The Offal Is On
by The Tapas Lunch Company
From the TLC Blog
Offal is a rude word in many countries. Food that was once considered a luxury in war torn countries such as Spain and the UK is often frowned upon nowadays. But in Spain, offal is still consumed in great quantity. Indeed offal is valued and some fine Spanish meals are made using offal.
The pig is, of course, the chief source of offal in Spain. A country in which it is said that everything from the pig can be eaten. The sights one sees on the meat counters of Spanish supermarkets can be gruesome. You'll find pig heads and tails, which can be salted. Pigs ears are pickled, breaded and fried. They are also used to make some delicastessen salads. Pigs trotters will often be cooked in stews.
Ham bones are much in demand in Spain. The older they are, the more prized they are. Ham bones are used to flavour beans and are shared among those cooking stews. Pig's caul is the thin, fatty lining of the stomach. It is commonly used as a protective wrapping for meatballs and pates so preventing them from drying out when being cooked. It's also used to baste faggots and ham fat (unto) is sold in great rolls and is used for frying. Again, the older the fat the more prized it becomes.
Lamb and veal kidneys can be found cooked in wine sauces and often served as tasty tapas. Sweetbreads (mollejas) are often fried. Now we come to the nitty gritty. Look away now if the use of animal brains in recipes turns your stomach.
Brains are regularly used in two popular gyspy dishes. They are minced to stuff tortilla sacromonte - a dish i have tried in many a Granada tapas bar. Alternatively brains are served fried, with lemon, as sesos a la flamenca.
Now to another part of the anatomy of an animal that may not readily set your tastebuds alight. Testicles. Yes, you heard me right, testicles (criadillas). They are called white kidneys and are considered a delicacy by many a matador. They too are breadcrumbed and fried. Spanish men also enjoy eating solidified blood that comes in squares and is served with vinegar.
Back to the pig and it is the liver and guts that are first to be consumed at the annual matanza. They are made into a stew with almonds, garlic and oregano. A dish called chanfaina combines lungs with the liver and is cooked in huge vats at various festivals across Spain.
Meanwhile pork tonques (lengua) are popular in a traditional Majorcan dish that includes pomegranate seeds. Larger veal tonques are served cold and as a fiambre (pressed delicatessen meat).
Tripe is rife in Spain, especially in the traditionally poor Andalucia. Tripe is often cooked with chickpeas, or beans, along with the obligatory ham bone to add taste.
We have to remember that for decades, and until relatively recently, the diet of the average Andalucian was a very poor one. Many elderly people in Andalucia still eat as though it were the 1960's or 1970's. The animal they keep is only there to provide food. Tripe is called menudo in Andalucia and makes up many daily dishes. Callos a la madrilena (from veal or pig) is seasoned with onion, thyme and tomato. It includes morcilla, chorizo and ham.
Now to feet. Chicken feet can be found on sale in supermarkets as can lambs' feet. Usually sixteen feet to a portion. Lambs' intestines are called zarajos. They are wrapped around two twigs, grilled (broiled). Meanwhile, the tail of the lamb is popular in areas such as Aragón where they are served with tomatoes and bell peppers.
There are other parts of animals that are used in meals or tapas in Spain. The details of which are too hard to write about even for this occasional brain eating, offal consuming fan of Spanish food.
Just remember that a little knowledge can be dangerous. If eating out, and in doubt; it may be wise not to ask exactly which part of the animal it is on the end of your fork!