Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Nose to Tail Tuesday (N3T) - Kidney

You can be so cruel. I was worried for this one.

Kidney has been my bête noire for quite some years.

Fifteen years ago, I made a solemn vow never to knowingly eat it ever again. Ever.

When I was twelve I stayed over at a friend’s house. For dinner, his mother (an excellent cook) pulled a stunning looking pie from the oven. The golden suet pastry glistened and the gravy inside was rich and dark.

It looked great.

One mouthful in was enough to put me off kidney forever. The strong uric smell. The faint ammonia tang. I gipped uncontrollably – not ideal behaviour for a house guest - and decided that some things were not meant to be consumed.

Kidney rapidly moved into second place on the list (tinned tuna still resides proudly and unwaveringly at the list’s summit).

I knew that it was a grim inevitability that this particular piece of offal would grace N3T at some point. I didn’t expect it to be so early on but thanks to a request from Tiramisu, here it is. In week four of the project.

‘Would you like me to take the fat off for you?’ asked the butcher. Each dark brown conker-like organ was surrounded by a dense covering of cream fat.

‘No thanks,’ I replied, wanting to experience the entire process and also hoping to acquire a large quantity of dripping, perfect for roasting potatoes.

By the time I got them home, I’d formulated a dish in my head: kidneys fried in their own fat and served with mustard mash, wilted greens, glazed shallots, slow roasted lamb breast and parsley and mint sauce. A red wine, lamb and rosemary jus would hopefully mask the flavour of the centre-piece enough to repress the gag reflex.

The lamb breast was there to ensure a decent meal even if the kidney proved to be totally inedible. A substitute already in play.

After the kidneys had been peeled (peeled!) I cut them in half bracing myself for the smell of men’s nightclub toilet at one am…

…but it wasn’t to be. Cue surprise one.

The niff was gentle, not unpleasant. Very faintly uric, of course, but no where near as pungent as I was expecting.

The centre of each was cut out and they were soaked in a water/vinegar bath (3:1) for about fifteen minutes (to neutralise the alkalinity) before being dried. For the cooking, they were seasoned with salt and pepper and fried over a high heat in some of the rendered suet fat.

The lamb breast was braised then slow roasted before being fried in olive oil just before serving (more on this wonderful cut next week) and the whole lot piled onto a plate in a faintly ordered fashion with the potatoes, onion, greens and sauces.

Cue surprise two: the kidney was good.

Let’s not get carried away, however. In this sense ‘good’ means ‘didn’t make me dry heave into a napkin until my stomach muscles ached.’

But it was perfectly edible. Tasty even. The richness of the sauce proved sufficient in masking the flavour I was so scared of and although half a kidney was more than enough and I won’t be making any efforts to cook them again, I was pleasantly surprised.

As were my guinea pigs. This week due to location it was my younger brother and his girlfriend. Both cleared their plates. Bruv even went back for more. A good sign indeed.

So, another success for N3T, albeit a partial one. But at 50p each (the same price as the hearts) you can’t really complain.

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[Note on the photos - no DSLR this week so had to wrestle with a compact. More difficult than I remembered.]


QGIRL said...

I don't think I'll be trying this at home, but I am glad that you enjoyed it!
Pretty pictures.

p.s. loved the interfering kittens post this week.

Alicia Foodycat said...

I am also not a kidney fan. I did end up with some lamb kidneys last year (in a mixed box) which I ended up dicing and mixing into a cold game pie. Which was pretty good! But I wouldn't be happy to eat them in the way you presented them, even though it looks nice.

Laura said...

Quite glad I was able to help you conquer your fear of kidneys serendipitously (that's a mouth's full). Like I remember from ages ago, they are not too bad, and the urine smell is not to be feared.

Tripe anyone?

Hopie said...

That all looks, except for the part where it's kidneys. I'm not half as brave as you and your fearless guinea pigs but I do have an award for you over on my blog today :-)

Just Cook It said...

Qgirl - oo, thank you. Despite the frustration they cause, the kittens do make me laugh. Even when they are breaking my stuff!

Foodycat - I think you did the right thing. Disguising them in amidst the contents of a pie seems very sensible indeed.

Laura - Now you're just playing games! I have to admit though that tripe has been at the forefront of my mind to cook for next week, or the week after.

Hopie- Why thank you both for such nice comments and the (very manly) award you so sweetly proffered!

matt wright said...

I do enjoy kidney's, but certainly know what you mean about the smell. They really do have to be fresh.

I am with you on canned tuna. The most revolting stuff on earth.

Angry Brit said...

Yeah, kidneys suck. That's all I have to say about that. I will disagree with you on canned tuna. It certainly wouldn't be my last meal on earth, but good quality canned tuna is a useful entity. Although I had a pizza in Prague topped with canned tuna. That was not a roaring success.

Helen said...

Well done for conquering the kidneys! Personally I love them, which begs the question - why don't I cook them more often? I had no idea they came with all that fat around them - nice little bonus though! I hear you on the tuna by the way. Oh and 'gipped' - now firmly in my vocabulary.

Just Cook It said...

Matt - Yes, they can be a little pungent. They won't be making regular appearances on the menu, that's for sure. And finally I know I'm not alone on the canned tuna front!

Angry Brit - Canned tuna on anything is an abomination, on a pizza it is verging on the sacrilegious.

Helen - the fat around them is the best bit! Great for making pastry.