Most every restaurant has a take on chicken—whether whole-roasted, fried, or grilled—and steak, often the standard cuts of filet, New York strip, and ribeye.
But some establishments look beyond the traditional, capitalizing on the lesser-known and often higher margin cuts that may otherwise go to waste, be repurposed for a different use, or ignored entirely.
From veal brains to lamb testicles, here’s a look at some notable dishes that let obscure cuts shine.
Often selected as the chew toy of choice for dogs, pig ears are transformed at Husk from elastic bits of cartilage into a crispy, tender cut resembling rendered bacon.
The restaurant cooks down the ears in a pressure cooker to tenderize, then smokes them before cutting the ears into small pieces before frying. Once fried, the ears are dressed—sometimes in a homemade barbecue sauce, other times in a Kentuckyaki sauce—before being placed on bibb lettuce and topped with pickled cucumbers and onions.
With a lot of collagen and connective tissue, lamb neck takes a while to break down, but it’s worth the wait.
At Toups’ Meatery in New Orleans, the large cut is seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper, seared hot and then cooked down with vegetables, herbs, and red wine for about four hours. Toups’ then serves the tender, fatty meat over a black eye pea ragout and offsets the richness with some pickled fennel.
At Los Angeles staple Animal, offal isn’t only served, it’s celebrated. Menu items include chicken liver toast, rabbit larb, pig ears, and yellowtail collar. But perhaps the most intriguing dish is the veal brains, which are spiced with French spice blend vadouvan and served with apricot puree and roasted carrot.
When the 107-year-old Cattlemen’s Steakhouse in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, began serving lamb fries, they put a couple pieces on every plate guests ordered to try to make the item popular.
Eventually, customers were requesting entire platters of the breaded and fried lamb testicles, which Cattlemen’s received for free from packing houses near the restaurant. The fries are peeled, sliced, and then breaded simply with cracker meal and salt before going into the fryer.
You’re going to need to share the $85 General Tso pig head at beer-and-meat focused restaurant The Cannibal in New York City.
The dish, listed under the ‘large format’ section of the menu alongside a 36-ounce dry-aged ribeye, whole-roasted cauliflower, and herb-rubbed lamb belly, is served with a broccoli rabe salad and moo shu pancake. The head is brined, rendered, cooled, scored, and roasted prior to service before being topped with the restaurant’s General Tso’s sauce. Scoring the meat creates crispy strips that customers can easily pull off before loading onto pancakes with the salad.