Earlier this month, after a week’s walking in the breathtaking Vallais area in Switzerland, we decided to celebrate our last night by going out for dinner at Le Sonalon, a restaurant with a spectacular view over the whole wide wonderful valley.
My beloved doesn’t like offal, but I do, so whenever we go out for dinner, if it’s available that’s what I choose. It’s easy to cook, but it’s also easy to ruin (liver in particular can be indistinguishable from old boot leather) so, like an omelette, it’s the test of a good restaurant, but if you follow the instructions below, you’ll be fine! On this occasion I was lucky enough to find test-passing kidneys on the menu. They were cooked with brandy and mustard, and served with fresh egg noodles and baby silverskin onions, garnished with dill. They would also be very good just with plain mashed potato flecked with fresh parsley. I thought the silverskin onions overpowered the taste of the kidneys so I have left them out of this recipe.
Kidneys deteriorate faster than any other type of offal. They are best bought whole from a good butcher, and eaten the same day you’ve bought them. Don’t keep them longer than a day in the fridge.
Calves’ kidneys are the best, most tender of all, but lambs’ kidneys are very similar, and much more easily available. Alert! Alert! Neither type should be overcooked or they will become tough. You don’t need to pre-salt calves kidneys, they are a delicate, soft flavour in any case and the salt causes ‘beading’ which doesn’t look very nice. For more about kidneys follow this link.
In the recipe below the kidneys are served with egg noodles. In restaurants they are often served simply, in a bowl, with frites on the side. Instead you could serve the kidneys with fried potatoes in the side, and a spoon for scooping up the sauce.
Recipe for kidneys with brandy and mustard
- 350g/12 oz calves’ kidneys, or lambs’ kidneys if calves’ are not available. Ask your butcher to take away the fat and the outer membrane and to halve them and cut out the white sinew inside.
- 1 banana shallot, finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, crushed with some smoked salt
- 1½ tbsps olive oil
- 1 tbsp flour, in a saucer
- 1½ tbsps brandy
- 4 tbsps double cream
- 2 tsp grainy mustard
- 150g jar peeled silverskin onions
- 250g/8 oz egg noodles
- A few fronds of dill
- Smoked salt and about ten grinds of Indonesian long pepper
- Rub the kidneys with the smoked salt and leave them, covered, outside the fridge for about half an hour
- Wash them in warm water, and pat dry
- Fry the shallot and the garlic in the olive oil until translucent
- Grind the pepper over the kidneys, then roll in the flour, and fry, turning, for about five minutes
- Pour over the brandy – you can set it alight if you want an additional depth of flavour and a slightly softer, subtler taste (the cheaper the brandy, the more this is a good idea)
- Stir in the cream and the mustard, and warm over a low heat for about five more minutes
- Be careful not to overcook or they will easily become tough