Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Ridiculously offal

Before you think I’ve gone off my rocker and lost my ability to spell, let me define “offal” for those who don’t know. Offal is basically what is leftover from a butchered animal…the entrails, organs and such. To some, offal is a delicacy. To others, a gag-inducing thought.

Rewind to April Fools’ Day. I am not a big fan. Historically, the internet goes insane on April Fools’ Day and you can believe even less of what you read than usual. I find all the “hilarious” pranks tiresome. But what did I do when I saw that Marx Foods was running a Ridiculously Offal Recipe Challenge, with boneless pork rectums as the must-use ingredient? I clicked that link. Why wouldn’t I? That’s a recipe challenge to be seen. Well, they got me. April Fools’!!! Hardy har har. But even though I undoubtedly rolled my eyes, I couldn’t help but chuckle…a boneless pork rectum joke is an April Fools’ prank I can get behind. Even better, to those that had been fooled, Marx Foods was offering to send samples of their premium dried chiles. I guess April Fools’ Day isn’t so bad after all.

My mailbox has never smelled so good as when this package of dried chile flakes arrived. They were smoky, spicy, and so fresh…I couldn’t wait to sample each of them (check out their assortment here). My mind immediately started racing thinking of how I could use these products. Of course they would be fantastic in all the usual ways: sprinkled on grilled veggies or pizza, added to soups and stews, tossed in a stir-fry…I’ve used them in all those ways now and they add fantastic flavor to each dish. But I really wanted to showcase these chiles, specifically the chipotle flakes, which have a rating of 30,000 units on the Scoville scale.

So instead of an offal recipe, I came up with this…

Chipotle Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Spicy Candied Kumquats

Fills 4 small ramekins

Candied Kumquats:
5 ounces kumquats
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon granulated chipotle chile flakes

Panna Cotta:
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 a vanilla bean, seeds scraped out
1 tablespoon cold water
1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/4 teaspoon granulated chipotle chile flakes

For the candied kumquats: slice the ends off each kumquat and discard, then slice the remaining fruit into 4-5 rounds.

In a medium saucepan, combine the water, sugar and chile flakes. Bring to a boil, add the kumquat slices, and reduce to a simmer. Let simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until mixture is syrupy.

Let cool and refrigerate. (This recipe makes more than needed for the panna cotta.)

For the panna cotta: In a small bowl, sprinkle gelatin over cold water. Let sit undisturbed.

Meanwhile, whisk the yogurt and chile flakes together in a large bowl.

Combine the cream, sugar, vanilla bean and seeds in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer. Off the heat, remove the vanilla pod and whisk gelatin into cream to dissolve, then whisk cream mixture into yogurt.

Pour into ramekins and refrigerate at least 6-8 hours, until firm.

To unmold, dip the ramekins in hot water. Slide a knife around the edge and tip out onto a plate. Spoon candied kumquats and syrup over the top.

I got exactly what I wanted with this recipe. The chipotle flavor is very apparent, possibly the star, but the kumquats and vanilla give it a run for its money. Each bite of panna cotta is creamy and slightly tangy, and your first taste is vanilla. Then a smokiness creeps up on you and a very subtle spice makes itself known. If you get a bite with a chile flake, the flavor is stronger. When combined with the spicy candied kumquats, the whole dish explodes with flavor. Kumquats are quite tart and bitter when raw, but when candied they turn sweet and the syrup is almost honey-like. There is still a distinct bitter flavor, but it is mellowed by the sugar. The chipotle balances the sweet and tart with a very intense smoky spice. I could eat the kumquats straight out of the jar.

What did I learn from this experience? The moral of the story seems to be that no matter what day of the year it is, I will always, gladly, click a link that involves something offal. Bonus points if I get an amazing assortment of chile flakes out of the deal.

Thanks to Marx Foods for sending me this assortment of dried chile flakes. Although I received these products complimentary, all opinions are my own. 


  1. What a great story. - so you fell for the trick ... too bad ... on the positive end there won't be another April 1 until next year! Hey, now I know what to do with all our kumquats. Your panna cotto looks simply delicious, I would never have thought of adding chile flakes to it.

  2. Ahahaha, boneless pork rectum! Funny indeed. But this, this is spectacular. I love chipotle, so the title immediately caught my eye. What an amazing combination!

  3. I love chilies. We add peppers of all heat levels to almost everything. Love the look of this recipe! I'll let you know when it makes it through my kitchen. Cheers!

  4. Looks delicious! Love your pictures and presentation :)

  5. What a brilliant combination of flavors!

  6. Looks like the perfect combination. I've always wanted to make pana cotta; you gave me a grat recipe to try it out; thanks.

  7. This looks fantastic. You deserve to get something great after falling for that April Fool's trick!

  8. This is BRILLIANT! I love the combination of sweet and spicy!

  9. This looks beautiful! I especially love those candied kumquats!

  10. Just tweeted this - LOVE IT! Your photos are awesome..the post great and the recipe unique and delicious! Great job!!!

  11. I love the folks at Marx Foods. They're so down-to-earth-and real. Your panna cotta is absolutely fantastic. I was drooling over the photos. Fantastic job coming up with the recipe that used the flakes.

  12. What a unique combination of flavors! I so want to taste this panna cotta!

  13. Oooh this looks so good! I love the spice and the kumquat together too. I'm pretty sure my BF's apartment has a kumquat tree, I might have to take some to try this!

  14. Whoa. This is so beautiful. I love sweet and spicy combos, and my bf is always asking me to make things spicy. I'll have to take on my first panna cotta and make your delicious looking spicy version.

  15. What a beautiful photo! What other types of fruits or flavors would you suggest using with the panna cotta?

  16. Nice! This panna cotta is just genius and I bet it blows your mind when you taste it. Way to use that April Fool's swag!

    Now...what exactly were you planning to do with the pork rectum, I wonder?

  17. Wow, you have me drooling over this dessert! Looks lovely and delicious!

  18. This looks beyond amazing. Really creative way to use the chili flakes. Im hoping the shuk still has kumquats so I can make this :)

  19. This dessert sound amazing and it just looks beautiful! Love the flavors you used, so creative with the chile flakes!

  20. This looks A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. Karen! Your photos are so great! I love the entire concept of this dish. Now to go buy some kumquats! :)

  21. This is so unique and beautiful! Also..offal...eeewwww so glad that was an April Fool's joke!

  22. w w W O W! what a fantastic concoction you have here Karen! and i wouldn't mind being "fooled" this way haha.
    re: offals i don't really have qualms eating them. I mean i do have a lot of Filipino recipes that include ..yes OFFALS!
    Kimquats definitely look like our calamansi. I want to try them and compare. Have you tried calamansi yet?
    Great meeting you!

  23. What a great way to use the chili flakes! Such stunning photos too! (and on the offal theme - its quite common here in Czech Rep to make products with pork remains. Not all of them are terrible either!)

  24. what an original dish and considering i like my food spicy, this is my kinda dish with all those chill flakes :)

  25. Wow, this is an amazing panna cotta creation. The photos are simply vibrant!