Offal of the Week: Gizzards
If it's Friday, it must be Offal of the Week! Brought to you by Ryan Adams, author of the blog Nose to Tail at Home, each week we highlight a different part of the animal that you've always wanted to work with, but were afraid to ask your butcher for. This week: Gizzards.
Most people are tangentially aware of gizzards, only dealing with the peculiar muscle while shoving their hands up the cavity of a bird carcass to remove to the random nameless giblets before really getting down to work. Little do they know that in fact, they're throwing away some of the tastiest parts of the bird. With only a marginal amount of work and time you can turn gizzards into a fantastic (and eyebrow-raising!) addition to your cooking repertoire.
In birds, the gizzard is a dense muscle located at the top of the stomach that is used to pulverize food as a replacement for teeth. The constant use of the muscle makes it lean and tough, so most recipes that you'll find call for long, slow cooking times that will soften the coarse meat and connective tissue. There are always exceptions to the rules though: gizzards can be poached, grilled and sautéed with excellent — but slightly chewy-results.
Gizzards are eaten pretty much wherever birds are. Here in America, the southern states are very fond of gizzards, usually pressure cooking them until they're tender enough to melt in your mouth, and then frying them up and serving them with mustard. They're added to Louisiana crawfish boils and to New Orleans gumbos. Chicago's famous shrimp-and-chicken fry houses like to batter and deep fry them, and serve with a side of french fries. In Potterville, Michigan they hold a Gizzard Fest each June that features a gizzard-eating contest (plus slightly more traditional festival activities like a parade, fireworks, and a 3-on-3 basketball tournament). Gizzards are found in the traditional French Périgordian Salad (named after the French region of Périgord) mixed in with walnuts, croutons and lettuce. Grilled chicken gizzards are sold as common street food in Haiti, and in Indonesia the gizzard is an integral part of many fried poultry dishes.
Chicken gizzards are easily found in supermarkets across the nation in the poultry section of the meat aisle. However, trying to find gizzards from other birds isn't always so easy. I've seen duck gizzards in Asian markets, and a local butcher should be able to find you turkey gizzards with no problems when November rolls around. If you have friends that hunt, consider asking them for their game bird gizzards if they're not in the know.
Regardless of which bird your gizzard comes from, look for a plump organ, shiny and reddish brown in color. If the gizzard is from a game bird, make sure to remove the gravel sac before you start cooking, otherwise you might find yourself biting down on the round stones the animal used for digestion, rather than the delicious meat.
Now's your chance to join the rest of the world and jump on the gizzard train with one of these recipes:
Chicken Gizzard Curry Recipe
Finger Lickin Chicken Gizzards
Confit of Duck Gizzards
Chicken Gizzard Appetizer
Southern Fried Chicken Gizzards