Freshness Is Key
by Jefferson Munroe
For every season, there is a kidney.
Spring and fall: Lamb
Early summer: Beeves and young roosters
Late fall and early winter: hogs
Now, this schedule ignores the occasional visit by the prodigal son, the lamed ewe or chicken soup for a cold. By and large, there was a logic to it all—lambs were slaughtered prior to grazing or before feeding them hay, beeves were finished on the early summer flush of grass to add weight and marbling, and hogs could clean up your fields and woodlot. With each slaughter came the full complement of offals from each type of animal.
A piece of liver that’s spent too much time at the butcher’s shop can easily be remedied with butter, herbs, and the whirring blades of a food processor. But when it comes to kidneys, freshness is key. The longer kidneys have been sitting around refrigerated, the more likely they are to have a strong ammonia flavor. I want them fresh (preferably the morning after slaughter) or flash frozen.
So when spring arrives, my palate clamors for fresh kidneys, lamb kidneys to be exact. I love kidneys for breakfast, kidneys for lunch, and of course, kidneys for dinner.
The lamb kidney is the most approachable (i.e. mildest) of the many kidneys. It also has the most bean-like appearance, unlike pig kidneys (oval) or calf kidneys (lobed). All of the recipes that follow require serving kidney rare, avoiding the granular texture that can occur when it’s overcooked.
When lamb kidneys ride around in their woolen chariot, they’re encased in a thick layer of fat. The cleaned and salable organ is rather lean, so whether we’re wrapping the kidneys in fat (Kidneys in Caul Fat) or quickly simmering them in a creamy sauce (South Pacific Deviled Kidneys), we’re adding fat to ensure a moist, flavorful dish. The simplicity of Kidney Brochettes belies the complex flavors that ensue when the smoky, fatty bacon meets the creamy, meaty kidney.