November was all about stepping out of our comfort (food) zone. The Star2 Monthly Challenge #Squealmeal may have started off with trying to get people to eat squeal-worthy meals, but in the end, it proved to be more than just a silly idea.
We confronted our fear of everyday common food and ate things we never thought we would. I ate frog, Louisa bit through some rubbery chicken feet and Abirami force fed herself balut in the first week.
We upped the ante every week and by the end of #Squealmeal Challenge, we had collectively eaten our way through live sago worms, ox tongue, crocodile paw, fried hornets, fish sperm and stinky cheese and more.
ALSO READ: Battle with live octopus tentacles (with video)
The #Squealmeal challenge has come to an end but we are going for a final big squeal with The Offaly Good Feast coming up next week. We hope this dinner will forever change our mind about the place offal has on our dining table.
To prepare the feast, we turn to Chef Jean Michel Fraisse of The French Culinary School in Asia, who professes to be the King of Offal and is convinced offal has a place even on a fine dining menu.
“In French gastronomy, offal is first class citizens and they will be paired with prestigious ingredients such as truffles, expensive brandies, wines, and etc. Beside ox tongue or veal head, we do not boil offal. It is usually sautéed and this cooking method makes a lot of difference in terms of taste as the strong taste that characterises offal will vanish,” he said.
“The taste of commercially farmed chicken and prawn meat today are pretty insipid. Being full of flavour, offals are now the territory of the real food lover. In my opinion, the real gourmet should be able to eat everything,” said this unrepentant food lover who at one time, taught the Psychology of Eating Habits at the Taylors School of Hospitality and Tourism where he was programme director.
“The link between people and animals have been broken as most people now live in urban areas. This has led to unrealistic expectations. Modern consumers seek fish without a fishy taste and lamb without its milky whiff. Nobody wants to see blood or any slaughtering but they do not mind eating meat.
“Offal is perceived as soiled and disgusting – this can come from the strong smell and taste of the spare parts when not prepared properly. Offal is also perceived as food of the poor and countryside,” said Fraisse.
Where he came from, offal is considered a delicacy worth fighting for.
“My mother was gifted to cook offal – she made them so good, we fought over the rabbit kidney or liver, which has a sweet taste,” he said.
“In France, we have a tradition of eating offal and many different ways to cook it. Food is precious; so as not to waste anything, we eat almost every part of the cow. I have never encountered dishes made from the veal (young cow) head in Asia but the French use every part of the head,” said Fraisse.
For the Offaly Good Feast, Fraisse and his chef, Mickael Cornutrait have planned an eight-course degustation menu where you can enjoy offal at its finest with a “head to tail eating” concept.
If you didn’t know, just from the head of larger animals, one can harvest many interesting “delicacies”. The head meat can be stripped, rolled and boiled; the brain poached, coated with flour, panfried and served with a squeeze of lemon; the tongue boiled, cured and prepared with a tangy sauce. The gelatinous cheeks are the best part, ideal for making pot au feu or stew. Organs are best harvested from veal, as the taste of older animals would be too strong.
“When properly cooked, offal is delicious and offers up a rich and unctuous taste and surprising textures not found in meat,” said Fraisse.
Not many French restaurants these days would serve offal as preparing it is laborious and requires skills and experience. “Most popular in a restaurant would definitely be the sweetbread – thymus gland and pancreas – and kidney, which are also the most expensive of the offals,” he added.
In an earlier interview, the chef has explained the idea for keeping the menu secret. “That’s just to take the fear away from eating offal. Most people actually like the taste of offal – if only they could take that first bite.”
Apart from using veal for the dinner, Fraisse is also condensing the “best parts” of a duck and chicken into the feast, and guests will get to enjoy offal in unexpected ways.
Any clues? “Think a rich consomme stock, foie gras and truffle sauce,” he said. Surely we don’t need more incentive than this.
So do join us at The Offaly Good Feast. The menu for the night may be a mystery but we do know that it will be a tasty, finely crafted, pork-free dinner. And to allow you to enjoy it even more, wine pairing is possible. See you there.
Date: Wednesday Dec 9, 2015
Venue: The French Culinary School in Asia, Menara IMC, 8th Floor, Annexed Block, 8, Jalan Sultan Ismail, 50250 Kuala Lumpur
Price: RM150 per pax
Limited seats available. To make reservations, email firstname.lastname@example.org or sms or call 012-2282 490.