Photo by Rowena
This guest post is brought to you by Ryan Adams, author of the blog Nose to Tail at Home. Ryan did a series on offal and each week he highlighted a different part of the animal that you've always wanted to work with, but were afraid to ask your butcher for. This post is about Cockscombs.
We've already covered a majority of the more mainstream offal cuts, so now I'll be delving into the more, let's say, unusual bits. The offal of the offal, if you will. These bits and pieces are more obscure, not written about as often as the glamorous bits like kidney or liver, but still no less deserving of attention. Today, two of my favorites: cockscombs and chitterlings.
Most people know of them as the brilliant red adornments found on roosters' heads, however the fleshy growth known as the comb (or cockscomb) can be found on the top of many delicious birds, like turkey or pheasant. In France, cockscombs were used not only as garnishes for dishes, but also in them as part of a preparation where they would be minced and combined with a sauce which in turn could be used in a variety of ways. The Italians used to use them in an older recipe called Cimabella con cibreo, where the combs were used in conjunction with chicken livers and eggs in a sauce with tagliatelle in a ring molded from potato and ricotta cheese. They've recently made a comeback of sorts thanks to one Chris Cosentino and his ability and willingness to put them to good use. For example, back in 2007 for his restaurant's 4th Annual “Head to Tail” Dinner he whipped up candied cockscomb with cherries and rice pudding dessert.
Your best bet for finding combs would be to ask a chicken vendor at your local farmers market, though I'm sure a few Asian markets may have some packaged and ready for sale, or you can order them online through D’artagnan. Once you've purchased your combs, you'll need to clean them. Find a sewing needle and prick the combs all over, then submerge them in water and squeeze. This will help remove any remaining blood. Next you'll need to boil them, which will loosen the skin which will peel right off, much like skinning a tongue. From there you can start working with them much like you would tough cuts of meat, with braising tending to be the oft-used preparation method. They don't sport a lot of flavor, but the texture has been compared to gummy candy.
Here are a few cockscomb recipes to get you started:
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