When trolling our local markets we gaze upon case after case of beautifully butchered produce. It is easy to forget that every piece of meat, chicken, pork, or fish was once a living, breathing animal. I am not a vegetarian but it is extraordinarily easy for me to understand why people abstain from eating animal protein. If we choose to eat meat, we should be cognizant of where our food comes from and how it was treated. Invariably, when I start talking about organic foods or sustainable fish, someone will object. They remind me that they live in a part of the world where they are just fortunate to eat. I understand more than you know. My entire family emigrated from Cuba in the early seventies. Under the communist Castro regime, food is rationed monthly and people struggle to feed their families. Fortunately for me, I live in Miami, in the United States, and I choose to demand more of my purchasing habits.
Furthermore, as cooks, we control every piece of produce we serve. I have witnessed countless “chefs” let their concentration wane while cooking and ruin product. If these “chefs” had killed the cow themselves, would they squander it? My guess is no, there would not be that disconnect. The biggest sin a cook can commit is to waste product. My friends, there is absolutely no honor in that!
Using every part of any foodstuff is another way to pay your respects. Offal meat, the innards of animals, is rarely seen in American kitchens. When we go to the market and scoop up a lovely filet mignon, we must realize that the animal from which that came had many other parts. Thumbing your nose at offal meat is nonsensical, arrogant, and improvident. Anyone can cook a filet mignon; no inherent skill is needed. Now, the true hallmark of a talented cook is taking something that would be thrown away and making a delicious dish from it. Lastly, organ meat is more affordable than prime cuts. So learn to cook offal properly and make a 5-star dinner for a fraction of the price.
Since many of you good people are dead-set against cooking organ meat, the course pictured above is an example using fish. I purchased a delightfully sustainable Pacific cod from Alaska, caught via long-line. For comprehensive information on sustainable fish please visit The Monterey Bay Aquarium website. My main goal when conceptualizing this dish was to avoid waste. I started by butchering the fish into four parts: the head, bones, and the two fillets. The head and bones were used to infuse the East Indian lemongrass broth. After portioning the fillets into three-ounce segments, I was left with odd-sized bit pieces. Normally these bit pieces would go in the trash. However, I made a flavorsome cod ravioli and properly honored the fish that gave its life for my sustenance. This dish has cod in the broth, cod in the ravioli, and the pan-seared cod fillet on top. These types of courses are most gratifying for the mind, body, and soul.