My day job involves managing the musical careers of professional synth-twiddlers James Ford & Jas Shaw, otherwise known as Simian Mobile Disco. Last year they started a record label, called Delicacies, to release their own more techno orientated productions, where each track was named after an esoteric (and often unpleasant sounding) food delicacy.
For ages we’d been talking about actually trying to cook some thing from the catalogue, but many of the tracks presented some non-trivial problems – ortolan is illegal & casu marzu I think is currently illegal to export from Sardinia (quite apart from the fact that non of us have a particularly burning desire to eat a cheese full of live maggots). Sweetbreads are the only thing on that list that I’d actually enjoy cooking & eating, but I’ve never got around to acquiring any from the local butcher. A few weeks ago however, they released a new single entitled “Gizzard” and around the same time I spotted that a local deli was selling confit duck gizzards. Coincimental!
So, I suggested that I would cook them up an example of said organs, and make them eat them. James in particular is actually rather squeamish about offal, being a lapsed vegetarian and was slightly suspect about the whole thing, but I promised them it would be delicious.
A bit of research turned up that gizzards, which are the additional stomachs found in birds (as well as insects, reptiles and fish) for grinding up tough fibrous plant matter, are eaten all over the world in a variety of different ways. Often deep fried and served with a dipping sauce, or in soups and stir fries. The dish that really caught my eye however was a traditional French rustic meal of confit gizzards with a warm lentil salad. I found this recipe from The Cooking of Southwest France by Paul Wolfet, and was for a while available on chow.com, but seems to have been taken down now. You can still see it in Google’s cache here – I didn’t follow it precisely, and my slighty adapted version is below.
Ingredients (serves 4)
300g puy or green lentils
300g confit duck gizzards
half an onion, with a clove stuck into it
1 sprig of thyme
2 tablespoons brandy
3 small shallots, finely chopped
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
100ml oil (the original recipe calls for walnut oil, of which I had a little – I used 80/20 olive/walnut)
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
salt & pepper
Rinse and drain the lentils, and put in a pan. Cover with water, place in the onion half with clove, bay leaf and thyme and bring to the boil, skimming if necessary. Simmer for 20 minutes, then add the brandy. Cook for a further 5-10 minutes, until the lentils are done but still al dente.
Meanwhile, prepare the dressing – put the chopped shallots into a large mixing bowl bowl, and pour over the red wine vinegar, leave to soak for 10 minutes. Then add the mustard and walnut or olive oil, and whisk together. Season with salt and pepper, then take out 1/3 of the vinaigrette and set aside.
When the lentils are done, drain them and pick out the onion, bay leaf and thyme. Pour the lentils into the mixing bowl, and stir to coat them with the vinaigrette. Leave for an hour or more – the longer the better, this can be done earlier in the day if you like.
When you’re ready to eat, heat a large frying pan to medium, and thinly slick the duck gizzards. There should be plenty of fat with them from the confit – stick a couple of teaspoons of the duck fat in the pan, add the gizzards and fry gently for 3 minutes. Then add the lentils to the pan, and stir for a minute or two, until they are just warmed through. Stir in the parsley and season to taste, adding a little more vinegar if necessary. Use the reserved vinaigrette to dress the rocket, divide it onto four plates and serve the lentils immediately. Crusty bread and some sliced heirloom tomatoes make a good accompaniment. We eat these with a bottle of Macon-Charnay white burgandy…
This turned out absolutely delicious – even James wolfed his down with a degree of surprise. The gizzards have a curious texture, a little like kidneys, but totally different flavour very rich and gamey, slightly reminiscent of liver. They were firm with a good bite, and the flesh was homogeneous without structure (unlike kidneys). The vinegar and shallots cut through the rich meatiness of the gizzards beautifully.
The lentils were fantastic – I tasted them before the gizzards were added, and they would make a great salad dish on their own, for those of you not so into offal.
Now I just have to see what else I can cook & convince them to eat from their label…