Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Cooking at Home: Kidney Fat Fries (Beef Tallow) Fries

Kidney fat is not something one encounters on an everyday basis, unless you’re a part of my family. During one of our recent trips to Houston, we paid a visit to one of the area’s giant Fiesta supermarkets. Originally on the hunt for lard, we ended up striking a rapport with the butcher. Out of the blue, my mother asked if he had any kidney fat. Much to my surprise, he emerged from the back coolers with a whole two pound slab of fat with kidneys still attached. Needless to say, we bought the entire thing and stored it in one of the garage freezers for later use.

Four months later, I decided I should pilfer some of this fat and see how good a French fry it could make.

Here’s what it looked like when I pulled it from the freezer.

I opened it up and started cutting away hunks to melt. If you look, you can see the dark red section. That’s where the kidneys were attached.

You couldn’t ask for a simpler rendering process.

Adding more and more chunks to the pot, I left the eye on medium and went back to carving away.

Soon enough the fat started to melt.

Within minutes, the kitchen was full of the sound of frying.

The only thing that bothered me is that I’m not sure what was frying.

Once the fat started to smoke, I turned off the heat.

I fished out the unrenderable bits.

And was left with a delightful pot of beef tallow.

After a few minutes of knife work, I had a bowl of sliced Idaho russets ready to fry.

Like my mother taught me, I threw a few sliced onions for flavor.

10-15 minutes later, I started fishing out the first of my beef tallow home fries.

Sprinkled with kosher salt, they were delicious.

Thanks to Wikipedia, I was able to figure out the nomenclature of kidney fat. The proper name for kidney fat is suet which is then rendered into tallow. For those with a good memory, you’ll recall that before 1990, McDonald’s cooked their French fries in a 90% beef tallow medium. No doubt that’s what I remember McDonald’s fries being so much better when I was really young.

Regardless of fast food memories, beef tallow home fries are a real treat and now I can understand why my mother will wax poetic about them for hours.


Anonymous said...

The ultimate french fry is fried in beef fat -- twice!

1) Choose an Idaho Russet potato. Russet Burbanks if you can get them.

2) Condition the potato by storing in a 70 degree environment for a couple of weeks (potatoes coming out of cold storage need time to convert sugars back to starch).

3) Cut the potatoes into the desired fry size, like the fast food places do.

4) Soak the cut potato strips in room temperature water for at least 8 hours, overnight is good (this soaking plumps up the cells within the potatoes to result in an improved texture). DO NOT USE ICE WATER OR REFRIGERATE!

5) Dry the potato strips and fry in 300 degree oil until just cooked inside and limp, fry time is dependent on the thickness of the fry strip. Let cool.

6) Bring oil to 375 degrees and fry until golden brown and crispy.

7) Of course, use beef fat, properly twice fried fries will not soak up fat.
What's the point of endeavoring to produce the very best french fry and then compromising the taste with a neutral tasting fry oil.

8) Important, work in controlled sized batches that doesn't drop the frying temperature significantly.
Maintain the fry temp or the fries will absorb fat.

Cynical Cook said...

I've got some more unrendered kidney fat in the freezer. I'll give your method a try and report back.