An Organ of Note
By Patrick F. Cannon
My spirited and legendary advocacy for the lamb kidney has insured my lofty place in the cooking Hall of Fame. Long a favorite among gourmets in such diverse countries as France and Ireland, the noble organ may yet find its place on the tables of our own United States, where it has long been despised.
While most animal kidneys are toothsome and delicious, the lamb kidney is perhaps the tenderest and tastiest. Regular readers of this space will perhaps remember the recipe my dear Irish mother used to make her enviable kidney stew. Let me remind you of its simple preparation.
After throwing open all the windows in the kitchen and adjacent rooms, and turning on whatever exhaust fans are ready to hand, cut two lamb kidneys into bite-sized pieces and drop into a pot of water. As it simmers, skim the glob that rises to the top (your dog might well enjoy licking it up). When the glob ceases to form, add carrots and potatoes to the pot and continue cooking until they are tender. If you’re truly adventurous, by all meant add some pearl onions to the mixture. Serve in large bowls, along with some crusty bread to soak up the nectar.
Kidneys are also favored by the French. I recall with pleasure dining on sautéed kidneys at the legendary Le Francais in Wheeling, north of Chicago (once considered America’s finest restaurant). Chef Jean Banchet cooked them with peppers and spices, with the centers still pink and moist. Ah, heaven! I have also tried Steak and Kidney Pie at various supposed Irish pubs, but usually found that only the merest of slivers of the noble organ were in evidence. Why do they bother?
But kidneys are amazingly versatile. Here are some additional palate pleasers. First, you can substitute them for livers in your cocktail party Chicken Liver Pate. Chop them up, after trimming the gristly bits, and sauté them with shallots, garlic, and capers. Add some Cognac (use the cheaper VS you wouldn’t dare serve to your guests), then puree and refrigerate. Serve with your favorite crackers or little bits of bread. Beware of the guest who tries to hog it all for himself!
The Kidneyburger is a staple at Chez Cannon. To ground kidneys, add cooked brown rice, chopped tofu, diced onions, and your favorite hot sauce. Mix and form into patties. Fry in finest lard. Place on burger bun and top with lettuce and tomato. A squirt of Cheese Whiz on top is optional.
Kidneys are also highly suited to sweet deserts. One of my favorites is the raisin and kidney pie. Simply chop up a few pieces of kidney and add to the raisin mixture before pouring it into the pie shell. Most people find raisin pie too sweet; adding the kidneys mitigates this to a great extent. When I tell my guests what they’ve just eaten, I get great satisfaction from their interesting expressions.
Another favorite of my guests is chocolate mousse au kidney. You make the mousse as usual, then fold chopped kidneys in just before serving. I can guarantee “oohs and aahs” from your delighted and amazed guests! And of course, the kidney, lettuce and tomato sandwich needs no explanation. You can increasingly find it on the menus of your better diners.
And should you have a jar of marshmallow fluff in your pantry – but perhaps I should save this recipe for a future post. You may already have enough on your plate.
Copyright 2021, Patrick F. Cannon