Eating Nose to Tail

While flipping through the Escoffier cookbook looking for culinary insight I came across a recipe for a simple omelette filled with kidneys.  Being the sort of person who keeps a few lamb kidneys in the freezer for just this sort of occasion, one was immediately placed in the fridge to defrost.

Gently fried kidneys, nestled inside a fluffy egg omelette.  I cannot recommend this dish enough, the kidneys are meaty and a little crisp from a dusting of flour and a quick sear in a pan and the eggs are soft and fluffy.  A piece of toast, a cup of tea and you are well on your way to starting your day in a wonderful frame of mind.
Lamb kidney omelette.
Lamb Kidney Omelette

Makes a one person omelette

-1 lamb kidney
- 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon butter, divided
- 2 eggs, beaten
- kosher salt and cracked black pepper
- finely chopped parsley, optional

Clean lamb kidney by removing fat and interior sinew, cut into 1 inch pieces.  Season flour with salt and pepper and toss kidneys in seasoned flour.

Heat 1/2 tablespoon butter over medium high heat, once foam has subsided add kidneys and cook tossing often until all sides have browned, about 5 minutes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Remove from pan and reserve.

Wipe out pan, return to heat and add remaining butter.  When foam subsides add eggs.  Once eggs have begun to set add kidneys (and parsley if you're using it) to one side of the omelette.  When eggs are set to your liking fold omelette in half and serve immediately with tea and toast.
During the Halloween season nose to tail eating gets a few choice moments in the sun.  Food TV seems to trot out heads, tongues and trotters at the same time as they whip out the cotton cob webs and witch hats.  Eating all the less desired bits of animals conjures something sinister in many minds, as if there is something unnatural about happily munching on pig tails, chicken feet and liver.

For the last year I've been writing a couple recipe columns for SeriousEats, and in honour of Halloween I thought I'd post a few links to the more nose to tail inspired posts that the benevolent Editors in SE headquarters have let me sneak through.
Some bloody, tasty chicken insides.

Hope everyone has a happy and safe Halloween, filled with many delicious, scary meals.
Thanks to an old friend from graduate school I recently had the privilege of teaching a nose to tail eating class at Newbury College.  The students were all seniors, excellent cooks and enthusiastic about food.

We cooked a lot of food - grilled pig tails, chili beef heart, snapper collars, sweetbreads, marrow bones and as a special treat Jamie Bissonette left us a pig head from his butchering demo.  It was an awesome day and I really hope they invite me back next year.

Here are a few pictures from that class - and if any of those students read this and want to cook some more offal sometime soon, definitely drop me a line!
Another one from the master - Fergus Henderson's recipe for deviled kidneys.  I'm using lamb kidneys that I got from my meat CSA, Stillman Farm, they do this wonderful thing where they give away all the off bits and offal for free to members.  My meat CSA is amazing - everyone should join one.

The recipe is very simple.  Remove the sinewy bit from the center of each kidney, roll them in seasoned flour and fry in butter in a very hot pan (2 minutes each side).  Add a large shake of worcestershire sauce and some chicken stock, once everything has 'gotten to know each other' take the kidneys from  the pan and put on a piece of toast to rest.  Continue to reduce the sauce, and when ready pour the reduced sauce over the kidneys on toast.
Deviled kidney on toast with Brussels sprouts tossed in grainy mustard.
This recipe reminds me of my Dad - I can see him eating these  for lunch on a cold day in Nova Scotia with a pint of dark beer.

The kidney's are simple and salty and the toast soaks up the gravy in just the right way.  If my cholesterol weren't already high I would eat this for lunch everyday.  Or maybe breakfast.
I spent last weekend in Toronto visiting family.  Upon arriving home I was told that dinner that night was a mixed grill, to celebrate my homecoming.  Apparently Mum and Dad had eaten a lot of mixed grills when they were in the UK, and because of my love of all things offal (and my new blog) she wanted to make it for me.  Having never had a mixed grill before Mum explained that it was traditionally kidney's and lamb chops and we were going to serving it with baked tomatoes and sauteed mushrooms.  We were including liver because it's my favorite.  I love liver, and I've been dreaming of a good plate of liver and onions for months; apparently I  mentioned that once or twice.  We had calves liver and kidney's as well as pork kidney's.
Pig kidney
It was Mum's job to prepare the kidney's, and my Uncle's job to prepare the liver.  Mum got side tracked and my Uncle Bunny ended up preparing the liver, and the calves kidney's for the frying pan. 
Liver waiting for flour, and a nice hot pan.
Mum did step in to prepare the pig kidney's
Mum removing the chewy bits.
We had some of my best, oldest friends over as well. Not all of whom like offal, so we also served a sausage from the St. Lawrence Market as well as the lamb chops.  Because this was my party all I had to do was the tomatoes and mushrooms, which was fine with me.

