Head Chef Michael Slade, really knows his way around the innards of an animal.
It isn’t a big deal to eat offal in a lot of cultures.
Whilst the “nose to tail” food movement might be a trendy sustainability move for a lot of Aussie meat eaters, it’s merely a way of life for many people.
Consider in South East Asia where every single part of the chicken is used, and the breast is widely considered the blandest part of the bird. From knee-joint to neck and all the innards in between, little will go to waste and utilising these parts can add a depth of flavour that can’t be achieved with the prime cuts.
It’s not just in Asia that you’ll find offal commonplace on the table. In certain parts of the UK and Europe one of my personal favourites, Blood Sausage or Black Pudding is served up for breakfast aside a hash brown and a snag or egg scramble. Steak and kidney pie is served at many a British pub and you can’t go past the tradition of a Scottish haggis!
I do find it mildly confusing that some people will eat dim sims or hot dogs but won’t touch a pate or side of tongue. As least you know what animal it’s even from! And it’s not just lips, assholes and sawdust filler.
This brings me to the most recent “Offal vs. Prime Cut” night at the Northern Git in Northcote, Melbourne. Avid readers (Hayyy!), will recall I’ve written about these nights not only once, but twice… and I’ve been more times than that. I’m a big fan of offal and quality grub!
I keep returning, simply because Head Chef Michael Slade, really knows his way around the innards of an animal. These offal vs prime nights are aimed to encourage folks that may be a bit hesitant to try offal to dip a toe in the shallow end of the pool, rather than dive bombing into the bloody deep end.
Patrons enjoy 5 course of two dishes each, one offal based, one prime cut. Ranking each dish out of 5 to be tallied at the end.
SPOILER ALERT! Offal was the winner this time
Primal didn’t come close. It’s worth noting that not everyone in the crowd was an offal lover, with some quite trepidatious guests in attendance. See, that’s the magic in these events, (and the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival in general). It brings together people for experiences that wouldn’t naturally happen on a normal night out.
There’s no way most couples would walk by a menu of liver, tongue, brains and pigs face and say:
“How about a spot of offal honey?”
It may have been the copious amounts of food, booze or great company in the form of 100s of strangers on the long shared tables, but I have rarely had occasion to enjoy the discovery and exploration of food like this night.
In groups of 4 or 5 we would debate the qualities of each dish, say what we loved, what memories it evoked and ultimately which one we preferred to take the win. It was absolutely stimulating conversation, thought I can’t guarantee after way too many red wines that I contributed to much stimulation other than in decibels (I’m that loud drunken laugh guy).
Even though offal was the standout favourite, my absolute top picks for the evening would have to be the lambs tongue salad, the black pudding and the always popular pig’s head.
You just can’t go past a juicy pork head covered in the most amazing crackling you’ve ever tasted. It’s salty, juicy and sweet and falls off the bone, melts in your mouth and is a spectacle to behold. From crispy ear cartilage to snout there are various textures of meat and depth of taste you wouldn’t get from any other part of an animal.
If you have issues eating anything “with a face” you’re missing out!
Tongue and I have a relationship dating back to a time in Hong Kong that I discovered ox tongue on a Japanese Yakitori stick. We’ve had a pretty solid relationship ever since. The tongue at offal night was a delicately sliced lamb’s tongue. Served with a salad that provided the right amount of crunch, acidity vs sweet and balance to the tongue, which was the heaviest of the flavours in the dish.
We literally all wanted the last piece. I got it, of course.
The black pudding, married next to a scallop on a cauliflower and scallop shell bed was a stroke of genius that I’m glad to see has made it onto the Northern Git regular menu. The scallop is light and sweet, the sausage is hearty and meaty, the cauliflower provides a medium that bring them together in harmony. One bite and I audibly groaned at how good it was.
Please don’t read into this that the prime cuts were sub-par or “set up” to fail. They were solid dishes, but compared to the offal delicacies they came off as unfortunately a little boring. It appears that Michael Slade has come to the end of his creative flair (or tether) for pitting the two against each other.
This is why it was the last offal vs prime night for the Northern Git
Don’t be sad though, you can experience the discovery of offal, great conversation and amazing vibe that has left my heart warm and my belly disgustingly full. Offal nights will be just that. Offal. No prime, just the most wonderful dishes that will give you a new appreciation for the often neglected sweet meats and inner organs.
Seriously. It’s not awful. It’s offal and it tastes a heck of a lot better than the bland bit of chicken breast you’re munching on. Git into it.