Andrew Zimmern cooks Chappapeela Farm duck testicles for John Besh



Chappapella Farm owners Louis and Rebecca Lirette with Andrew Zimmern and chef John Besh.
  • Chappapella Farm owners Louis and Rebecca Lirette with Andrew Zimmern and chef John Besh.

Chef and Travel Channel star Andrew Zimmern has filmed visits to New Orleans several times. In the "Third Coast" episode of Bizarre Foods America, airing 8 p.m. Monday, July 15, he explores communities along the Gulf Coast, including a Vietnamese community in Bayou La Batre, Ala., the Los Islenos community in St. Bernard Parish, and Chappapeela Farm in Husser, La.

Zimmern often seeks to explore culture through traditional dishes, especially those featuring exotic or uncommon ingredients. This episode features Vietnamese fish cakes made with mullet fermented in a plastic jar for seven months, nutria and water fowl caught in St. Bernard Parish marshes, roasted whole feral pigs, and all parts of ducks raised at Chappapeela Farm, which Zimmern visited with chef John Besh.

On the show, Zimmern revels in some of the least appetizing of foods, or at least those frequently left to acquired tastes. I spoke with Zimmern about the episode and eating mullet, and he put his mission in a larger picture of sustainability:

"When you only eat commodity chicken, pork and beef, when you only eat salmon, tuna, shrimp and an amorphous group of white fish that includes cod, scrod haddock, halibut, you have horrific economic sustainability, horrific environmental sustainability, health/wellness issues are compromised, criminal activity because dollars that fetch those ingredients are so large and there’s mislabeling in seafood. If we could eat more seasonally, and more of what’s in front of us, like little fish with the heads on, like mullet, we’d all be better off."

The episode is full of hunting and fishing. He shoots nutria from an airboat and goes bow fishing for stingrays at night on the Gulf Coast. He also visits Chappapeela Farms, which raises ducks and pigs. Besh makes a gumbo, duck confit and pate for Zimmern. But when Zimmern sees workers at the processing center discarding duck testicles, he objects.

"We used livers, breasts, did confit, heart," Zimmern says. "We had all these different things, but nobody was cooking the balls."

He throws them in a sauté pan with white wine, garlic and parsley. Besh is game about trying them, and his expression is priceless.

Again, Zimmern sees using the whole animal as an issue of sustainability and expanding the American palate.

"The craft food movement in America, which includes knowing how to break down animals and use all parts is one of the biggest trends of the past five years. ... We eat from too small a series of choices in America. We don’t eat enough different foods. That’s killing us. Our diet needs to be more bountiful. We eat from a bowl with too few choices. We need to eat more mullet, less tuna."

There's a slideshow of images from the episode here.

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