Caleb Trahan hasn’t met much offal he doesn’t care for—except kidneys. Several years ago, living in New Mexico, the Bread & Wine chef would spend his days outside work combing local ethnic markets for offcuts from cows, chickens, and pigs and cooking them up. “Kidneys were one I didn’t like,” he says. “They taste, smell like urine.”
So when Scott Manley of Table, Donkey and Stick challenged Trahan to create a dish with lamb kidneys, Trahan might not have been excited at the prospect. Recently, though, he’s been working with whole rabbits—kidneys and all—and discovered that he actually enjoyed the organ. “Because the rabbit is a smaller animal, it’s a much milder flavor,” he says. Lamb kidneys also turned out to be less offensive than the pork kidneys he’d cooked with in the past.
Trahan experimented with cooking the kidneys sous vide, which intensified their urine flavor. Grilling them, on the other hand, yielded better results. “I found that once you pass midrare, a lot of that urine aroma and flavor disappears,” he says.
First he marinated the kidneys in oil with dried chiles, herbs, garlic, and spices. “I was thinking of how with wine you get descriptors like ‘barnyard,'” he says. “Working on a farm growing up, ‘barnyard’ had these hay and urine connotations, horse shit—I thought about how you twist something off-putting into something romantic.” A few months back, a bartender at the restaurant made a cocktail with hay-infused mescal, and Trahan used some of that to make borracho bean puree with kidney beans (“because that’s kind of funny”). He also fried some kidney beans to serve with the kidneys, tossing them with grated lamb salami and smoked lemon-drop peppers.
After grilling the lamb kidneys, Trahan plated them with the borracho bean puree and fried kidney beans, garnishing the dish with lime segments and fried sage. “It’s livery, a slight bit of that urine thing,” he says. “After you eat it, you have urine breath. If I ate this somewhere I would dig it, but I don’t think it would actually go on the menu. I don’t think I could sell it.”
Trahan has challenged Won Kim of the yet-to-open Kimski’s to create a dish with ponce, a stuffed pork stomach traditional in Cajun cuisine.
Grilled lamb kidneys with borracho bean puree and kidney bean crunch
450 g cleaned kidneys, sinew removed
7 g kosher salt
1 sprig sage
1 sprig thyme
1 ancho chile
1 guajillo chile
1 smoked lemon-drop pepper
3 cloves garlic
10 g cumin
5 g coriander
Combine all ingredients, cover with olive oil.
Borracho bean puree
600 g cooked kidney beans
60 g hay-infused mezcal
100 g lamb fat
12 g salt
Puree until smooth.
Kidney bean crunch
250 g cooked kidney beans, fried until crispy
100 g grated lamb salami
6 g ground smoked and dried lemon-drop pepper
30 g tapioca maltodextrin
Mix together and salt to taste.
Separate small groups of cells from lime wedges.
Fry tender leaves at 300 degrees F until crispy.
Grill lamb kidneys to medium-rare and serve with borracho bean puree, kidney bean crunch, lime segments, and crispy sage.