Call me squeamish, but when PUBLIC and Double Crown chef Brad Farmerie busted out an IV bag filled with blood, that, in a short time I’d be eating, I felt a little spooked. Sure, I was at a blood cooking demo at the StarChefs 2010 International Chefs Congress, and sure, I’ve eaten some pretty weird things, but eating ingredients from a medical apparatus is a first. OK, so I have been known to use hypodermic needles to inject flavor into animal flesh, but seeing blood red liquid in an IV bag destined for my plate felt like another level of ickyness. What can I say? I don’t like to mix my meal with my medicine.
Revulsion soon turned to utter mesmerization as I watched Farmerie working this scarlet wonder. The rich, bright color and the shiny, unctuous texture of this liquid was simply entrancing. Watching him pour, squirt, and fill things with the blood, I was like a venison in headlights.
And speaking of venison, Farmerie used venison blood and pig blood to make two staples on his Public and Double Crown menus, which the class had a chance to recreate for themselves. First came black pudding, which he called “blood with training wheels,” because it’s an easy introduction to working with blood.
He finished with boudin noir, a dish he likens to “putting soup into an intestine and trying to turn it into something delicious.” Farmerie definitely turned it into something delicious, thanks to the earthiness of porcini mushroom powder, the green apples cooked in duck fat and deglazed in rum, and the Quatre Épices spice blend traditionally used in the dish altered with star anise and green cardamom pods.
According to Farmerie, with the exception of Jewish and Islamic cultures, blood is an ingredient in almost every other ethnic cuisine. While Islamic cultures consider blood to be the soul of the animal—and thus an ingredient to avoid—Scandinavian cultures eat it for that very reason, believing it brings power, strength and nutrition to the body. They bake blood into their bread, and make blood pancakes during the holidays.
Lao people have a version of larb (minced meat salad) that uses duck blood, while Filipinos make dinuguan, a stew made with pigs blood. There are Polish, Vietnamese and Swedish versions of blood soup, and around the world, blood pudding (also known as blood sausage ) can be found in various incarnations, from the UK’s black pudding, to the Germany Blutwurst, or the Korea Soondae.
Chemically speaking, bloods are very similar, but have very different flavor profiles and viscosities. For example, sheep’s blood is very thin, while cow’s blood is rich and thick. Cow’s blood is the most readily available blood in the U.S., and thus the content of most blood sausage found here. Farmerie, however thinks bovine blood is “insipid” and says that’s the reason why the flavor is so “disappointing.” He favors pork, venison, and rabbit blood, which are not nearly as easy to find.
Farmerie says it’s harder to get blood then drugs. There’s some “legal issues” involved in shipping blood, and a bit of skittishness, so some vendors send it with a separate, blank invoice, while others prefer to ship it in a hospital bag. Now, call me crazy, but perhaps mailing an IV bag filled with blood will stand out just as much as a food container filled with red liquid?
Considering that 7% of an animal’s weight is in blood, Farmerie rues that most people let it just “drip down the drain.” With the rising interest in reducing waste and nose-to-tail eating, and with an increase in humanely raised and killed animals, maybe it’s blood’s time in the scarlet spotlight.