I shopped at the big C-Town supermarket at 205th Street and Broadway on Saturday. They sell a lot of meats, including variety meats, aimed at various ethnic groups living in Inwood. I bought slices of breast of veal for $2.99 a pound and 2 packages of veal kidneys, a little old, for just $.99 a pound. I had cooked kidneys before, but its been about ten years.
Kidneys are supposed to smell bad and these did smell real bad, but not turned. It was just $2.60 for a pair of veal kidneys, in separate packages. I brined them overnight. Then I rinsed them and cut them up using a kitchen shears. I cut out the fat and gristle. Then I brined the kidney pieces. Then I rinsed repeatedly. My processing BEFORE cooking was hands on for about an hour plus about 14 hours for the brining and soaking and rinsing.
French restaurants normally charge about $25 for kidneys. A lot of that is for the labor, not the food. It's involved.
I usually save everything to use for something else, but I did not save any of the fat and gristle or blood from the kidneys. I threw that out.
Cutting up the kidneys with a kitchen shears took much less time than it would have taken with a chef's knife and a paring knife. That'd be the right technique. Some cookbooks say the best cooking medium for veal kidneys is not olive oil or butter or a mixture of the two, but rendered kidney fat and suet. I was not up to that.
The fancy prep would be julienning the kidneys, but I cut them down into thumb sized chunks. I cooked the kidneys three separate times: brunch on Monday, dinner on Monday, and brunch today on Tuesday. They were good every time.
I made my onion base and the sauce first. I sliced up a half pound onion very thin and fried it in butter until wilted, added in chopped garlic in olive oil from a jar and kept it cooking until it smelled a little sweet, not bitter. Then, I added in a half cup of red wine and a tablespoon of raspberry preserves, heated the sauce through, removed it from the pan and put it aside.
While the sauce was cooking, I drained the 2+ pounds of kidney pieces and breaded them all in a plastic bag with flour. After I emptied the sauce from the pan, I put in an ounce of olive oil, heated it up and spread two-thirds of a pound of kidney pieces atop the oil, frying them quickly to get them cooked, but not dried out. As soon as they seemed done, I added in half the sauce and cooked it all through until it was hot.
Then I ate it all; well two thirds of a pound. It was good. All the acrid smell was gone because of the brining and rinsing and the cooking. It was like pan fried chicken livers and onions in shmaltz, but not as heavy. The wine made it richer. The kidney bounced back when I chewed like chicken hearts or flank steak and I like that.
If I had had cognac to add in and flame, it would have added a good flavor to the dish, like French chefs say it does. But cognac usually makes everything better, so that's not saying a whole lot. Would I do it again? I don't think so. I liked buying the meat cheap, the kidneys tasted good and had a mouth feel I liked, but it was an awful lot of time and effort to make a simple entree. Moreover, when I finally got to cooking the kidney pieces, if I cooked them too long, they would have been leathery like overdone liver, and if I cooked them too little, in addition to being a little bloody -- despite all the brining and rinsing -- they would have had an acrid off taste. The gist of it all is that preparing veal kidneys at home, and doing it well, feels like taking a final exam in a cooking school.
The last time I cooked veal kidneys was more than ten years ago. I hadn't cooked them since because my markets in Forest Hills don't sell them. Now that I've made kidneys again, I understand why they aren't for sale where I live -- its a lot of work to get it right. All said and done, I ate well and all that effort kept me off the streets.
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