Celebrating Odd Bits with Jennifer McLagan

This week we were pleased to welcome back award-winning author, Jennifer McLagan, to celebrate her latest book, Odd Bits: How to Cook the Rest of the Animal. Jennifer is known for bravely tackling unfashionable culinary topics such as bones and fat. It is only natural that she tames the rest of the animal with this third book.

Odd Bits truly embraces the philosophy of nose to tail eating. Jennifer's rationale about using these less celebrated cuts is simple: if we are to slaughter an animal for food, it is only moral and respectful to use all of it. The more common "prime cuts" comprise of merely half the animal, so as a moral carnivore, it is important to utilize all of the animal's perfectly good protein.

On Sunday evening, guests gathered at Books to Cooks for an intimate Sunday Supper featuring a delectable menu of odd bits. As Chef Lawren Moneta served delicious morsels including poached tongue with salsa verde, Peruvian heart kebabs and braised beef cheeks, Jennifer gave guests a culinary anatomy lesson from snout to tail. In the evening's discussion, Jennifer emphasized how imperative the quality and freshness of these delicate cuts are and thus how important it is to make friends with a trusted local butcher. By the end of the evening, Jennifer's enthusiasm and humour ensured guests that these odd bits are really not all that odd. We've just lost touch with them and it's time to reacquaint ourselves.

The next evening, dinner guests gathered at Cibo Trattoria for an Odd Bits inspired menu prepared by Executive Chef Neil Taylor. A true odd bit enthusiast, Chef Taylor was delighted to treat guests to a menu featuring such delicacies as lamb's brain ravioli with brown butter and sage, crispy pig's head and trotter salad and grilled calves liver and ox heart, all prepared with an Italian flare.

Jennifer's visit to Vancouver wound down with a sumptuous gathering with members of the Vancouver Club. Chef Sean Cousins prepared a delicious menu from Odd Bits that shone a spotlight on some of the least celebrated yet most delectable cuts. As the evening began, guests whet their appetites with the lusciously crisp but creamy "Cheese and Just a Little Brain Fritters." Guests also found themselves enjoying gently braised lamb neck with quince and turnip.

One common theme for all three evenings was the chefs' choice of dessert: Jennifer's chocolate blood ice cream. At first this combination may conjure images of amorous blood letting vampires. The use of blood as a thickener for a chocolate custard, however, is no more unusual than using the protein in egg yolks to thicken and add richness.

While Jennifer was here, we learned that Odd Bits made it onto the New York Times list of Notable Cookbooks of 2011. Congratulations, Jennifer, and much thanks for taking the odd out of those bits.