Saturday, September 21, 2019

kidney kommentary

I've taken a ton of photos of my beef kidney as I prepped it. I won't be posting any of those images until after my friend Neil has gone back to Masan tomorrow afternoon, but let me just say that doing surgery on a cow's kidney has to be the most interesting thing I've done this year. (As I remarked in a blog comment, I haven't done my big walk yet, so it's still possible to rank kidney-prepping at #1 for now.)

A cow's kidney is full of lobes. Kidneys are already intricate pieces of biological machinery, but a beef kidney has lobes and nooks and crannies more convoluted than the Minotaur's maze. Excising the fatty deposit wasn't easy for a one-dollar piece of meat. Luckily, I had just received a set of super-sharp German knives for my birthday (thanks again, coworkers!), so I put the smaller knife to good use, flensing away the fat as best I could. The various kidney-prep videos I saw on YouTube were generally misleading: the fat deposits that you have to get rid of run into most of the lobes of the cow's kidney, so you're not merely cutting away the huge deposit in the center: you're also digging out the hidden fat inside each lobe. To be honest, I'm not sure I'd want to go through this again—not unless someone out there has some rapidfire technique for clearing out kidney fat. Maybe next time, I won't try so hard to preserve the kidney's flesh.

Once the fat is gone, you've lost about a third of the kidney's total weight. The prepped kidney is sitting there on your cutting board, torn and bloody, looking as if it's suffered the fumbling ministrations of an incompetent surgeon (not far from the truth, in my case). The fat gets thrown away; I haven't seen a single video in which people say, "No, no—save the fat for later!" I had thought there might be some kind of dura mater-like outer membrane to cut away, but there was nothing else. Next step: let the kidney soak in a bowl of water mixed with a bit of salt and vinegar for two hours. This apparently keeps the kidneys from developing an unpleasant taste during cooking.

That's the stage I'm at now: the kidney is done soaking, and I'm going to fry it up with oil and onions, bring it to a boil, then let it simmer for 45 minutes until tender. Once we hit that stage, I'll slice the kidney into thin pieces, mix it with the brisket and gravy, and hopefully have a pie filling worthy of an Englishman. We'll see. Stay tuned.

ADDENDUM: damn, those kidneys do stink when you cook 'em. But the smell is more liver-like than urine-like. So I guess that's a plus.

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