I know, I know, deviled kidneys. Ew, right? Actually no. If you learn one kidney recipe, and especially just one venison kidney recipe, this is it.
Allow me to explain.
So, deviled kidneys are a British thing, and I know for many of you that’s not a ringing endorsement. But this dish is different. It’s a bit spicy, from a pinch of cayenne and mustard, gets a punch from Worcestershire sauce, and some backbone from sauteed mushrooms. I can almost guarantee that if you make this, you will no longer be a kidney hater.
My version of deviled kidneys owes a lot to one of my culinary inspirations: the great Chef Fergus Henderson of St. John in London. A rendition of this recipe done with lamb appears in his excellent book The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating. If only I could cook for Fergus someday…
I understand that most people don’t have lots of venison kidneys lying around, so this recipe reflects that. But if you do have, say, eight to ten kidneys, just scale up this recipe. Lamb kidneys work every bit as well. I am not a fan of beef kidneys, but pig kidneys will work if that’s what you have.
Start with obtaining kidneys. Each animal has two, and they’ll be in the gut pile. If you are buying your kidneys, you’ll likely need to order them from a butcher. Sometimes Latin and Asian markets carry them.
Once you have some, peel the gossamer membrane that surrounds the kidneys like shrink wrap. Now slice them in half, lengthwise. You’ll see a bunch of white tissue in the center. I tend to remove this with a paring knife, but it’s not strictly necessary.
What is necessary, at least to me, is to soak any animal’s kidneys in milk for a day before doing this recipe, as it makes them taste milder. And if you are a kidney rookie, you might want to rinse them off after that milk soak and submerge them in brine for another day. But you can skip all this if you want.
I am a big fan of mushrooms with kidneys—it’s a texture thing. I prefer the mighty porcini mushroom here, but any good, fresh mushroom will do, even buttons.
Serve your kidneys on excellent toast. A pale ale or even a porter would be perfect with this, as would a nice red wine.
- ½ pound fresh mushrooms, cut into large-ish pieces (optional)
- 2 to 4 deer kidneys
- ¼ cup flour
- 1 teaspoon cayenne
- 1 ½ teaspoons dry mustard, Coleman’s if you can get it
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
- Worcestershire sauce
- 3 tablespoons chicken, venison or beef stock
- Clean and trim the kidneys as above. Cut each half into 3 or 4 pieces. If you are using the mushrooms, sear them in a hot pan with 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter until nicely browned on their edges. Remove them and set aside for the moment.
- Mix the flour with the cayenne, mustard, salt, and black pepper, and dust the kidneys with it.
- Get the pan very hot, then add 3 more tablespoons of butter. Brown the kidneys in the butter. You may need to press them down with a spatula, as they will want to arch upwards. Turn and cook another minute or two. Remove them and cut into pieces you’d like to eat.
- Return the kidneys and the mushrooms to the pan and add a big splash of Worcestershire and the stock, and shake the pan to meld everything together. Let this cook for a minute or two.
- Remove the kidneys and mushrooms and set them on top of your toast and boil down the sauce for a few minutes—don’t let it boil completely away—then pour it over everything and serve.