Horse Meat, and 25 Other Unsung Proteins Every Man Must Try JD May 19, 2015 men health 100 I am, like most men, infatuated with meat. On some primal level, we want to eat the meat we hunted, in front of a fire we built. But not many men do that anymore. Over the past few generations, we’ve lost a connection to the meat we eat. We’ve created a food system that delivers to our stores single portions of center-cut animal proteins, wrapped in plastic. Americans eat more chicken than any other meat, but those birds—fried, baked, grilled—are often flavorless and boring. Our pork tastes nothing like the stuff our grandparents ate. Our beef is bland and overcooked. Offal (stuff like liver, tongue, and kidneys) disgusts us. The meat you likely enjoy doesn’t convey the best essence of the animal. We’re not going to return to our caveman ways anytime soon, but eating different cuts of meat (from animals raised well instead of factory farmed) gives your body the variety of nutrients it needs, your palate the tastes it craves, and the planet the sustainability it requires. (Love meat? Then you have to pick up the June 2015 issue of Men’s Health magazine for our blockbuster special feature, Protein: The Manual for Men.) 1. GoatGoat is like soccer. The rest of the world gets it and here in America we don’t. But we’re getting there. Go to Chicago and check out Birrieria Zaragoza. Have the namesake dish. Then get back to me. My dream someday is to have goat on every table in America once a week. If that type of change happened, our whole food system would self-correct, pivoting back to regionalism, freshness, and sustainability. 2. DonkeyThe planet’s most underrated protein, donkey is perfect for salumi (ask the Italians), ideal for stir-frying or braising (ask the Chinese), and just plain awesome for the backyard grill (says me). This is pure, beautiful red meat that has a clean flavor much like the world’s best veal. The Chinese have a saying, “dragon meat in heaven, donkey meat on earth,” implying what you should eat if you find yourself in either locale. 3. HorseIt’s the other red meat. Horse fueled the armies of Central Asia back when men were men. I’m not sure why America is so hell bent on denying what the rest of the world already knows: that horse is what beef wants to be when it figures out how to taste that good. (Related: The Truth behind 5 Food Myths.) It’s my favorite red meat to eat raw, though it cooks beautifully (the fat under the mane is a stunner—especially when cured like lardo). Get on a plane, go to Montreal, dine at Joe Beef or Maison Publique, and try the cheval. You will love it. 4. Escamoles, nopales cactus worms, maguey grubs, ants…Bugs are big business. Many are not easy to eat, but these are. And they are delicious. Go to Mexico City and patrol Xochimilco Market (or the menu of any true Mexican restaurant for that matter) and try real bugs cooked by real experts. You will be hooked. (For lots of edible-insect options, check out our complete guide: Would You Eat a Cricket? How about a Cricket Cookie?) 5. Real hamI have a food woody just thinking about the great ones. Not prosciutto, not jamón ibérico, not jambon sec. I’m talking about real American country hams. I’m talking about hams from Benton’s, Newsom’s, Broadbent’s, Edwards’, or the ones that so many of the South’s great chefs are serving in their restaurants. I keep one of these cured hams in my garage at all times. I bring it in to the kitchen just for my family to have a slice or two, and when company comes over. Nothing says “I love you” like cured pig. 6. Chicken, duck, and turkey necksDry cure them for a few days in your fridge in salt, sugar, and herbs and a touch of garlic. Then poach them in their own fat for a few hours at a low temperature. After that, fry them to crisp, peel back the skin, and throw the meat in a tortilla with some hot peppers and tomato salsa. My lips to God’s ears, it’s the best thing you will ever eat. 7. DuckYou can score superb duck in any Asian market, often times fresh. As any chef will tell you, there is no better meat to use and re-use. Today’s roast creates leftovers for a salad or sandwich and the bones make the best soup in the world. Just add some mustard greens and Chinese thin egg noodles and you will be convinced. 8. GooseI like to hunt goose, remove the breasts, sear the boneless lobes on the grill, and serve them medium rare. Take a tip though: Slowly grilling a whole spatchcocked duck over hot charcoal, using indirect heat, will make this amazing bird a monthly meal in your house. Have I not convinced you? If you’re ever in Hong Kong, visit Yung Kee Restaurant, where Chef Fai will. 9. CuttlefishThey belong to the same class of animals as squid and octopus. Clean them well, slice them in half, and then try them blanched, sliced raw, or flown across a hot grill for a brief moment. New Yorkers can experience Enrique Olvera’s superb version at his restaurant Cosme. Try your at-home version raw, cut into thin ribbons and dressed with salt, lemon, celery, and olive oil. 10. OctopusNot the imported kind. I’m talking about good old-fashioned domestic octopus—the tender little ones, a few pounds each, swimming and nesting in coastal regions from Florida to Maine. To clean one, remove the beak and viscera, and rinse well. Then poach the octopus whole in simmering tomato-spiked broth until tender, about 90 to 100 minutes. Cool in the poaching liquid, and then grill crisp and serve with frisée salad and a sturdy mustard vinaigrette. Open a bottle of Sancerre. Boom. (For more instructions, find out How to Grill an Octopus.) 11. Spot prawnsIf there is any better reason to go to Vancouver in May or June I don’t know what it could be. I love the food there, and this might be (along with the local matsutake mushroom) enough of an argument for making a second home in Canada. Steam and eat these amazing crustaceans. Nothing more. 12. LobsterRecent years have seen some monster seasons for Homarus americanus, with record harvests and radically lowered prices. I steam lobsters at home and let everyone else eat the tails and claws. I eat the heads, brimming with tomalley and roe. But on the road I always seek out the lobster rolls at Five Islands Lobster Co. in Maine, lobster xiao long bao at Benu in San Francisco, lobster gnocchi at Scott Conant’s Scarpetta in Manhattan, the lobster lasagna at Le Bernardin … but I digress. 