I've said for a while that America is the only country in the world that dines only on prime cuts. Except for hot dogs and sausage, of course, the most exotic part of the animal we usually eat is the ribs. I guess that's what happens when your country is founded on shooting buffalo for sport and leaving the carcasses to the vultures. Except for black Americans, who have always eaten chitlins and pigs' feet. You go off and have you own social conversation about black people being more like poor Europeans or Asians than Americans because of two centuries of institutional racism. That's not what I'm interested in today.
However, the trend of using the whole animal is growing among white people who can afford to eat out and wish they lived in Europe. Or, at the very least, among the restaurants these people go to and pay $6 for water at. As this post would have it, the wife and I went to just such a place this weekend for our fifth anniverary, Osteria Mozza.
If you live in Los Angeles, you know who Nancy Silverton is and you know this is her place. If you don't, you at least know who Mario Batali is and I can tell you he is a partner in this establishment. Although he is never, ever there, except maybe to eat twice a year.
I started off with the crispy pigs trotter. To make this, they boil the pig's feet, skim the meat pieces out of the water and bind the bits with gelatin. This is actually the same method used to make head cheese. Then they bread it into a puck and fry it. It was like liquid pig. Jelly pig. The meat was so soft that chewing was superfluous. I pressed the meat to the roof of my mouth with my tongue and it was simply absorbed into the bloodstream.
The wife's main course was calf's brain ravioli. They were good, but brain doesn't taste like much. It is soft. The pasta was good and the butter sage sauce was good. Mostly, this tasted like the sausage type spices they use in it. Unless they don't season it and brain is naturally peppery. That is unlikely, however.
My main was crispy sweetbreads piccata. It was one of the greatest things I've ever eaten. White like chicken breasts, soft and squeezy like tofu, these glands secreted deliciousness straight down my gullet. Rich, sweet, buttery, so incredibly flavorful and tasty. Fried perfectly. All i can say is, if you have hangups about this and can only eat chops, if you were served this without knowing what it was, it would instantly become your favorite dish. I swear to you on all that i believe in (which is about nothing), if they weren't so expensive (only one thymus per animal) fried sweetbreads could be dipped in ketchup or mustard and eaten at sporting events. A paper cup of fried sweetbreads. They are incredible.
I'm not telling you this because I think I'm better than you, though I most definitely do think that. I didn't do anything different than what somebody's Tuscan uncle has done once a month for all 70 of his years on this globe. All I'm doing is catching with non-English speakers. But man oh man, you gotta try it some time.