Offal of the Week: Testicles
If it's Friday, it must be Offal of the Week! Brought to you by Ryan Adams, author of the blog Nose to Tail at Home, each week we highlight a different part of the animal that you've always wanted to work with, but were afraid to ask your butcher for. This week: Testicles.
There is a particular scene from the Chevy Chase movie Funny Farm that will always get a laugh out of me: Chevy and his wife are trying to adjust to their new lives in a rustic Vermont town and end up eating dinner at a small cafe. Chevy has plowed his way through two orders of lamb fries and starts working on his third plate in an effort to break the cafe's record of 28 fries eaten in one sitting. He easily tops the record and keeps going for more ... until the waitress tips him off that he has in fact been eating lamb testicles.
Ignorance can sure be bliss (it certainly was in Chevy's case), but let it be known that testicles are celebrated by people around the world for their culinary as much as their reproductive properties, and you can enjoy them as well.
The general consensus on "fries," as they're often euphemistically referred to, is that they have a chickeny flavor to them (no matter the animal of their origin) and can be a bit chewy, much like gizzards. A very basic preparation involves blanching them in boiling water for a few minutes, then shocking them in ice water to stop the cooking process. Cutting off the outer membrane is best done right after rescuing the testicles from their cold bath. Once that's done they can be sauteed, deep fried, grilled, roasted, poached or braised with tasty results.
Ball-eaters around the world
Testicles are embraced far more easily in other countries than they are here in America. In Spain, bull's balls are considered by many to be an enhancer of the eater's masculinity. In Canada you can find them served with a demi-glace, and the French have a recipe for "animelles de moutons frites" where they marinate the testes with tarragon vinegar, herbs and onions before breading and frying them. There is even an upcoming World Testicle Cooking Championship which will be held August 28-30, 2009, in Gornji Milanovac, Serbia. (Make note that there are a few quirks when it comes to the festivities: No minors will be allowed, nor will men over the age of 65 without a doctor's note, and erectile dysfunction drugs are banned from the premises. The lucky ladies in attendance, however, "are allowed everything.")
That's not to say that Americans are neglecting their testicles either. Various fairs across the United States serve breaded and fried testicles, more commonly known as Rocky Mountain Oysters. There is even some mild rivalry between Eagle, Idaho's volunteer fire department and Clinton, Montana's Rock Creek Lodge as to who hosts the largest Testicle Festival in the states.
Glands in hand
Finding a good source for testicles is tricky. While you may be able to find a few different types available at your friendly neighborhood Asian Supermarket, it's not a sure thing. Veal testicles should be available from local cattle farms from time to time, though you are much more likely to find them frozen than fresh. If its lamb fries you're after, I hope you've managed to befriend a butcher to the point he's added you to his Christmas card list — pretty much all male lambs are castrated shortly after birth these days, which tends to cut down on the availability of fresh fries. Your best bet is heading to a Halal market and checking their meat department. Every time I've visited one, I've found lamb fries along with various other goodies.
When you do manage to find them, you've got to make sure they're up to snuff: check and make sure that the testicles are firm and pinkish in color. Some will have their outer membrane still on, though some butchers go the extra step and remove it for you. Like most other glands, they're more delicious the fresher they are, so try to buy them within a day or two of your planned use — though if they're already frozen, they can stay in that state for quite a while.
Think you can handle plate after plate of steamy lamb fries just like Chevy? Here's a few recipes to get you started:
The classic Rocky Mountain Oysters
Breaded Testicles with Stewed Peppers and Onions
Curried Lamb Testicles
Bull Testicle Goulash