How about a lunch of lamb kidneys? That's what we had one day last week. They are called rognons d'agneau. I think the kidneys are good — at least as good as veal kidneys — and I've been cooking and eating them since the 1970s, but not often. I don't remember the first time I ever ate them, but it had to be in France in the early to mid-1970s.
I was at Intermarché one day a couple of weeks ago and I saw two lamb kidneys on a tray at the butcher's counter. I asked for them and asked if he had more. He didn't. I bought the two kidneys he had on display and stuck them in the freezer.
Then a few days later I was at the Grand Frais supermarket up near Blois and I noticed that there were lamb kidneys in the butcher cabinet there too. And more of them. The woman running the show sold me four more kidneys and said she probably had more in the back if I wanted them. I didn't, especially, but it's good to know that Grand Frais is a source for the delicacy.
How do you prepare and cook them? Unless the butcher has already done it, you need to remove the thin, nearly clear membrane that covers each kidney — it peels right off. Then you cut each kidney in half so that you have two kidney-shaped pieces (as above). Then you carefully "de-nerve" them, as they say in French. That means cut out the white material, which is veins or whatever, in each half. If you want to, you can soak the kidney pieces for half an hour in cold water with a splash of vinegar in them to "disgorge" them. I didn't do that this time.
Next you clean and cut up a good quantity of mushrooms. And you peel and chop an onion or two. Set all that aside.
Heat up a pan so that it is searing hot. Dry the kidney pieces off a little with a paper towel if you have soaked them. Then sauté them quickly in the hot pan to "seize" them, as they say in French. Take them out of the pan as soon as they have browned for a couple of minutes on each side. Don't leave them too long or they'll go rubbery. Don't spare the black pepper.
Then sauté the onions and mushrooms in the same pan until they are done. At that point, pour in a splash of cognac or whiskey (or white wine) and let that evaporate to deglaze the pan and give flavor. Add a few tablespoons of cream — as much as you want — to the pan, along with a tablespoon or two of Dijon mustard. Mix everything together and then put the kidneys into the sauce. Let it bubble and cook just long enough to heat the kidneys through. You want to serve them medium-rare or, in French, rosé.
Serve the Rognons d'agneau à la crème with rice, pasta, or either fried or steamed potatoes and a green salad. I actually served them with millet (cooked as you cook rice) and "baby" collard greens. Spinach, green beans, broccoli, or another green vegetable would be good. Yum.
Back in the 1970s, when I was living in Champaign, Illinois, I used to go from time to time to the butcher counter at the supermarket and order a batch of fresh lamb kidneys to cook this way. Then I'd have to go back and pick them up 48 hours later — they were a special-order item. At least once, the butcher looked at me as he handed me the package of lamb kidneys and said: "Your cat is certainly going to have a feast tonight!"
I doubt that many of you reading this will be cooking lamb kidneys any time soon, et tant pis pour vous. They are a real delicacy.