Chicken livers and carrot, coriander, cumin – CLCCC with some sesame seeds

One Monday morning on our weekly farmers’ market in Mirepoix, the poultry lady had chicken livers. Not the soggy reddish things in a plastic container at the super market – which are more than decent – but, well, big livers. The point is that most “chicken” killed and sold are in fact still chicklets – … Read more

Veal kidney with ceps and pasta

There was an offer on veal kidney on the market and I bought some. Two went straight into the freezer and one was for a weekend meal.

I had been reading several recipes, and discussed it with my hairdresser as one does in France. What had caught my eye is that in several Italian recipes (for rognoni) the kidneys are first put in a bowl of water with some vinegar, then dried and sprinkled with flour.

The French just put the rognons in a skillet and then remove them to discard the first juices, before resuming cooking.

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Veal kidneys with broad beans

The French eat more offal than many other nationalities. In the Netherlands, I sometimes ate liver or blood sausage but that was about it. In France, I discovered sweetbread, kidney and spleen but I have not yet dared to eat heart or lungs.

A French editor once tested my willingness to adapt to France and the French way of life by ordering me a plate of slightly cooked kidneys with lasagne. The dish looked gross but I did acquire a taste for it.

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Chicken liver pie

We had bought some chicken liver at the poultry stall on the market and I had a package of pie dough left in the refrigerator. With some shallots, raspberry vinegar, eggs and cream, I made a nice quiche-like open pie.

Why raspberry vinegar? It is one of those French habits. The vinegar helps to kill any bacteria that might be lurking in the innards and raspberry gives sweetness to the taste. Alternatively, balsamic vinegar or wine can be used with chicken livers.

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Veal kidneys with pasta and cauliflower

I must confess that this dish came together because what I had left in the refrigerator when we wanted to have veal kidney. There was still half a cooked cauliflower waiting for use.

The rognons are popular in France. In the Netherlands, most people would not think about eating it. In England, the kidneys of the adult cows enter in the steak and kidney pie.

The first time I ate kidney it was as a kind of test by my then new boss in France in a restaurant. There I was served a whole kidney with some mustard sauce and I not only passed the test but also started to like it.

Cut-up kidney is easier for frying, what I did with the following dish.

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Venetian-style calves’ liver with onions

Liver, and especially calves liver, is full of nutrients. Offal are cheap compared to the more noble cuts of meat but a good piece of young calves liver costs a bit more while remaining good value.
Liver is often paired with onion. On the one hand, going back to the theme of economically priced offal, onions were usually abundant.

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Veal kidney, stock and mustard sauce

I can still remember the first time I had veal kidney, rognons de veau. It was in 1994, I had started to work in Paris and the local editor-in-chief invited me for a lunch in rue Montorgeuil. Upstairs in a smokey restaurant, he ordered the days’ special and recommended it to me. Unsure whether it was a test, I acquiesced and a while later there were two plates with an oblong organ, dark red coloured and with a mustard sauce. It was a bit rubbery in bite but otherwise it was fine and I showed that I was open-minded and not too set in any fixed preconceptions, dietary or otherwise.

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Tripes à la mode de Maitre Marcel

It takes guts to eat guts.

Many people frown upon, or worse, the idea of eating an animal’s innards. In my family we would occasionally eat liver or blood sausage but that was the limit. Heart, brain, kidney, stomach or tripes were at best for the dog.
Just to say that I am not a born amateur of offal. (Which derives from the Dutch/Germanic word afval, Abfall for waste)

However, I have an open mind, and mouth, and have not often come to regret the experience.

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