You know that funny little red thing on the top of a rooster’s head? It’s called a cockscomb, and as Francine Segan recounts for Gastronomica, it’s very tasty:
What are these morsels that look like the fingers of a doll-sized woolen globe? . . . We take a taste. The spikes are slightly gelatinous, with hints of delicate frog-leg flavor. “Delicious” is the consensus.
Segan stumbles upon this rare ingredient on a trip to the Piedmont region of northern Italy, where cockscomb is a vital ingredient in a stew known as la finanziera, a 200-year-old dish that also utilizes a rooster’s wattles and testicles (among many other ingredients). The cockscomb seems to be the star of the show, though, which makes sense given the amount of work that goes into its preparation:
Cleaning the cockscombs, which have a thick outer skin loaded with feathers, is a labor-intensive task. The feathers are plucked, and any tiny strays are burned off with a flame. The cockscombs are then washed, blanched, and soaked in lemon juice to loosen the tough skin. The entire staff, even the busboys, gathers around the kitchen table every Wednesday to peel off this outer layer. “You have to handle the crests gently, like a beautiful woman, so as not to ruin the pretty tips,” Chef Beppe laughs.
The article isn’t available online, but if you’re up for a cockscomb adventure, track down the Summer 2009 issue of Gastronomica–Segan includes two recipes (including one for la finanziera) at the end of the piece.