Rognoncini trifolati (Sautéed Kidneys)

Rognoncini trifolati (Sautéed Kidneys)

In secondi piatti by Frank18 Comments

Long time readers will know that I’m a lover of organ meats—the “quinto quarto” as they were affectionately called back in Rome. I love liver and tripe and sweetbreads and brains (although I haven’t had the latter since the Mad Cow outbreak in the 90s)… and, yes, kidneys. If they’re properly prepared, kidneys have an exquisitely delicate flavor. Even people who object to offal might find they like them.

Rognoncini trifolati, or sautéed kidneys, may be the most straightforward way to prepare kidneys. In Italian cookery, when something is trifolato, or “truffled”, it means that it has been thinly sliced and quickly sautéed in garlic and oil. It’s a classic technique we’ve featured before on the blog with mushrooms and artichokes. And it works equally well for veal or lamb kidneys. The only trick, if you can call it that, is not to overcook the kidneys, or they will turn rubbery.

When it comes to kidneys, a little bit goes a long way. I’ve indicated here that 500g (about one pound) will feed 4-6, assuming you’ll serve your kidneys with a side boiled rice or mashed potatoes. But if you and your dining companions really love the kidney, or just have healthy appetites, you can simply make more…

Ingredients

Serves 4-6

  • 500g (1 lb) veal or lamb kidneys, trimmed and sliced (see Notes)
  • 1 or 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and slightly crushed
  • White wine
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • A sprig of fresh parsley, finely minced

Optional:

  • 1-2 anchovy filets, mashed together with a knob of butter

Directions

To remove possible strong flavors from the kidneys, soak them in water with a few drops of lemon juice or vinegar for about an hour for smaller kidneys, two hours for larger ones. Pour them into a colander and let them drain for a few minutes.

In large skillet, sauté the garlic cloves in olive oil over moderate heat until they are just turning brown around the edges. Remove and discard.

Raise the heat to high and add the sliced kidneys. Sauté them briskly, tossing them from time to time and seasoning with salt and pepper, then adding just a drizzle of white wine. If using, add the anchovy-butter paste at the very end and let it dissolve into the cooking juices.

Turn off the heat and mix in the minced parsley. Serve immediately, topped with more minced parsley, accompanied with buttered rice or mashed potatoes if you like.

Rognoncini trifolati (Sautéed Kidneys)

Notes on Rognoncini Trifolati (Sautéed Kidneys)

Veal kidneys are the classic choice for this dish. I found lamb kidneys today at a local Asian supermarket and found they work very well, too. Pork kidneys are rather larger and have a high fat content. They are perhaps better grilled. Beef kidneys have a stronger flavor only for hardcore offal lovers. They are the largest type of kidney, too tough for the trifolati treatment. Braise them instead.

Most kidneys in this country are sold already trimmed, but they naturally have a layer of fat around them that needs to be removed if they are sold as is. Kidneys also have tough white gristle at their centers. You can remove this by splitting larger kidneys in half lengthwise and removing the gristle with a paring knife (see photo). In smaller kidneys, the gristle can be pretty minimal. If this is the case, you can simply slice around the gristle, staring on each end of the kidney, then trimming off the gristle before slicing the center part of the kidney.

Kidneys, especially the larger ones, need purging of any strong flavors. Besides soaking them in acidulated water as indicated here, some Italian recipes call for an initial quick sauté over high heat, either in a dry skillet or with minimal fat, and letting them drain of their juices for a half hour. It’s a quicker technique than soaking, but doesn’t appeal to me, since I like my kidneys medium-rare.

The cooking time for kidneys depends on how large they are and how well done you like them. Personally, I prefer sautéed kidneys still just a bit pink inside, so I figure on a total cooking time of no more than 5 minutes. Some recipes, however, call for much longer cooking times, 15 minutes or more. Unless your kidneys are particularly big, this strikes me as the perfect way to toughen them.