13. King crab Faltering demand for whole crab in Asia has meant brown and golden kings are available in the U.S., flown from Alaska or Seattle to all points east. I hate to keep playing the same card, but if I am going to indulge, I hit my favorite Chinese seafood restaurant and do the traditional three-course, twice-dry-fried ‘arms’, steamed knuckles with fermented duck egg, and then fried rice served in the body itself. 14. Soft crabsSpike Gjerde is one of the best chefs in American that you might not have heard of. He owns several restaurants in Baltimore and his Woodberry Kitchen is a must-go for any food lover. For local superstar ingredients like soft crabs no one in America makes them better. Once a year, local blue crabs increase their body fat content and then shed their shells. Before the crabs harden again, fishermen harvest them and we consumers eat the whole thing. There is no finer seafood flavor on earth than a real wild-caught Maryland softie. 15. Milk fed lambGet to know a farmer. And before I hear a cry from the sentimental, let me just say that milk-fed lamb (or goat, or pig) is so much better than older animals that hit the grass or hay. It’s a delicacy, a rarity, and, for many, an ethical dilemma to eat a young animal. If you’ve never had milk-fed lamb offal, you are missing perhaps the best bite in the meat lover’s lexicon. A quick sauté of intestine that has never digested solid food is better than the bastard love child of bone marrow and foie gras. 16. FrogI can’t help it. Big, fat Cajun frogs are an obsession of mine ever since my chef pal Don Link took me gigging on his family’s farm in Rayne, Louisiana. Floured and fried, or cooked fast in a sauce piquante is the way to go. That being said, in many Vietnamese communities in the same state you can relish frogs wok-tossed with basil and fish sauce. 17. Pork chopsA generation ago, all the fat and flavor was bred out of pork. Thankfully, times have changed. There are a million and one reasons I love L.A., but Chad Colby and what he is doing at Chi Spacca has to be one of the best. All the food turned out of his teeny kitchen is incomparable, but his tomahawk pork chop, laden with caramelized fat up and down the massive bone is a fennel-pollen-dusted-wood-fire-roasted Adonis. 18. Tuna HeadNo one is serving it in America and I don’t know why. Tuna heads offer the best meat on the fish. So cook one yourself. Find a fishmonger that will sell you the goods. Rub the head with salt, place on a baking tray, and slide the thing into a 400°F oven for 60 to 180 minutes until cooked through. Remove the head from the oven and hack it apart with a knife and fork. Serve with ponzu sauce, plenty of rice, grated daikon, and Japanese pickles. And try the eyes. 19. BuffaloAlso called bison, this American meat is now available almost everywhere you shop. Buffalo meat is sweeter and richer than beef, while also being leaner. And even though it’s lean, buffalo is high in essential fatty acids and has a beneficial ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 acids. So what’s stopping you? 20. VenisonStart hunting. There is no better meat available than the one roaming your forests and plains. Or befriend a hunter. Or take advantage of the myriad ranches now supplying America’s first red meat to chefs and restaurants all over the continent. For instance, Broken Arrow Ranch outside of Austin, Texas, has created a humane harvesting program. They even butcher the deer in the field, bringing a mobile USDA processing facility to the hunting grounds. 21. BeaverGet a trapping license. Learn to skin. Save the pelt. Butcher the meat. Eat your beaver. It’s delicious. I love grilled beaver steaks. I love light and elegant beaver chili made with the gorgeously marbled tail meat even more. 22. PorcupineTrapping wild porcupine is the only way you will taste this amazing animal unless you travel to Botswana and hunt them (or journey to Cu Chi, Vietnam, and dine at Quan Dong Que, a restaurant that specializes in serving it). If you trap one, you can serve the entire ‘coat’ of fatty skin charred, which is a true treat. 23. BarnaclesFrom percebes to picoroco, barnacles are the next big thing. When steamed or grilled, pried from their armor, barnacles represent some of the best eating in the animal world. Deeply tasting of crustacean, their flavor is intensely complex owing to their varied diet in the tidal pools they dwell in. Trend-hoppers take note: You need to be talking about this now or your street cred will be shot to hell. 24. SnailsSure, Americans likes escargot because we like the garlic and parsley butter that they’re bathed in. But I like Babylonian snails, steamed for an hour and then sautéed with Thai basil, chilies, and coconut milk. Douse them with lime, gimme a snail pick and a football game, and I’m done for the night. 25. AbaloneThe problem has always been diving for them in northern California because they sit in the middle of the same region of shoreline made popular by all the Great White sharks. The shellfish meat is melting and tender when raw—even buttery when cooked. Plus, the cooked intestinal tract is filled with pristine seaweed so the animal garnishes itself. 26. Good cheeseAll over the U.S, right now, there are artisanal cheese makers who have adopted the European model for production and changing the way we eat cheese in this country. Head to your local farm market and support your local cheese maker today. Vermont’s Jasper Hill Farm was one I discovered years ago and I now I can’t live without a small wheel of their Moses Sleeper on my counter. (Find out how to Make an Awesome Baked Goat Cheese Salad.) Andrew Zimmern is a three-time James Beard Award winner, the host of Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods, and the creator of a new line of Chefs Catalog tools.