- 2 veal kidneys
- 3 cups chicken stock (broth)
- 3 cups beef stock (broth)
- 3 tablespoons oil
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 cup finely chopped shallots
- 16 ounces sliced mushrooms
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 4 tablespoons course ground prepared mustard
- Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
Veal Kidneys à la Moutarde – with mustard sauce – is one of the great classics of French cooking for a reason: The dish is amazing. While not common on tables here in the States, the French stand in line and pay top dollar for veal kidneys à la moutarde. Prepare it once and the decadent and savory aroma that fills your home will explain why.
Let’s face it, veal kidneys do not inspire ideas of culinary delight in the average American. In fact, Americans tend to have an aversion to veal kidneys that isn’t derived from any actual experience. But that attitude appears to be changing and veal kidneys are showing up on menus across the country. Our “foodie” culture has finally caught on to what the French have long known. Veal kidneys are delicious.
That, my dear reader, makes this dish perfect for us. I get to introduce you to a new ingredient available to you in your local mega-mart and teach you a little classic French cooking. You’ll end up with a sumptuous meal that you’re guests will swoon over and not soon forget. They will proudly tell others that they ate veal kidneys à la moutarde, that they were fantastic and that it was you who taught them to chew adventurously.
The sauce that results from this dish is at one time rich, silky and utterly delicious. My favorite way to serve it is along-side of thick steak fries allowing the sauce to intermingle with the fries. It also allows your guest a polite way to sop up every last drop from their plate.
For the best results, I recommend a heavy 12-inch sauté pan that is not coated in Teflon, but don’t worry if that’s all you have. The important thing is that the pan is heavy. Once we get the sauté pan up to the proper temperature we want to make sure we can easily maintain the temperature. You’ll need a strainer or sieve in which to hold the kidneys for a short time. We’ll also be making a reduction of chicken and beef stock to use when we make our sauce. This is nothing more than boiling and concentrating 6-cups of stock down to 3/4 of a cup.
We’ll be preparing our veal kidneys à la moutarde in two steps. In the first step we are going to quickly sauté the kidneys and set them aside in a strainer. You will completely discard the cooking fat from the pan and after a wiping it out, return the pan to the fire. Veal kidneys are tender when served medium to medium rare. Any more than that and they turn to rubber. The idea is to drop the kidneys into a very hot pan and keep them moving until they have all taken on a uniform color and you no longer see any red or pink on the surface. During this process, in the words of Julia Child, they will have let off some unpleasant grey juice. This is why we discard the cooking fat after this step. Removing the kidneys to a strainer allows the remainder of the juice to drain off.
In the second step, we’ll sauté our mushrooms and shallots, mount our sauce and return the kidneys to the pan shortly before serving. This recipe calls for course-ground prepared mustard which is available most anywhere. However, my preference is Creole mustard which has a more pronounced mustard flavor without as much acid present. Although the dish is successful either way, use Creole mustard if it’s available.
Most mega marts and whole-foods type stores have frozen veal kidneys available that will defrost in your refrigerator overnight. Of course, if you are lucky enough to have a local butcher shop you’ll have access to the freshest kidneys. Beef kidneys are not a substitute for veal kidneys. I can’t stress this point enough. Where veal kidneys are delicate and silky in texture, beef kidneys are almost uniformly stout and gamey.
Preparing veal kidneys for cooking is fairly straight forward. Whole veal kidneys are oblong and separated into lobes. You want to lay each kidney down and cut it in half down the center length-wise. In the middle of the kidney is a vein of beef fat that needs to be removed and then each lobe cut away. This picture shows both a whole kidney as well as the lobes, cleaned of fat, cut apart and ready to cook.
One final note on your ingredients. This dish calls for butter and heavy cream and the composition, taste and mouth-feel that defines this dish require the use of both. Substituting for either promises that your final result will suffer. Remember that eating is part of the amazing experience of life. Eating well is not about excess, it’s about the experience of taste.
- Add the chicken stock and beef stock to a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Maintain a boil over a medium-high heat reducing the liquid until the total volume remaining is about 3/4 of a cup and set aside.
- Add 3 tablespoons of oil to a heavy sauté pan over high heat and bring it up to 350 degrees. If you do not have a infrared thermometer, drop a few popcorn kernels in the pan as it heats. Popcorn kernels pop at approximately 350 degrees. Meanwhile, liberally salt and pepper the prepared kidneys.
- Once your pan reaches temperature, add 2 tablespoons of butter and the cleaned veal kidneys to the pan.
- Maintain the pan over high heat and working quickly, saute the kidneys until they are uniformly colored and no red or pick is showing on the surface. This should take no more than 3 to 4 minutes. Remember you do not want to brown them.
- Remove the kidneys to a strainer, discard the cooking fat and wipe out your skillet.
- Return the sauté pan back to a high fire. Add 4 tablespoons of butter and bring your pan back up to 350 degrees careful not to let your butter take on any color. Add sliced mushrooms and sauté until the mushrooms let off their liquid and start to brown. Lower the heat to medium and add finely chopped shallots and continue to sauté until the shallots are translucent. Do not let them brown.
- Add reserved stock reduction and heavy cream to the pan, bring your sauce back to a boil over medium heat. Taste for seasoning adding salt and pepper as needed.
- Once the sauce has reduced by about 1/4, stir in mustard and add the kidneys back to the pan. Bring the kidneys and sauce back up to the boil, stir in 2 tablespoons of butter and taste again for seasoning adding salt and pepper as needed.
- After about 3 minutes cut the heat and allow your sauce to sit for 2 to 3 minutes and thicken. Plate and serve.