Offal + Four Loko Sous Vide: My Birthday Gift to Me
*Don’t try this at home- since it’s my birthday, I have temporary immunity
Many others contest that.
Many people think that offal is also wrong.
Many others disagree.
I decided to put the two together in a highly-calculated scientific experiment to determine whether:
- The world would be righted because I put two wrongs together
- The world would be wronged because I put two rights together
- The world would remain unchanged but I would have quite the meal to show for it
- The world would applaud my efforts and crown me an honorary scientist, knight me, and force all you plebians to call me “sir” for the rest of my god-given days
Shall we start with definitions of 4Loko and offal in case you’ve been living under a hummus-covered boulder? 4Loko is the highly contentious “malt-beverage” sold in 23.5 oz cans containing 12% alcohol plus caffeine, taurine, and guarana. It comes in an array of flavors best described as red, orange, green, purple, blue, et cetera since they bear no resemblance to actual natural tastes. It has recently been pulled from shelves across the country so that the company may remove the offending caffeine, taurine and guarana since apparently the danger of 4Loko is not that it contains the alcohol of an entire bottle of wine in one fruity-punchy can, but that these mood-enhancers provoke college kids to do stupid things.
Offal literally means “off fall” or the pieces which fall from an animal carcass when it is butchered. It loosely covers organ meats, feet, skin, tails, heads et cetera. It is experiencing a revival in our current culinary climate, and for good reason. If we’re going to eat the filets, shouldn’t we also find a use for the bung?
I would say that the vast majority of you likely think 4Loko is awful. There is perhaps an equal contingency that feel awful about offal too. It is my goal to attempt to create a swan by smashing two ugly ducklings together, getting them all hot and off-gassy, then reducing them down to a gelatinous puddle of sticky limbs- literally. Let’s just call this molecular gastronomy at its finest, shall we?
The first scientific problem I faced with my experiment was procuring 4Loko. Because I was late to the party, the meanie-pants US government (heretoforth known as “the man”) banned 4Loko before I could get my thermo-plastic encapsulated hands on any. I am an industrious little scientistista, so I’ve managed to secure the secret formula for how to create 4Loko at home. It involves adding the offending energy-enhancers to existing cans of “Tilt” which is a 4Loko competitor. Through precision calculations and research-based theoretical equation-solving, I was able to create a credible facsimile of 4Loko.
I tested it on some 4Loko fans I met standing in front of the gas station and I could tell they approved of my formula because they lifted me on their shoulders and started chanting “Long live this crazy bitch, somebody get her a motherfucking crown, and where exactly is her laboratory because we gonna hit that place up tonight and steal all the counterfeit 4Loko we can fit in our baggy Sean Johns.”
Secure with the success of my imitation 4Loko, I set about to sous viding chicken feet, pork bung, beef tendons, and pig trotters (feet) in flavor-matched pouches of special loko sauce. I paired chicken feet with red, pork bung with blue, beef tendons with purple and pig trotters with green.
One thing I was surprised about is that 4Loko doesn’t freeze. I tried to freeze it since it’s easier to sous vide frozen liquid if you don’t have a cryovac to seal your bags since you are able to suck more air out if you don’t have pesky liquid to contend with. Why doesn’t it freeze? It’s supposedly only 12% alcohol which wouldn’t be enough to keep it liqueous, so there must be another reason? A better scientist than me should take up that particular challenge.
Secondarily, when I added the mood-enhancers to the base “Tilt” substance, they did not mix, but instead settled on top- ie the base is heavier than the enhancements. Imagine how swell that must all feel swirling around in an adolescent stomach.
I sous vided the offal for 72 hours to the point that the trotters were fall-off-the-bone as well as the tendons, and the cartilage in the chicken feet was like tender butter. I can’t fathom a metaphor to describe the bung. In fact, I’ve never seen anything quite so vile and bilious as the bung, but in the name of science, I am willing to cook assholes (any nominations?) and so the bung results must be shared!
Once I removed the offal from the bags, I reduced the remaining 4loko to make an elegant, caramelized sauce. I was struck by the fact that each 4loko flavor had lost its original vibrant color and all took on a brown/caramel hue. Does this mean that sous vide cooks away artificial color? Questions for further experimentation methinks.
I took meticulous tasting notes of the final dishes, starting with the chicken feet. I left the toes intact when normally I might have trimmed them- they added too much to the hedonistic bacchanalia of the post. I immediately thought of a lovely scene from the restaurant I’ll have in the future; picture it now: 4loko sous vide chicken feet as the backdrop to a romantic proposal story! Ring comes out on chicken toe (tinfoil or otherwise) boy goes down on knee, girl screams yes and a frenzy of chicken cartilage-sucking ensues! It’s possibly the greatest love story yet to be told, all of the elements of success are there: liquor, meat, stickiness and passion.
The chicken feet tasted like imitation grape-flavoring and lacked the initial maltiness the 4loko presented with pre-sous vide. The collagen in the feet reduced well with the 4loko, resulting in a thick, gelatinous sauce. The feet themselves melted in my mouth like grape bubblegum. I could easily have eaten more than the four tasting bites, but I wanted to save my palate.
The bung is not surprisingly the worst thing I’ve ever put in my mouth. I have no intention of kissing my mother with said mouth for at least a month, and I’ve commenced a bleach-gargling routine twice a day in order to cleanse myself of the horrors of essentially eating asshole. Any fantasies you’ve ever had about me being a pristine fancy-dancer are surely irrevocably shattered now. Bung doesn’t have much fat, so the sauce was thinner, and not surprisingly, more brown than the other sauces. The one bite I was able to stomach (I swallowed, yes indeed!) tasted like grape-flavored wet manure.
Beef tendons were the sleeper-hit of the bunch. I knew I liked chicken feet, but who knew beef tendons could be so transcendent of their origins? In the future I will prepare these as I would short ribs. A different sauce would be advisable, however I really didn’t mind forking through the flaky, rib-like tendons. Oh, and guess what? They tasted like fake grapes too- what is it with the artificial flavor in 4loko that is so reminiscent of grape despite each color supposedly representing a different “taste”?
The trotters weren’t the best I’ve ever eaten, but they weren’t the worst, either. Despite them being so big, they were probably the only thing I felt cooked too long. they were so dismembered it was hard to discern bone from sinew and I kept putting all sorts of the wrong things in my mouth to the point that I gave up, closed my eyes, and sucked down a couple of bony bites. Grape again, oh, and nice sauce- the collagen factor helped set up the 4loko well.
The verdict? FourLoko (or its imposter) sucks, well and truly. Offal isn’t so awful at all, with the exception of bung, which just doesn’t belong in ANYONE’s mouth. If you can make a case for a well-prepared bung, I would be happy to try it, but in the meantime I have no intention of preparing it again to change my own mind. Thank you for indulging my madness, I hope this post was as big a gift to you as it was to me. Love, Linda