Or Kalfsnierkes op z’n gents/rognons de veau a la gantoise
Why is it that kidneys have such a bad reputation? Most of my students first regard them with undisguised horror, but then most of them have never actually tasted kidneys. Once they do – prepared in this rich, unctuous, and piquant sauce – they usually love them.
The keys to success with kidneys are simple. They must be very fresh, firm to the touch, and without the slightest hint of an ammonia odour. Kidneys are a tender, very lean meat and must be cooked briefly and quickly so that they remain pink and moist in the centre. Overcooked kidneys are tough and inedible.
Serve the kidneys with Belgian fries and a casserole of wild mushrooms or carrot timbales.
50g unsalted butter
110g white mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed, and quartered
225g cremini mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed, and quartered
2tbs shallots, finely minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 veal kidneys, all fat removed, cut into 1.25cm cubes
3tbs plain flour
120ml genever (Belgian gin) or Cognac
120ml beef broth, preferably homemade
120ml whipping cream
1tbs minced fresh tarragon or 1tsp dried tarragon
1-3tsp Dijon or Tierenteyn mustard
Melt two tablespoons of the butter in a medium-sized heavy skillet over medium heat. Add all the mushrooms and sauté until browned slightly, about five minutes. Add the shallots and cook for one minute longer. Season lightly with salt and pepper; remove from the skillet, and set aside.
Dredge the cubed kidneys with the flour.
Melt the remaining two tablespoons of butter in the same skillet. Add the kidneys and sauté over medium-high heat until nicely browned on both sides but still pink inside, about five minutes.
Off the heat, carefully flambé the kidneys with the gin. When the flames die down, season with salt and pepper and transfer to a warmed platter.
Deglaze the skillet with the broth over high heat, scraping up all the little browned bits from the bottom. Add the mushroom mixture, cream, dried tarragon if using, and the juice that has collected in the platter holding the kidneys. Reduce the heat and simmer until the sauce thickens to the consistency of double cream. Whisk in the mustard, judging the amount by the strength of the mustard (the Tierenteyn mustard is strong stuff!).
Just before serving, reheat the kidneys over low heat in the warm sauce. Don’t overcook the kidneys or they will be tough. They should remain slightly pink on the inside. Sprinkle the fresh tarragon, if using, over the kidneys and serve immediately.