Thursday, July 21, 2011

Poverty: Where You Cook like a Chef b/c You Can't Afford to Eat like a Person

Most people think of offal, off brand meat bits, liver, or marrow, as gross things their grandmother once forced them to eat. And that's fair. The image of Granny gnawing on marrowbones will haunt me to the grave.

The reason behind her madness, however, was thrift. And in this economy, I am not about the turn my nose up at thrift. The prices we pay for food have skyrocketed and they're not going back down. So I'm left with the reality that chicken hearts are dirt cheap meat. But they're GROSS you say? While I'm the first in line to be squicked out by hot dogs, the honest truth is that meat is meat. As long as it's cooked properly, the only difference between a cow's ass and a cow's chest is in your head. And maybe in the marbling. But as far as the gross factor, it is strictly make believe. Okay, I will draw the line at brains.

So alright, let's give the weird meat a fighting chance. Just not cooked like grandma used to make it, for the love of god.

Chefs apparently look as these meats and see gold. For now, let's leave offal to them, but still, cuts of beef once distained by middle class America have come into vogue because Emril thinks they're tasty. Flank steak is per once one of the most reasonable cuts of steak on the market and-oh yeah-it's delicious.

The trick is, most times, hidden in preparation.

This week I gave chicken hearts and gizzards a whirl. These are tough meats, so the trick is a slow, low cook time with a flavourful liquid base. To that end, I choose broth and Greek yogurt, figuring that the enzymes therein should help break down the meat and make it more tender. (MS Office says it's tenderer. I find that stupid.  More Tender Bitches!)

And, shockingly enough, it worked. Dare to think outside the meat box! Embrace your poverty!

Slow Chicken in Yogurt with Chives

1 Pkg Chicken Hearts & Gizzards, gizzards cut into bite sized pieces.

1 cup Chicken broth (preferably homemade; Swansons is a decent alternative)

1 cup Greek Yogurt

1 tbsp Garlic, chopped

1 medium Sweet Onion, chopped

1/2 Mushrooms, sliced (button, Portobello, oyster depending on personal preference or poverty level)

Pinch of Salt

Pepper to taste

1 bunch of Fresh Chives, snipped

1 pound Whole Wheat Pasta

Boil pasta until al dente in salted water, reserving at least a 1/2 cup of the cooking water.

Meanwhile, (back at the ranch) simmer the chicken parts with the broth for ten minutes on medium low heat, covered. Add the yogurt, pepper, salt, and garlic, then simmer for a further 15 min. Add the chopped onion and-you guessed it--simmer for 20 minutes, or until the sauce thickens and the onions become transparent and glossy. If the sauce has condensed too much, add remaindered pasta water. (It's already thickened with starch from the pasta, but it's salty, so use a light hand. You can add more as you go, but once it's in it’s here to stay.)  Now add the mushrooms and turn heat to low, cooking uncovered for about another 10 minutes, or just until the mushrooms soften. This time, stir frequently, scrapping up any brown bits from the sides and bottom because they're super tasty. Toss sauce with pasta and chives and serve.

Serves 4 as a main dish.

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