An excellent email dropped into my box over the weekend from a small but renowned, Vermont farmer and friend:
My vet friend Al has castrated 12 young bulls today and wants to cook them (the balls, aka rocky mountain oysters…)–I want to avoid rolling in ritz crackers and frying–any alternative suggestions?
I went immediately to books—him, what books, though? Joy of Cooking? They used to have squirrel recipes in with the casseroles. But no. Ah ha! Fergus Henderson’s Nose to Tail. Nope. With all the cookbooks I owned not one with some decent balls recipes. But wait, I’d looked in the ALL NEW Joy, the controversial rewrite of the classic. (So controversial in fact that a re-revision has recently been completed, about which more later.) Yes, in the classic, there is a brief recipe on lamb fries, very basic, but helpful; I hope Scribner will return the fries to the newest volume. I was sure to find something tasty sounding like bulls balls with green lentils in Bourdain’s Les Halles, but alas nothing testicle related in this otherwise sterling volume. Happily, I still had in my possession, borrowed from a friend, the best book on offal cookery I’ve found, Variety Meats, from James Olney’s unsurpassed Time Life’s The Good Cook series.
I wrote back to Diane:
I’ve never cooked balls before but they’re in the category of brains and sweetbreads ("in the category of brains," consider the implications of that!), almost always fried but there’s no end to what you might do. Brown butter and sauteed napa cabbage I bet would be great. Or a tomato sauce (like eggplant) or mushrooms and sauce, anything so long as they have a crisp exterior. Get them crispy on the outside, then they carry the garnish. Richard Olney has recipes and basic prep (he calls them "fries," skins and par boils them to firm them up before frying) and offers good all-purpose suggestions.
So my question to foodies out there is—does anyone have other books with recipes and what are people’s experience with cooking them or eating them beyond the fried novelties called prairie oysters at Montana sports bars?
I’ll try to post pix of Diane’s balls soon…