Since they've thoroughly explored every nook and cranny of the pig, it seems reasonable to expect offal-loving chefs to turn their attentions to the chicken.
This theory is most assuredly not shared, however, by the lovely lady who mans the phones at Blue Plate Roadside Cafe, a retro Southern comfort food joint in Sandy Springs, Ga.
"Gizzards?" she blurts when we inquire if they're on the menu. She sounds as though we've chased down an obviously lousy tip: "No, no, no, not gizzards, never."
Many savvy Southern eaters are still saying no to gizzards, a humble food that's retained its stigma -- it is, after all, the tough, lower stomach pouch of the bird -- despite a wonderfully chewy, fatty flavor. But a few brave chefs are quietly sneaking gizzards onto their menus, elevating a poultry part oft dismissed as a poor man's food to a starring role.
"I was looking for something different that maybe people hadn't tried," says Evan McDaniel, chef de cuisine at Watts Grocery in Durham, N.C., where he serves gizzards poached and fried. "I think a lot of people were surprised to find them pretty tasty."
A dislike for gizzards is perhaps a Western or middlebrow affectation, since they are routinely devoured at high-end Japanese restaurants and at many a homey Southern fried chicken shop. While Bojangles' has inexplicably gotten out of the gizzards game, those who were college students in the 1980s fondly recall the chain's $1.99 all-you-can-eat Gizzard Tuesdays.
Perhaps because eaters outside the South don't necessarily associate gizzards with poverty, the dish has recently had a good run in the Midwest, where Minneapolis chef (and James Beard Award nominee) Isaac Becker last fall added a $6 sautéed gizzard app to 112 Eatery's menu. (He did admit to the Star-Tribune that "it's a hard sell.")
The region's also home to the nation's undisputed gizzard capital: Joe's Gizzard City, a family-owned eatery in Potterville, Mich. that sells more than 300 pounds of the stuff per week. Joe's got its start in the 1960s as a chicken dinner restaurant, but, as owner Joe Bristol recalls, "We had a few regulars who'd had a couple beers too many, and we'd throw gizzards at them to sober them up. We got to be known as the gizzard place."
"There's only three types of people who don't like our gizzards," he continues. "People who had a childhood trauma with gizzards, white meat eaters and people from the Deep South, who like their gizzards chewy, like their grandmothers made them." While Joe himself has no preference for either style, he remarks, "it's like the difference between filet mignon and beef jerky."
Regardless of your gizzardly feelings, Bristol would love for you to mark your calendar for the 10th annual Gizzard Fest next month. From June 12-14, the town of Potterville will celebrate gizzards with bagpiping, bellydancing, lawn mower racing and competitive gizzard eating. Sounds like a recipe for fun that few highfalutin chefs could top.
Ever eaten gizzards? Hit the comments; let us know.
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