Check Out These Worldwide Gourmet Chicken Treats

Check Out These Worldwide Gourmet Chicken Treats
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by Dorothy Rieke  Have you ever eaten chicken feet? This question came up in a conversation, and I am sorry to say, most of us backed away in disgust. Raised on farms, we were accustomed to eating the heart, gizzards, and liver of chickens. But the feet! Something was disgusting about eating chicken feet. Most of us recalled cutting the feet off chickens and noting how dirty they looked. How could we eat that?  

We have to remember that different people eat what is available in their countries. Some foods may be taboo, but people in other countries have different tastes with available food sources depending on where they live. Then, too, it may come down to personal preference with cultural conditioning more than the nutritional values of chosen foods.  

In the United States, in 1985, chicken became more popular than pork; in 1992, it became more popular than beef. People in every country eat chicken, and this popularity means that there are many recipes for preparing every part of the chicken. Most of us grope around inside a whole chicken, locating the sack that contains the liver, gizzard, and heart. We may vow to do something with these later. Sometimes, we add the gizzard and liver to gravy or dressings. But we may be missing out on a wonderful, nutritious eating experience. 

Organs

Our ancestors not only hunted animals, but they also ate most of the organs because there was nothing else to eat.  Organ meats have never been as popular in the United States as in other countries. There could be economic reasons for this, or some people are more creative with their cooking, but in many places, chicken offal are gourmet.

Chicken liver and gizzards have more nutrients than other chicken meat, such as iron, zinc, and vitamin B 12. Those who eat liver undoubtedly look forward to its unique flavor and its nutrition.  

Some believe that gizzards are tough. However, chicken gizzards and hearts are high in protein, iron, and zinc, but they have more fat than the breast, so they are high in cholesterol. Some suggest soaking them in wine, milk, buttermilk, or even lemon juice water. They can be quickly sautéed with onions and herbs or simmered in chicken broth. Gizzards have an intensely meaty, satisfying flavor similar to dark chicken meat. 

In the Southern states, some prepare gizzards by using deep-fat fryers. Others go one step farther by first braising them and then frying them in deep fat. They are crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. 

Years ago, farm people often ate chicken livers and pig and beef liver. Livers filter out toxins. Years ago, most who prepared chickens for cooking inspected the liver, and if it had yellow spots, they discarded it. Since most of us today do not see the liver before it is cooked, it is best to eat organic liver. Unless one knows what an animal ate and its health records, the liver may not be the best choice for dining.  

One note here is that most geese are imported from foreign countries, so it is impossible to detect any chemicals added to their food. It is wise to avoid eating goose liver. 

Chicken hearts have been described as “a muscle with a nice, poultry flavor.” These are usually placed inside a baking hen or cut up and added to gravy or stuffing, and some cook the chicken heart with black pepper sauce.  

In some countries, street vendors sell grilled chicken intestines served with barbecue.  

Feet

Chicken feet are popular in the Philippines, China, and Vietnam. How are these gourmet chicken delicacies prepared? Chicken feet are deep fat fried, braised, or prepared in savory sauces. Usually, they are braised and marinated in a rich black bean sauce and garnished with green or red chili slices and chopped green onions. Frying the feet in deep fat makes the skin puff up, turning the cartilage gelatinous and easy to separate from the bones. The surface of the feet becomes tender and wrinkly, which makes them easier to eat.  

Head

Another part of the chicken with a unique buttery flavor is the chicken head. Asian, Africans, and South Americans have been and are eating the heads of chickens. Chicken brains are supposedly good for a person and are considered a delicacy in some countries. Custom and tradition have more or less turned most Americans against eating chicken heads.  

Today, most Americans are health conscious. They believe that if they want to lower their risk of heart disease, they must switch from eating red meat to eating chicken. As a result, poultry consumption has tripled since 1980 and surpassed beef consumption. But the chicken hearts, gizzards, and other offal aren’t nearly as popular, and may not be considered gourmet, but perhaps they should be. 

Originally published in the June/July 2022 issue of Backyard Poultry and regularly vetted for accuracy.

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