VEAL KIDNEY À LA GRAISSE ;MUSTARD SEEDS, BLACK RADISH, BUTTER LETTUCE
I ENJOY TEASING our diners with dishes that they may not expect in a Michelin three-star restaurant, such as this kidney preparation. It is an homage to Alain Chapel, one of the pillars of starred nouvelle cuisine in the 1970s, who was known in culinary circles around the world for his simple but majestic dishes. Chapel was a champion of game and offal and was known for a fabulous rognon à la graisse. Roasted at high heat, the meat is protected by the fat, which doesn’t melt but encases all the flavors. I feel that rognon or kidney calls for acidity and jazz, and I present it here with crushed pepper and mustard seeds. There’s a real love affair between the French and their mustard!
“Veal kidneys (rognons) are an integral part of the cuisine lyonnaise. La Mère Brazier, the first woman to receive three Michelin stars, in 1933, and who once hired an apprentice named Paul Bocuse, was rumored to serve the best in the region.”
Pull off the layers of fat encasing each kidney. Open both fat layers onto a flat surface lined with parchment paper and cover with more parchment paper. With a flat meat mallet, pound the fat to make approximately ¼-inch-thick sheets, being careful not to tear them. Lift the parchment and sprinkle the fat on both sides with the crushed black pepper and mustard seeds. Gently press the seasoning into the fat.
Peel any white membrane from the kidneys. Use a paring knife to remove most of the large veins and fat that extend through their seams, being careful not to split them. Season the kidneys on all sides with salt and white pepper and wrap each in a sheet of fat, trimming away excess with scissors. Secure the fat with butcher’s twine and reserve the kidneys, chilled, for up to 1 day.
For the Black Radish
With a mandoline, slice at least 12 paper-thin discs from the tops and bottoms of the radishes, wrap in damp paper towels, and reserve, chilled, for garnishing. Halve the radishes and cut each half into 6 cubes; reserve for roasting. Cut the remaining trim into brunoise for the braised lettuce.
For the Lettuce Puree
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and place a bowl of ice water on the side. Separate the lettuce leaves and boil them for 20 seconds, or until tender. Strain and chill in the ice water (reserve the boiling water and ice for the braised lettuce). Heat the oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat and add the onion and potato. Cook, stirring, without coloring, for 10 to 15 minutes, until very tender, and set aside. Squeeze dry the lettuce and transfer to a blender with the cooked potato and onion. Puree, adding spoonfuls of water if needed to make a smooth puree, then pass through a fine-meshed sieve and chill over ice. If needed, adjust the seasoning with salt; reserve, chilled.
For the Braised Lettuce Spheres
Peel 3 of the largest leaves from each head of lettuce. Boil them for 10 seconds, then transfer to the ice water to chill, being careful not to tear. Pat dry and trim away the thick white stems.
Separate the remaining lettuce leaves and rinse them with cold running water. Dry in a salad spinner; pick 18 of the smallest yellow leaves and reserve them for garnish.
Melt the butter in a medium sauté pan over medium heat and add the carrot, celery, onion, and reserved brunoised black radish. Cook, stirring, until the onion is translucent. Add the remaining lettuce leaves and continue to cook, stirring, over medium heat until wilted and tender. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer everything to a cutting board and roughly chop. Divide into 12 equal mounds and chill.
Place a large square of plastic wrap on a flat surface and open a boiled lettuce leaf on top into a flat layer. Sprinkle it with salt and pepper and place a mound of braised lettuce in the center. Pull the edges of the plastic up to wrap the lettuce leaf around the filling and twist the plastic to form it into a tight sphere. Repeat to make 12 spheres. Reserve, chilled.
For the Peewee Potato Tempura
In a small saucepan, combine the potatoes, thyme, and garlic and cover with cold water. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Cook for 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are easily pierced with a cake tester. Strain and, while still warm, peel the potatoes.
When ready to serve, fill one-third of a medium saucepan with canola oil and heat to 350°F. In small batches, coat the potatoes in tempura batter and fry until golden brown. Drain on paper towels and season with salt.
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Rest the kidneys at room temperature for 15 minutes. Transfer the veal jus to a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Add the mustard seeds and Dijon mustard. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and infuse for 15 minutes. If needed, adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.
Transfer the lettuce puree to a small saucepan over medium heat and stir to heat through.
Heat the duck fat in a large, heavy-bottomed sauté pan over medium-high heat. Sear all sides of the kidneys until golden brown. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, while basting with the fat, 1 minute. Strain half of the fat and transfer the pan to the oven.
Roast the kidneys, turning and basting every 5 minutes, until they reach an internal temperature of 115°F, checking after 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, cover with foil, and rest in a warm place until the internal temperature reaches 135°F.
Meanwhile, spoon approximately 2 tablespoons of the fat from the pan with the kidneys into a medium sauté pan and warm over high heat. Add the reserved radish cubes and sear on all sides until golden brown, about 3 minutes total. Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the butter, and season with salt and pepper. Continue to cook, stirring, until tender, about 8 more minutes.
Bring a medium saucepan of water to a simmer, remove from the heat, and immediately submerge the plastic-wrapped lettuce spheres for 3 minutes. Strain and carefully unwrap the spheres from the plastic.
Transfer the kidneys to a cutting board and trim and discard the strings and fat. Divide the kidneys into 6 portions by slicing along the natural seams, or slice them to desired thickness.
For each serving, place a portion of veal kidney in a large serving bowl, top with 2 lettuce spheres and 4 radish cubes, and cover with the jus. Arrange 4 pieces of potato tempura, 3 yellow lettuce leaves, 2 radish shavings, a few spoons of lettuce puree, and a few dots of grainy mustard on top.