Lamb kidneys and the value of offal

As a meat-eater, I feel that it’s important to adopt a “whole beast” approach to the animals I eat. For two reasons: first, it’s less wasteful than eating only the “premium” cuts, and allows you to get more nourishment out of each animal. And second, because it acknowledges that the meat you are eating comes from a living being that had not only muscles and bones, but also, yes, organs.

Fortunately, our predecessors understood this, in a time when meat was substantially more expensive than it is now, so there is a long tradition we can draw upon to tell us which cuts are edible (and which ones really aren’t) and how to prepare them.

Often, for St. Patrick’s Day, I will cure my own corned beef brisket, but this year I let it slide. Instead, I went to one of my local butchers yesterday to pick up some lamb. By chance, this week’s whole lamb had just arrived, so I had my choice of cuts, and got to watch (from a distance) as the butcher… well, butchered it. As I watched, he reached inside and removed several organs. I saw him toss them aside, but couldn’t tell whether they were landing on a table or in a garbage can. An urgent conversation quickly ensued with one of the other butchers:

“Are the kidneys in there?” I asked.
“Yes, they are.”
“Can I have them?”
She checked the order sheet. “Sure, it doesn’t look like they’re spoken for.”

Seventy-nine cents and a quick pan-fry later, I had a delicious snack of deviled kidneys on toast, using Fergus Henderson’s recipe from The Whole Beast. I’ve had devilled kidneys once before, but liked these better; for one thing, they were clearly fresher. In fact, I could see this becoming a standard dish for me. I just have to make sure I get to the butcher on time.

Do you have a favourite offal preparation?

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4 Responses to “Lamb kidneys and the value of offal”

  1. If the other butcher had to check the order sheet to make sure they weren’t already “spoken for,” could you not, then, order them in advance?

  2. Ah, Matthew, this will go on my list of things to prepare when my other half isn’t around. I’ve made beef kidneys in mustard and shallot sauce and loved them. Do lamb kidneys have that off smell when you first cook them that beef kidneys have? The smell has dissipated by the time you’re finished cooking the kidneys.

  3. For me, it always has been and always will be my grandmother’s chopped liver. (It started as my Great-Aunt Ruth’s chopped liver, but she’s been gone 25+ years now, so for that time it’s been Grandma’s.) I have the recipe, but it doesn’t taste the same when I make it.

  4. Matthew Kayahara March 21, 2011 at 4:59 pm

    Ryan, yes, I could presumably order them in advance, but that requires even more advance planning than showing up on time! (Seriously, though, I probably would just place an order next time I want them.)

    Skip, they did have that very distinct “kidney” smell while cooking, but it had dissipated by the time they were done. I’ve never cooked other types of kidneys before, but I’ve heard you can minimize some of the smell by soaking in milk first. It’s worth a try, at least.

    Melissa, I’m a big fan of liver, but my husband is not, so I don’t eat it very often. He will eat chicken livers, though, so I make Tuscan crostini every now and then.