Bizarre Foods America: Birmingham, AL, Pictures

Unique ideas, big flavors and bold chefs are putting Birmingham, AL, on the culinary map, from a progressive chef using pig skin to make Chinese noodles to scientists creating a sweeter sea urchin.

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lechon
Lechon

Lechon

Legal Beans in Jersey City, New Jersey
I love Filipino food; the post-colonial cuisine combines the best of South Asian ingredients with Spanish technique. Although it hasn’t taken hold in this country like Thai and Vietnamese cuisine, you can still find phenomenal Filipino food on both coasts. The Cebu-style lechon from Legal Beans in Jersey City is as good as it gets. Stuffed with lemongrass and scallions, rubbed with vinegar and spices, and slow-roasted for several hours, this whole hog is ideal tailgating grub for a crowd.
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Flaczki

Flaczki

S&D Polish Deli in Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh is an Eastern European immigrant city with a dynamic food scene that's reinvented itself over the last couple decades. For traditionalists, a stop at S&D Polish Deli is a must. Run by a couple from central Poland, it's a one-stop shop for everything from Polish shampoo to Warsaw-style head cheese and other fantastic Polish fare. One of their specialties is flaczki, a beef tripe soup that hits the spot on a chilly day.

  

Burgoo

Burgoo

Eastern Kentucky
Burgoo is a true hunter’s chowder that’s legendary in eastern Kentucky. Although a singular recipe doesn’t exist, there are a few things everyone can agree on -- it has to have at least 3 different types of meat (i.e. squirrel, turkey and deer) and it’s gotta be cooked on an open fire pit. My Kentucky hunting pal, Tim Farmer, makes a killer version with 5 wild meats, along with vegetables from his garden, including tomatoes, okra and his secret ingredient, homemade currant jelly. Served with bacon-rich cornbread, burgoo is ideal cool weather comfort food.
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Fish Boil

Fish Boil

Two Rivers, Wisconsin
Great Lakes whitefish is one of the only species left for commercial fishermen to harvest from Lake Michigan, and it’s perfect for a fish boil. The Two Rivers Fire Department has a long tradition of manning the raging fire at the annual Door County Fish Boil, where the firemen use a hefty amount of kerosene to create a crowd-drawing spectacle. What’s better to feed a crowd than a fish boil?
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Beef Barbacoa

Beef Barbacoa

Pitmaker in Houston
You'll find the ultimate tailgating scene at a Houston Texans home game, where the scale of the food matches the enthusiasm of the die-hard fans. The guys from Pitmaker, a local barbecue manufacturing company, know how to throw one hell of a pregame party, turning Mexican specialties into an ultimate tailgating feast (they even have a live band). I was lucky enough to sample their beef barbacoa de cabeza … yes, all the meat from a slow-roasted whole steer head. Grab a tortilla, and a mix of cheek and tongue, and you have the makings of one of the best tacos I've eaten.
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Crow and Jalapeno Wrapped in Bacon

Crow and Jalapeno Wrapped in Bacon

Gravette, Arkansas
Crow meat has a bad reputation, but when cooked correctly, it reminds me of canvasback duck, some of the sweeter-tasting species that we have in the North. After hunting crow in the Ozarks, I helped cook up some bacon-wrapped crow and jalapeno bites. Rolled in brown sugar, dipped in soy sauce and then grilled, this is Arkansas-style game day food -- superb Ozarks finger food.
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Caldo

Caldo

St. Bernard, Louisiana
Traditional Isleno cooking abounds in St. Bernard, LA, along what I like to call the "Third Coast." Caldo is a humble peasant stew with its roots in the Canary Islands. It’s a tender braise, filled with a hundred vegetables and in this case, big knobs of pickled pork. It’s a one-pot-wonder that makes use of whatever meat and vegetables you have on hand -- beans, cabbage, corn, tomato, sweet potato and turnip greens are all in abundance in this part of the country.
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Porchetta

Porchetta

Ionia, Iowa
On a small farm, Rustik Rooster Farms, outside of Waverly, Iowa, my friend Carl Blake has crossbred one of the most delicious pigs in America -- he calls his breed an Iowa Swabian Hall in homage to the classic German pig stock. With an ideal balance of intra- and inter-muscular fat and well-marbled muscle meat, this is truly one of the greatest hogs you'll ever eat. I had the pleasure of tasting Carl's porchetta, a boneless whole hog, stuffed with sausage, loins and its own organs, all roasted to perfection. Touchdown.

