Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Trying Something New

Last night my husband made me one of his favorite childhood dishes. He had to call his mom to remind himself how to make it. I’m a little reluctant to say what it is, so let me lead up to it slowly.

We went to the U District farmers market a few weeks back, getting there nice and early to beat the crowds out at one specific stall: Skagit River Ranch. The line was already three deep at 9:00 am (that’s when the market opens), so we shuffled into fourth place, bleary-eyed (we’re both night owls) and waited our turn.

First, a little about Skagit River Ranch. It’s a farm in northwestern Washington where the cows graze on pasture, and the chickens roam freely, scratching bugs out of the dirt and plucking fly pupae from the cow patties, all as nature intended. The farm is also certified organic, which is not always affordable for these small, family-owned farms.

We had come to the market today to pick up some dog food. Skagit sells a mix of ground beef and organ meats that gives our little Maxie lots of the nutrients she would get if she were hunting in the wild for her food instead of eating out of a plastic bowl on a little plastic mat embossed with doggie pawprints.

Well… they had forgotten to pack the dog food in their coolers that morning, so we started looking around. That’s when my husband spotted the kidney. Oh boy! His eyes glowed with nostalgia and he promised me I would love it, so we brought the kidney home and put it in the freezer.

My mom used to make liver and onions, which I liked well enough, so I’m not a stranger to organ meats. She also made giblet gravy from the little chicken organs packed in tiny bags and stuffed inside the cavity of whole chickens we bought for roasting. My favorites were the gizzard and the heart.

And I believe in not wasting food, which includes the offal from animals that are killed predominantly (at least in this country) for their muscle meat. Most people aren't aware that organ meats like liver, kidney and tripe are lower in fat than muscle meat and a much more concentrated source of vitamins and minerals. They can also be more economical than the common cuts of beef. Carnivores in the wild will eat the organs of a fresh kill first in case they're disturbed and can't finish their meal. This is a survival tactic we might do well to mimic.

The kidney, though? It’s the organ that filters the blood and manufactures urine. It’s made up mostly of capillaries and thousands, maybe millions, of microscopic filtering apparatus called glomeruli – doesn’t that sound appetizing? I think I’ve looked at too many pictures of the kidney in my science textbooks to think of it as food.

No matter, my husband was going to make me braised kidney with rice and buttered peas. And I have to say that it was really succulent, earthy and satisfying. It tasted like liver, but milder and sweeter. And it was a kidney from a happy, 100% grass-fed cow so I felt confident that it was a healthy organ. I told my husband I would happily eat kidney again.

If I get around to it, I’ll post his recipe for those of you who are carnivores and have access to 100% grass-fed beef kidney. DO try this at home!


  1. I'd be interested in the recipe! I would like to like organ meats for the reason you mentioned - using the whole animal - but alas, I am still working up to it at this point!

    I justify it by buying organs and "weird" pieces of meat for my dog, I figure I eat the muscle, he eats the organs and bone! :)

  2. Anna, I'll ask my husband to write up the recipe and I'll post it here soon!