This blog is a place to share my passion for cooking and inspire people to cook more from scratch. With six people in the family, cooking is something that is always on my mind. I want to share some of my favorite foods and recipes and share more about traditional diets (like the kind of food our great, great, great grandmothers would have made). Right now I am fascinated with fermented vegetables, coconuts, seafood with a cerviche twist and organ meats... although maybe not all in the same meal!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Rocky Mountain Oysters

Tastes Like Chicken!

 Perhaps even I've gone too far this time... but I'm not one to shy away from a challenge.  I didn't mean to go down this road but it is where I ended up.  Here's how it all went down....

Me(Donna):  Walking into the farmer's market on Saturday.  "Oh, there's a line at Fickle Creek.  Must be something good."  So I get on the line.  Plus I needed to buy some eggs anyway.

Farmer's market salesperson (FMS):  "So we have fresh lamb today.  We have roasts, chops, ground lamb, organ meats, all kinds of things.  What do you want?"

Donna:  "I want some ground lamb.  And definitely some organ meat.  What kinds do you have?"

FMS:   "Heart, liver and Rocky Mountain Oysters."

Donna:  "What do you mean, oysters? Like real oysters?"

FMS:  Laughing... "No, not real oysters.  Testicles, lamb testicles.  I had some chef friends make them for me once-- I didn't know what they were or I wouldn't have eaten them.  But they were good!" 

Donna:  Wheels spinning in head now realizing this is a chef challenge... "Hmmm.  OK then I'll take some ground lamb, a heart, liver and the oysters.  

Back at home:  I now am the proud owner of lots of fresh organ meat so I have to come up with some ways to put all these things into use.  The ground lamb and the heart were easy... meatloaf.  And that's another blog post perhaps and the liver is also a slam dunk... pate'.  But what to do with those other.... things.  Yes, yes, what to do.... 

So with the wonders of the internet I learn that Rocky Mountain Oysters, also known as "cowboy caviar," and "swinging beef" is somewhat of a Midwestern delicacy and that there are lots of festivals dedicated to just this food.  I also learn that generally they need to be removed from the outer tough shell, soaked in salt water to purify, boiled, and then usually fried for best results.  I looked over several recipes on the web before setting out my plan of attack.

I also am curious as to why anyone would want to eat these... except that I know that in general organ meats are very good for you (if they come from a healthy animal) and I am thinking there must be some good stuff to find out about the benefits.  I found an interesting article on the Weston Price website  that discusses some of the history of the food and the author references a 1977 article in Lipid Metabolism of Animals Journal  that 100 grams of raw hog or cattle testicle (I am assuming lamb might be similar?) would have 3 grams fat, 375 mg cholesterol, 26 grams protein and 1 gram carbs and 135 calories.  He speculates that the organ might contain the same elements necessary for reproductive health which would be vitamins A & D, B6, zinc, and the fatty acids EPA and DHA.  

On the LiveStrong Website they say that Rocky Mountain Oysters would be a good source of natural progesterone.  The article says "Progesterone is a hormone produced by women prior to ovulation. In women, progesterone aids in the regulation of the menstrual cycle. Men also produce progesterone, though in much lower amounts than in women. Progesterone is beneficial to the body in a variety of ways, including stimulating the thyroid gland and regulating its production, aiding in the production of collagen, reducing inflammation and increasing immunity. Some foods contain enzymes that are metabolized into progesterone when consumed, providing a natural boost of progesterone."  So they seem to think eating these things could be beneficial to your health.

There was a video circulating on the internet from Dr. Terry Wahls, a doctor who greatly improved her MS from eating lots of veggies, wild fish, grass fed meat, seaweed and organ meats.   I figure if it was so helpful in her health, it is probably helpful for most people even if they are not dealing with MS or any serious disease.  The video itself was quite compelling so I think I've just had organ meats on my mind lately and been looking for a way to get more in me. 

And so I did.  Here are roughly the steps I took:

You have to remove this outer layer of tough skin so I did that with, of all things, my boning knife (figured it would be very sharp and helpful).

Second, I soaked the "stuff" in a salt water mix for over an hour which removes the blood an impurities.

Then I par boiled this for about 15 minutes making sure they looked "cooked."  I added some vinegar to the water in the pot.

Once it was boiled down it looked like this and I sliced it into small pieces.

I made a mix of coconut flakes, salt, pepper and turmeric and alternated putting the coconut coating on the chunks and then dipped into wine and then went back to the coconut coating and dipped them in milk before one last dip in the coconut mix.  I figure since I was trying to maximize the health benefits that coconut flakes would be a better choice than cornmeal.

Then it was fried in a mix of pork fat and duck fat.  I have to tell the truth... they tasted GOOD!  It kind of tasted like a chicken nugget.  I know it is a lot to get past the idea of what it is, so I don't blame you if you can't go there.  There is some great irony in the fact that this particular meal is very affordable (less than $5) and highly nutritious but yet repulsive on some level also.  However, if you are going to honor the animal you might as well use every part because to throw something away when there are people starving for nutrition is also somehow not right.  Ancient cultures knew this but our modern culture has lost these important lessons. 

The custom of eating organ meat once a week has some wisdom.  I don't know that we need to go to these uncomfortable places every day but to sometimes stretch ourselves can have health benefits.  Fortunately there are so many other organ parts without baggage-- somehow liver seems benign after this experience-- that one may not need to revisit this particular place very often at all.  But I have found that it is the place that we DON'T want go, is sometimes the place where we most need to go.  We need to become more comfortable being uncomfortable.  So if this whole story repulses you, perhaps it is somewhere you should go...

Let me know if any of you take the journey and also if you know any more about the benefits of eating Rocky Mountain Oysters! 

Also posted at Kelly the Kitchen Kop's Real Food Wednesday

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