  

Whole Smoked Armadillo

Whole Smoked Armadillo

Central Florida
When most people think of Florida, they imagine Disney World and Miami Beach, but if you venture into the heart of the peninsula, you'll find wonderful folks who take pride in living off the land. This means eating and cooking animals like armadillo. My guides, hunters David Tyburski and Rick Stafford, prepared smoked armadillo, cooked in its own shell and filled with seasonings and vegetables. Believe me, it makes for one unique barbecue. And it's delicious.
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Matanza

Matanza

Los Lunas, New Mexico
It's pretty obvious I have a thing for whole animal cooking. And when it comes to ceremonial whole hog feasting, a traditional matanza is solidly at the top of my list. In the community of Los Lunas in New Mexico, for example, everyone gathers together to butcher and cook all parts of the pig, creating dishes ranging from blood pudding and fried pig skin, to adobado and braised red chili ribs. This kind of cooking wouldn’t be out of place outside of an NFL stadium. It's the best whole hog cookery I know of.
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Bigos

Bigos

Czerw's Kielbasy in Philadelphia
Bigos is a traditional Polish pork-and-sauerkraut stew that is rich in soulful Eastern European flavors and ingredients. Czerw's Kielbasy in Philly has one of the best versions I’ve ever tried. These guys are serious about family traditions, using the same kielbasa recipes that grandpa Jan Czerw used back in 1938 when he first opened this smokehouse. It's the perfect meal in a bowl.
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Photos

Andrew Zimmern at Chappapeela Farms in Husser, LA

Andrew Zimmern at Chappapeela Farms in Husser, LA

Chappapeela Farms owners Louis and Rebecca Lirette welcome Andrew and chef John Besh of La Provence to their duck and hog farm in Husser, LA. 960 1280

  

A dish of duck testicles

A dish of duck testicles

Chef John Besh turns duck testicles into an elevated dish, pan-fried with shallots, white wine and lemon juice. 960 1280

  

Andrew Zimmern eats seafood boil in Louisiana

Andrew Zimmern eats seafood boil in Louisiana

While at Casanova's Seafood in Saint Bernard, LA, Andrew digs into the seafood boil and boudin, the sausage of Cajun cuisine. 960 1280

  

A dish of duck liver

A dish of duck liver

This duck liver was transformed into a pate, made with duck eggs and emulsified duck fat at La Provence in New Orleans. 960 1280

  

Andrew Zimmern eats gumbo at La Provence

Andrew Zimmern eats gumbo at La Provence

Andrew is all smiles after tasting chef John Besh's gumbo, made with Chappapeela Farms pork sausage, okra, duck neck and duck fat roux. 960 1280

  

Andrew Zimmern goes hog hunting

Andrew Zimmern goes hog hunting

Andrew takes a boat ride out to feral hog territory in Bay Minette, AL. 960 1280

  

A wild boar head in Alabama

A wild boar head in Alabama

This wild boar was the guest of honor at a pig potluck in Bay Minette, AL. 960 1280

  

Andrew Zimmern with Saint Bernard parish local

Andrew Zimmern with Saint Bernard parish local

Saint Bernard parish local Mike Martin takes a break from cooking up his Louisiana marsh hen gumbo to tell Andrew about the hardships his community has overcome in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. 960 1280

  

Ingredients in an Isleno-style nutria stew

Ingredients in an Isleno-style nutria stew

Kathy Ann Zeigler shares Isleno-style cooking, passed down from descendants of the Canary Islands. The main ingredient in this stew? Nutria, an invasive species of river rat. 960 1280

  

Andrew Zimmern poses with stingray in Alabama

Andrew Zimmern poses with stingray in Alabama

There are plenty of fish in the sea, and after eating this stingray off the coast of Alabama and Florida, Andrew's tried almost every one of them. 960 1280

  

Andrew Zimmern makes a skate taco in Alabama

Andrew Zimmern makes a skate taco in Alabama

Andrew and bow-fishing pro Dustin Mizell create the perfect skate tacos. 960 1280

  

Grilled skate for tacos in Alabama

Grilled skate for tacos in Alabama

Alabama chef Will Hughes knows what to do with grilled skate -- marinate it in collard green chimichurri and serve it with salsa and pickled onions. 960 1280

  

Andrew Zimmern poses with duck in Louisiana

Andrew Zimmern poses with duck in Louisiana

Andrew with duck before its liver becomes pate. 960 1280

  

A fermented fish stew in Alabama

A fermented fish stew in Alabama

In Bayou La Batre, AL, Andrew samples an authentic Vietnamese stew of fermented fish, shrimp, pork belly and fresh-rolled mullet balls. 960 1280

  

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