The Nasty Bits

Recipes and stories for everything but the oink.

The Nasty Bits: Giblet Pasta

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[Photographs: Chichi Wang]

This past Thanksgiving I was in charge of making the gravy. An hour before the meal was due to start I found myself alone in the kitchen with the turkey giblets, which is an enviable position to be in if, like me, you'd rather snack on the gizzards than have another side of mashed potatoes. At my feet a little dachshund clawed incessantly, sensing, perhaps, that I was about to take what was rightfully his.

The gizzards had been stewing for the past two hours and were perfectly tender by the time I'd extricated them from the stock we needed for the gravy. I took a nibble of one of the gizzards before setting out all the giblets for the dog—liver, gizzards, and neck—and went back to the matter of the gravy. But the brief moment of intimacy I'd shared with the giblets before the big meal made me even more grateful for our bounty of food. It's one of the best parts about starting with a whole bird, to reach inside the body cavity and retrieve a package with all the goodies.

Giblet gravy may be good for the bird, but it's not, in my estimation, what's best for the giblets themselves. Certainly, you can use the giblets by tossing them into the stock so as to extract their meaty flavor, but doing so isn't an ideal treatment if you happen to like those parts. The gizzards may be tender, but they're somewhat bland after being cooked for stock, and forget about enjoying a piece of liver after it's been stewing and stewing.

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Instead, consider giblet pasta. It's a classic example of the sort of thrifty meal that a cook enjoys before the more presentable one is set forth on the table. Just as taking apart a whole bird yields those "tenders"—little slips of meat that lie underneath each breast—the idea behind giblet pasta is that it's a meal for cooks only. One or two gizzards and a liver may only feed one or two people, but the dish is the kind of intimate treat that you can savor in the kitchen as you're tending to the rest of the bird. (Though, of course, if you happen to like giblet pasta sauce so much that you want to serve it to your friends and family, you can simply buy cartons of livers and gizzards from your butcher.)

The gizzards (and the neck, if you have it) are simmered in a simple pasta sauce, which can either be red (with tomatoes) or white (with wine and butter) depending on your preference. At the last moment, chop the tender, delicate liver and quickly sear it before adding it to your sauce. The richness of the liver thickens the whole sauce and helps it cling to your strands of pasta. Between bites of pasta, you'll get tender slivers of neckbone meat and slightly chewy bits of gizzard—a really enjoyable contrast of textures with very little effort on your part.

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