Do you think offal is awful? Tuscany has a long tradition of using these sometimes discarded animal parts in dishes you actually might find delicious!
The offal has its origin in the San Lorenzo market, in the heart of Florence’s city center. There are butchers, greengrocers, bakers, fish sellers and tripe retailers. Here you can buy lungs, testicles, tails, paws, noses, stomachs, nerves, sterns and more. A visual representation of what the offal in Tuscany is: a real, authentic – for some even shocking – icon of Tuscan culinary tradition.
Offal: what is it?
Offal is the internal organs and the less valuable parts of a butchered animal. Back in the day it was consumed by the workers of slaughterhouses or butcher shops who could not afford anything but the “scraps” of the animals, including poultry. Tuscany has a long tradition of using these cuts to create delicious dishes with a strong and spicy flavour.
Pork livers wrapped in netting, beef tongue in green sauce, sweetbread, boiled chicken tails and paws, fried beef brain and chicken liver pate crostini are just a few of the tasty dishes made with these particular cuts of meat.
Offal: what is tripe?
Tripe is the edible lining of the cow’s stomach. It is a local specialty for Florence and the “king” of street food: in each neighborhood there’s a “trippaio” (a stand that serves only this delicacy ) and every area – and even each restaurant, stand or trippaio – has its very own recipe. Ask a random Florentine and he/she will be ready to swear on his family that this particular version is more authentic than this other one (just try!). And the further you move away from Florence, the more the recipe changes: for example, in Siena a meat sauce is also used to give it extra flavor.
Offal as street food: lampredotto
The first time I had the chance to eat lampredotto was in Florence. It is considered one of the most representative foods, at the same level of the Florentine steak and pappa al pomodoro (tomato bread soup). If you want to experience this beautiful town as a real Florentine, you can’t help but eat your panino con lampredotto e salsa verde (lampredotto sandwich with green sauce) with a glass of “vino della casa” and blend in with locals, students and other tourists.
The preparation follows strict rules: the bread is soaked in cooking broth and then filled with lampredotto, salsa verde, salt & pepper. You can choose to add spicy sauce if you’d like to give it extra flavor. Pay attention while eating your sandwich, because oil and green sauce will be dripping from all sides, but trust me, that’s the beauty of eating it! Besides the panino, the Florentines have created many dishes with lampredotto, including risotto, meatballs and more.
Cold cuts made with offal
As the old saying goes, “Nothing of the pig is thrown away”: pork offal is used to create delicious typical cold cuts with ancient and very deep roots.
Soppressata (Head Cheese) – which I prefer compared to salami or ham – it is made entirely from the meat of the pig’s head, cured and stuffed in large beef bungs or in the stomachs. It is topped with salt & pepper, garlic, lemon and orange.
Buristo (Blood Sausage), a typical cured meat from the Sienese area, it has a strong flavor, tastier than it seems (trust me!). It is produced by boiling parts of the pig’s head with lemons, orange peels, sage, garlic, salt and pepper. It is stuffed into the stomach, called “grandma,” or in smaller parts of the guts, called “aunt,” and then filled with blood and a filler until they are thick enough to solidify when cooled.
Il Mallegato is a typical salami of Volterra and San Miniato. In the San Miniato version, raw blood is stuffed and seasoned with lard, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, pine nuts and raisins, while the version produced in Volterra also includes stale bread that is previously soaked in hot water, crumbled and then added into the mixture: another symbol of Tuscany’s love for using stale bread in cooking.
Biroldo is produced in the Garfagnana area with the pig’s head, blood, entrails and cheeks. Offal is cooked for six hours, then mixed with the blood and cooked for other three hours in the pork’s bladder.
All these delicious dishes pairs perfectly with Dievole Chianti Classico DOCG 2016: a bodied wine, with a pleasant, long finish. Excellent drinkability.
See? Offal is not as awful as you think!