New cookbooks get down to the details of using whole animal

“Odd Bits: How to Cook the Rest of the Animal” by Jennifer McLagan

April has been designated “Eat Local” month. In my March column on Ryan Farr's book “Whole Beast Butchery,” we looked at his advocacy of whole beast utilization, which encompasses the practices of both buying local and supporting sustainability.

In honor of “Eat Local,” let's look a little further.

“Odd Bits: How to Cook the Rest of the Animal.” Author Jennifer McLagan writes, “Today, we are so removed from the sources of our food that we rarely think of meat coming from living, breathing animals. ... Most of the meat we eat — the tenderloins, the racks, the steaks, the legs, and the chops — is only a small percentage of the animal carcass. ... ‘Odd Bits' covers everything, from tongues to tails, cheeks to shanks, brains to bellies ... an introduction to cooking and eating the rest of the animal.”

Those who raise livestock, or are old enough to remember the neighborhood butcher shop, or eat chitlins and tails in restaurants at the country-food end of the scale or sweetbreads and trotters at the fine-dining end, are well-aware of the delights to be had in “odd bits.” Those desiring to meet the Eat Local challenge this month can use the opportunity to find out. Whether you have acquired a whole animal or have access to a butcher with local meat, McLagan's book offers education and inspiration for head-to-tail cookery. Hardcover. Ten Speed Press. $35.

“A Girl and Her Pig: Recipes and Stories.” This book by chef April Bloomfield with JJ Goode delivers the celebrated cuisine that the British chef has made famous at New York City's The Spotted Pig, The Breslin and The John Dory restaurants. Bloomfield has an Englishwoman's love for “odd bits” but not what was once regarded as an English cook's heavy hand, as demonstrated by dishes such as her tongue sandwiches with tarragon sauce and arugula, veal shanks roasted with white wine and shallots, and veal kidneys with garlic butter and lemon. Equally apropos for mid-April here, look for her use of fresh radishes in a salad with basil and Parmesan, asparagus with Parmesan Pudding and prosciutto, and if there is any rhubarb left, Rhubarb Fool With Cardamom Cream and Pistachios. Hardcover. ECCO. $29.99.

“Lard: The Lost Art of Cooking With Your Grandmother's Secret Ingredient.” If you are purchasing a whole pig, you will surely want to render lard. The editors of Grit Magazine, a bimonthly published in Kansas “dedicated to celebrating country lifestyles,” serve up instruction on how to render lard and 150 recipes using it. Paperback. Andrews McMeel Publishing. $24.99.

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