I had the occasion to present a "Lunch with a Difference" to a group of management for the Alliance Group recently.
The dishes presented included lambs fry, kidneys, tripe, sweetbreads, hearts and lamb's testicles, not too often seen on the butcher's shelf.
Often referred to as the "nasty bits" they are also known as mountain oysters, rocky mountain oysters, man oysters and lamb "fries". The singular of testicles is testis, meaning "witness" in Latin from ancient Roman times when a man would put his hand on his testicle when taking the oath in court.
Testicles as such are not a common culinary item in this country, whether they be lamb, beef, veal or duck.
Most of our millions of lambs are castrated reasonably young, removing the opportunity for people to enjoy the delicacy, unlike in Spain, France and even Canada where they are more easily obtainable. They are also not quite so uncommon in the Asian butcheries of Auckland.
In the United States several "fairs" are held annually where crumbed and fried "fries" are served with the perception they are an aphrodisiac. I am not sure how factual that perception is but they are a power pack, with somewhere around 140 calories, 25 grams of protein, 3g of fat, 1g carbohydrate and 375mg of cholesterol per 100g. They also contain useful amounts of potassium and sodium.
I did read about a couple of roughneck shepherds who were part of a team of a dozen or so tasked with castrating 1600 lambs over a few days. The story goes that these two tough guys decided to perform the castration by using their teeth. In my view they deserved the discomfort they endured for the few days following.
Like most testicles, lambs' can be cooked by simply barbecuing or poaching then crumbing and pan-frying them.
They are also useful sauteed in a little butter with lemon juice and parsley or battered like sweetbreads.
I recall a scene from a Chevy Chase movie where Chevy and his wife were trying to adjust to life in a new part of the country.
They were out enjoying an evening meal at a local cafe.
The cafe had a record of someone eating more than 25 or so lamb "fries" in one session and Chevy being Chevy decided he could easily beat that so started to enjoy them with gusto. He managed to beat the record but things weren't so good when he was told by their wait staffer just what the "fries" really were.
Finding a reliable source for the testicles will be as simple as chatting with your butcher (who should be able to source them through Alliance).
Have your butcher remove the outer membrane for you so all you are receiving is the clean, edible portion which will have a fresh lamb aroma. Allow one testicle per person.
PAN-FRIED MOUNTAIN OYSTERS WITH GREEN PEPPERCORN SAUCE (for 4 people)
4 lambs' testicles, membrane removed
1 free range egg
1 cup seasoned flour
2 cups panko crumbs (dried breadcrumbs will suffice)
1 Tbsp oil and butter
2 tsp green peppercorns
1 Tbsp brandy
sea salt and black pepper
Method: Cut each testicle into 4 slices.
Beat the egg and milk together.
Pass the slices of testicle through the seasoned flour then the egg mixture and finally through the breadcrumbs.
Heat a tablespoon oil and butter in a heavy-based pan and cook until nicely browned on the first side, turning over and continuing to cook until brown and crisp on the second side. Drain and rest on absorbent paper.
Continue until all 16 slices have been cooked and are resting.
Lightly rinse the pan with a little water to clear away any breadcrumbs and place the pan back on the heat.
Add the peppercorns with the brandy and ignite to flame very quickly then add the cream.
Allow to cook for about a minute until the cream thickens.
Season the sauce with sea salt and fresh black pepper.
Pour the sauce alongside your mountain oysters and enjoy.
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