Once the kidney's and liver were about to go into the pan everything began to move fast, so I was in the way no matter where I was standing and trying to take pictures.  I have no idea what Mum and Bunny seasoned everything with, outside of flour, but these kidney's were much better than the kidney's I made earlier this summer.
Liver on the left, kidney's on the right.
Both the liver and kidney's were cooked perfectly, and I'm not 100% of everything that went on, so I'm not sure if I could replicate it.  There was beautiful crisp bacon, and sweet caramelized onions.  The tomatoes were roasted with a bread crumb top and the mushrooms were cooked slowly in red wine.  The lamb chops and sausage were also good, but were second tier compared to the liver and kidney's.
My plate.
We ate out in the garden, and it was dark so excuse the lighting.  In front there's the liver covered in onions and a piece of crispy bacon.  Behind the liver is the lamb chop, sausage and kidney's.  The tomato is at the back next to some fried potatoes and the red wine mushrooms.

Lots of wine and really good friends made the absolutely giant pile of dishes  all over the kitchen seem less daunting.  It was great to be back in Toronto among good friends and family.  And I just happen to be doubly blessed with a group of people who really know how to cook up a kidney.

Every now and again I find something interesting and potentially  yummy at my local big box grocery store (for me it's a Super Stop & Shop) and this week it was a very alluring looking beef kidney.   The most kidney experience I have is my Mum's Steak and Kidney pie, which is a childhood favorite.  I don't have the time to make myself a pie so I'm going to fry some beef kidney's and make a quick gravy and serve them on some toast for lunch.

I began by soaking the kidney in cold water for a few hours.  I changed the water a couple times, but I wasn't really compulsive about it.  Many people suggest putting different organs (liver and kidney's mostly) in milk instead of water.  When I asked Omi about that she said that she never did because she thought it was a waste of perfectly good milk.  When in doubt go with Grannie.

Kidney soaking in water.
For a guideline I'm using a Mrs. Beeton recipe I found online.  Basically I'm going to fry the kidney and some finely diced onion in some butter season with a little pepper, sprinkle with a spoonful of flour and then add a mixture of powdered (reconstituted) beef stock, which tends to be very salty hence the lack of salt initially.  And then simmer until thickened.

First I clean the kidney.  Remove any hard sinew or fat.  There are many nobules in a kidney, you want to take them off the center core which is too tough to eat.  Ideally you'll be able to remove these nobules but keep their beautiful plump shape.  Rinse these beauties in cold water a few times once they've been separated to help remove some of the blood they will seep.
Once your kidney's are ready for the pan melt your butter and add  the onion and cook until translucent. Then add the kidney's in a single layer so they brown and don't steam.  Once they've got nice colour add some crushed black pepper and followed by a spoonful of flour rolling the kidneys in the flour to both coat the kidney's and cook the flour. 
Now add your liquid, homemade stock would be way better but powdered stock is what I've got, then simmer and reduce.  Make some toast and taste the kidney and sauce.  Re-season if it needs it.  I added a couple drops of Worcestershire sauce (later I realised it was a tad too much, so be careful).  Pour this over your slices of toast and sit down for a lovely lunch!
I served my kidneys with a side of sliced roasted beets leftover from the weekend, and if I didn't have a bunch of writing to do this afternoon I'd have a nice mug of stout alongside my kidney's, but I've got a full day and can't afford to be sluggish.

The flavor of the kidney turned out to be very strong.  Next time I'm going to do some things differently, like halve or even quarter the kidney nobules.  For those of you just starting into the world of offal consider yourself warned, these flavors are strong.

Nonetheless a very nice lunch.