The Dish Marcus Samuelsson Says Will Have You Rethinking Offal

Self-described "carnivores" likely don the label for an outspoken affinity of ribeye steaks and slabs of barbecued chicken breast the size of a basketball. You might even see one of these enthusiasts wearing an apron with the word "Grillmaster" in block letters across the front. But, true lovers of the culinary delicacy that is meat know where the real party is at: offal.

In a few words, offal is an animal's organ meat. More specifically, "offal" can be used to describe any non-muscular part of an animal's body; Think stomach, tripe, liver, brain, trotters, tongue, lungs, and intestines. Offal is also referred to as "variety meats" (which is unfortunate) and it's literally the German word for "waste." Sounds a little... yucky? What it really is, fans would argue, is unfair. Don't knock it 'till you try it. Sweetbreads are a fine dining delicacy that Thomas Keller swears by (via The French Laundry At Home), and they're a type of offal. Traditional Irish black pudding is made from offal, foie gras is offal, and so is bone marrow.

When it comes to offal, if you know, you know — and upscale foodies want to chow down on some innards. To the naysayers, "offal" doesn't have to be "awful." Just take it from celebrity chef and restaurateur Marcus Samuelsson and the offal dish that encouraged him to take risks in the kitchen.

Monkfish liver changed the NYC food game

In an exclusive chat on his Audible podcast, "Seat at the Table," Marcus Samuelsson shared a few of the lessons that have most influenced him throughout his esteemed culinary career — and one of them came from monkfish liver. Monkfish liver is a popular dish in Japanese restaurants, where it's called "ankimo." Its pâté-like texture makes it a fatty delicacy, and fittingly, it can also be found in sushi restaurants in the U.S. But, Samuelsson didn't develop his love for the offal in Japan; He joined camp-monkfish as a cue from Gabrielle Hamilton, esteemed author and four-time James Beard Award-winning chef. 

Hamilton was the chef-proprietor of longstanding NYC fine dining restaurant Prune. Years ago, when she started adding monkfish liver to her menu, says Samuelsson, the dish suddenly became popular across Manhattan's Lower East Side. Soon, chefs all over the city were preparing monkfish liver at their own restaurants. ("Gabrielle," Samuelsson teases, "I'm mad at you for making monkfish expensive.") 

To make his version, Samuelsson simply tosses some butter and oil in a pan and lightly sears the monkfish liver until caramelized. When it's finished, the liver is cut into small rounds and served open-face on crispy crostini with lightly dressed arugula. "As a chef, I think about risk-reward," says Samuelsson. "This dish has it all."