to find them in markets, though, since many of them are ruined during the meat inspection process. Veal kidneys and lamb kidneys are prized for their tenderness and delicate flavor. They can be grilled or sautéed, though they become tough if overcooked. Pork and beef kidneys are tougher, and need to be cooked slowly using moist heat.
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lamb heart
lamb heart
Like veal heart, lamb heart is tender and delicate. You can grill or sauté it as long as you don't overcook it, or cook it slowly using moist heat.
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lamb kidneys
lamb kidneys
Lamb kidneys are tender enough to be cooked using dry heat, say by grilling or sautéing them. Don't overcook them, though, or they'll quickly become very tough. Before cooking them, peel off the outer membrane. Due to their mild flavor, they don't need to be soaked.
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lamb liver
lamb liver
This is as tender as calf's liver, but not as flavorful.
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Liver
Liver
Liver is rich in iron and Vitamin A and has an unabashed flavor that nicely complements that of its usual companion, onion. Calf's liver is considered to be the best, but lamb liver and beef liver are almost as good and much less expensive. Liver can be cooked with dry heat, say by grilling or sautéing it, but it becomes very tough if it's cooked beyond medium rare. Since liver has very little fat, you might want to baste it or lard it.
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pork heart
pork heart
Pork hearts are a bit smaller than veal hearts. They're best cooked using moist heat, say by braising them or cooking them in a stew.
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pork kidneys
pork kidneys
Like beef kidneys, these are too tough to cook using dry heat. It's best to cook them slowly using moist heat. To prepare them, first cut off the outer membrane, then cut them lengthwise to expose a white blob of fat in the middle, which should be discarded. Next, soak the kidney in acidulated water or buttermilk for about an hour. This will make the flavor much more mild.
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pork liver
pork liver
This has a very strong flavor, so it's not as popular as other kinds of liver.
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sweetbreads
sweetbreads
Sweetbreads are the soft and delectable thymus glands of calves and lambs. Though it's hard to get fussy teenagers to eat them, there are enough knowledgeable gourmets clamoring for sweetbreads to keep the price fairly high. Freshness is very important--you should plan on preparing them the day you buy them or else freezing them. Like other organ meats, sweetbreads are high in cholesterol.
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testicles, animelles, bollocks, bull balls, bull testicles, calf balls
testicles
The most popular seem to be bull testicles = Rocky Mountain oysters = bollocks = swinging beef = Montana tendergroin = bull balls = huevos del toro, but those from smaller, younger animals are reputed to have a milder flavor. Well regarded are lamb testicles = lamb fry = lamb fries = lamb balls, and calf fry = calf balls = calf testicles. Hispanic markets are a good source.
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tongue, beef tongue, calf tongue, calf's tongue, ox tongue, veal tongue
tongue
Cooked tongue is lean, meaty, and quite versatile; it works well in sandwiches, tacos, and casseroles. To prepare it, boil it in a stockpot, then plunge it in cold water and peel off the skin and trim the base of gristle and fat. You can then cut it into thin slices and serve it hot or cold. Since beef tongue = ox tongue and calf's tongue = calf tongue = veal tongue are larger and easier to slice, they tend to be pricier. Many markets also carry lamb tongue (pictured at left) and pork tongue. Different tongues can be used interchangeably in recipes though their cooking times vary according to their size.
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tripe, bible tripe, Blanket tripe, book tripe, flat tripe, honeycomb tripe
tripe
Tripe is the name given to the stomachs of various animals, but most recipes that call for it intend for you to use beef tripe. Cows have four stomachs, and the first three yield merchantable tripe. Blanket tripe = plain tripe = flat tripe = smooth tripe comes from the first stomach, honeycomb tripe (pictured at left) and pocket tripe from the second, and book tripe = bible tripe = leaf tripe from the third. Honeycomb tripe is meatier and more tender than the other kinds and considered to be the best, but all these kinds of tripe can be used interchangeably in recipes. Tripe is almost always sold bleached and partially cooked. This saves a lot of work, since unprocessed tripe would need to be cooked for many, many hours to make it tender enough to chew.
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veal heart, calf heart
veal heart
Veal heart is tender and delicate enough to be grilled or sautéed, though it becomes tough if overcooked. You can also cook it slowly using moist heat.
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veal kidneys
veal kidneys
Veal kidneys are the most highly prized of all kidneys. Like lamb kidneys, they're tender enough to be cooked using dry heat, say by grilling or sautéing them. Don't overcook them, though, or they'll quickly become very tough. Before cooking them, peel off the outer membrane. Due to their mild flavor, they don't need to be soaked.
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