Variations

Some recipes call for a soffritto of both onion and garlic, which would tend to sweeten the dish, lending it perhaps some of the qualities of a fegato alla veneziana. Some recipes call for a drizzle of Marsala rather than white wine. In some recipes, the kidney slices are lightly floured before sautéing. This aids browning and provides for a thicker sauce. Ada Boni suggests a squeeze of lemon juice before serving. It’s her idea, too, to add the anchovy-butter paste at the end, which is a very nice touch indeed.

Rignoncini trifolati (Sautéed Kidneys)

1 hour

15 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Yield: Serves 4-6

Rignoncini trifolati (Sautéed Kidneys)

Ingredients

  • 500g (1 lb) veal or lamb kidneys, trimmed and sliced (see Notes)
  • 1 or 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and slightly crushed
  • White wine
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • A sprig of fresh parsley, finely minced

Directions

  1. To remove possible strong flavors from the kidneys, soak them in water with a few drops of lemon juice or vinegar for about an hour for smaller kidneys, two hours for larger ones. Pour them into a colander and let them drain for a few minutes.
  2. In large skillet, sauté the garlic cloves in olive oil over moderate heat until they are just turning brown around the edges. Remove and discard.
  3. Raise the heat to high and add the sliced kidneys. Sauté them briskly, tossing them from time to time and seasoning with salt and pepper, then adding just a drizzle of white wine. If using, add the anchovy-butter paste at the very end and let it dissolve into the cooking juices.
  4. Turn off the heat and mix in the minced parsley. Serve immediately, topped with more minced parsley, accompanied with buttered rice or mashed potatoes if you like.
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Comments

  1. The only kidneys I’ve tried have been in Steak and Kidney pie and I wasn’t a fan. I think it was the texture and the flavor, not just one or the other. That said, I’m not one to shy away from offal, as you know I like lots of it (haggis, for example). Looks like a lovely way to cook kidneys, though!

    1. Author

      I think so. And I’m still waiting to try haggis, by the way. Not sure there’s a place around here…

  2. Love this – my mother taught me to make kidneys this way long ago – but hers were very lightly dredged in flour – otherwise identical. I am now completely jonesing for this dish:-). To make it I’ll have to order kidneys from the meat dept- they are never in the case or even the freezer.

  3. I adore organ meats, but often my dining companions do not. Frank you may have to schedule a visit so we can visit the range of delectable products often overlooked. Your instructions and comments are, as always, on target.

  4. I am not a fan of organ meat but you turned them into an art form with this post. I might have given them a try if you had served them to me. Also I wanted to comment on your recent dressing a salad post…it was perfect!

  5. Dear Frank, kidneys are a delicious meal and not many people appreciate unless they visit or living in Europe, in Toscany we in the winter eat quite frequently and the recipe you are proposing is the best, simple and tasty. Talking about brain, I remember eating it this way, flower it then in an oven dish just but butter, capers and a dash of white dry wine, cooked till is nice and brown all over. That for me was heaven on earth, mind you the colesterol lever is not a joke. Thanks again for your lovely recipes. Tante belle cose. Vittorio

    1. Author

      Thanks so much for stopping by, Vittorio! As I mentioned, I love brains and your recipe sounds divine. Will try it if I ever find a source for brains around here…

  6. I’ve only had kidneys cooked in French-style recipes, never Italian, so I’m grateful for this. It’s been ages since I’ve had them — you rarely see them these days, even at good butcher shops (they’re a special order item) — and you have me totally craving them. Really like this recipe — simple yet so flavorful. Thanks!

    1. Author

      Thanks for the comment, John! Good to find another kidney lover. So true about kidneys and other organ meats being so hard to find these days. What a shame.

  7. Like you, I love all organ meats. Well, except I’ve never had brains… (Sadly, those that know me would agree that I have never had brains…) Kidneys are the one organ meat that I have never prepared at home. I’m going to try your version using some of Ada Boni’s suggestions. The anchovy, butter, and lemon remind me very much of the gremolata I use with my veal shanks.

  8. è un piatto che faccio poco ma che mi piace molto, per togliere l’odore forte sfumo il rognone con il Brandy, l’ho sempre preferito al vino bianco. Buon weekend Frank , una abbraccio !

    1. Author

      Grazie per l’idea, Chiara. La prossima volta che faccio i rognoni li proverò con il brandy.

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