Before you go back and check, yes, Palma posted about this already. Funny story though . . . way back in the spring when we were trying to decide who would be responsible for which recipe on 'our' day we were able to trade off fairly well - then we reached paged 443 - our only recipe in the variety meats section. Neither Palma nor I wanted to make the lamb kidneys. Not one bit. So we decided that we would both make them! We are firmly int eh miserly loves company camp.
And here we are.
I've been dreading making the kidneys. I've never eaten kidneys before but I was sure that they would taste awful - no amount of Marcella's skill or art would raise these to the level of anything I'd want to find on my plate.
I am the one who suffered through 'liver night' as a child by making multiple trips to the bathroom to spit a mouthful of liver in the toilet or coughing liver into my hand and surreptitiously putting it down on the floor for the dog to eat.
We had the fattest dog on the street.
I hate the smell, taste, texture . . . everything really . . . of liver. I have never eaten any other 'organ' meat. Well, that isn't completely true - there is the time mom served up a huge cow tongue. . . now known as 'the night all four of us refused to eat a thing'.
We North Americans tend to like our meat packaged into a non-recognized format - a hunk of steak, chop, or roast sitting on a brown piece of paper bears little resemblance to a living, breathing animal. We don't use the whole animal the way our ancestors did, well, I suppose we do if you happen to be visiting McDonalds and purchasing a box of Chicken McNuggets or you purchase a hot dog from a sketchy street cart - all sorts of animal parts might appear in those treats.
Yet I'm a big ol' carnivore (you're heard me say if we weren't meant to eat meat we wouldn't have incisor teeth . . . we don't need incisor teeth to gnaw on a carrot). I LOVE meat. I just don't love the thought of organ meat. I know that many do enjoy organ meat and love it to bits, not me. After making my last recipe I know that Marcella can understand the human curiosity of taste because she explained that she can not abide the taste of cinnamon.
Finally I could avoid it no longer. Page 443 was looming and I had to get busy.
I called my usual store to see if they could get some lamb kidneys in for me - the butcher laughed and said 'we have to order a 50 pound box and no one will buy them.'
I knew I didn't need (or WANT) 50 pounds of them!
Then I started calling around to the wonderful butchers in Toronto's St Lawrence Market. Sure enough I found one who had some kidneys in stock but not many - I had to promise to come that same day to get them because they would soon be gone. I started thinking positively about the kidneys - clearly someone in Toronto LOVED them.
I left the office, took the subway, and walked three blocks to the market. The butcher had a HUGE pile of lamb kidneys. HMMM - no doubt his 'they'll fly out of the fridge' comment was a ruse to gets someone down to the stall to actually take some lamb kidneys off of his hands! HA
They were CHEAP - $ 3.80
I also found some wild boar at the same stall. It was NOT cheap. Visions of papardelle with wild boar ragu soon danced in my head - I gladly forked over $ 38 for IT and went on my way.
Funny - no regrets at all about spending $ 38 for wild boar but most unhappy about spending a measly $ 3.80 on kidneys.
Back at work I stored the boar and lamb kidneys away in the refrigerator near my office. When I left at the end of the day wouldn't you know . . . I left them behind!
Apparently even my sub-conscious was balking at the thought of cooking lamb kidneys.
Happily one of my colleagues was able to deliver them to me on Thursday.
We were having company on Saturday so I decided to serve the kidneys as a starter. Now lest you think badly of me (nice guy to spring kidneys on unsuspecting dinner guests) I did talk to our friends, wonderful gourmet cooks, in advance and see if they were OK with it. They are of the 'we'll try anything once' group of eaters so the kidneys made it on the menu.
The kidney recipe was easy to follow. Marcella leads you through some critical steps that she writes are necessary to 'extract some of the liquid responsible for the sharpness that is sometimes an objectionable component of kidney flavour'.
Spilt in half, the kidneys soak in a vinegar/water mixture for 30 minutes before they are sliced into smaller pieces. These pieces, resembling slice mushroom caps, sautéed for 2 minutes until they lose their colour and release a dark red liquid.
Objectionable is right. The smell of the liquid was horrid. Memories of my childhood liver nights traumas flashed back and I almost had to race to the bathroom. I hadn't even tasted the kidneys and I was sick.
I opened the windows and sprayed room deodorizer around before our guests arrived.
Once the liquid is all released the kidneys are rinsed, drained, and dried.
Marcella writes 'rinse the sauté pan and wipe it dry'. I wanted to throw it out and buy a new one. I am sure it will have 'kidney' smell forever.
I put the recipe on hold at this point while we enjoyed cheese, crackers, cured meats, prosecco and laughter.
Soon the moment could not be avoided any longer. . . we moved into the dining room and I quickly finished up the kidneys by sautéing a bit of onion in a bit of butter and oil, quickly re-warming the kidneys in the onion mixture, tossing in some parsley, and then serving it up on plates.
The next dilemma was trying to figure out what wine to serve with kidneys! In the end I don’t think it matters because whatever wine will not work.
Paul ate all of his kidneys - suggested that they tasted like liver. He loves liver apparently. Our guests ate some of them and agreed with Paul. I ate one piece and put the rest down on the floor for the cats who came over, gave a sniff, scratched me in disgust, and walked away thereby proving once again that cats are smarter than dogs.
Now there are those of you out there who like this sort of meat - you'll love this recipe! Honest, you will. It is quick, easy, and apparently the taste is amazing if you are programmed to like this type of meat.
Thus ends our only foray into the Variety Meats chapter someone else will get to try poached calf’s brains and tripe (which I’ve had in Florence and enjoyed actually) . . . on to vegetables for Palma and I . . .