First let me say that I totally get your initial reaction if you've never eaten kidney. "EW GROSS NO WAY!" I had the same reaction 5 years ago when I first went Paleo.
If you grew up in a Standard American Household, likely you never ate any offal whatsoever. Maybe some liver and onions when you were a kid. Or, if you're from the South like me, some fried chicken gizzards or livers (which by the way, somehow were some of my FAVORITE foods growing up, in a diet that otherwise consisted of refined wheat flour and processed cheese. Yikes.)
So, for most of us, the idea of eating offal is quite foreign. Which can make it feel scary and intimidating. And there's just something about eating organs which can make one feel a bit squeamish.
But why? If you think hard enough about where the "normal" meats you're used to eating come from, the skeletal flesh that they are, it can feel kinda creepy, too.
When I first went Paleo, I was coming off of over a decade of being a vegetarian for ethical reasons. The only way I was able to reconcile eating meat was to choose to buy only from farmers I knew were raising the animals the right way. That means: pasture-based farming. Cows eating grass, chickens roaming the grounds eating bugs and grass and everything they can get their little beaks on, pigs foraging, goats and sheep chowing down on grasses, weeds, even shrubs/small trees. No feedlots. No tortured animals. Husbandry practices that let the animals express their natural tendencies and social desires. And a deep respect for their lives from beginning to end.
One of the best ways we as meat consumers can show our deep respect for these animals' lives is to not waste any part of them. It's easy to get on board with making bone broth, but not wasting the organ meats is a bigger mental and emotional hurdle for most.
Don't let it be.
Organ meats have a rich history in ALL traditional diets. Heck, even in my own family, if you go back to my Gramma and great-grandmother. I heard stories about eating all of the pig once it was slaughtered, including having brains and eggs for breakfast the next day.
Humans have been eating the whole animal since, well, the very beginning! Organ meats are nothing to be afraid of or intimidated by. C'mon, if I can cook liver, kidney, tongue, heart, FEET, heads....you can too! No joke, I used to not even be able to walk down the supermarket meat aisle or be in the same room as raw meat. And now I can butcher my own chickens and prepare everything from nose to tail.
Part of what gave me the courage to just say "oh all right, fine, I'll do it! I'll eat offal!" was learning about how nutritious offal is. Below is a snapshot of what 4 oz of beef kidney satisfies for me, nutrition-wise:
At the time of writing, I am a 31 year old female, 5'5" tall, 150 lbs, and eating just 4 ounces of beef kidney supplies me with only 8% of my daily calories, yet satisfies 46% of my daily nutritional needs. THAT, my friends, is what we mean by nutrient dense: you get a ton of nutrition packed into a very small amount of calories. And look at how beautifully complete that protein is!
What does kidney taste like?
All organ meats have their own wonderful, unique flavor. Kidney in general has a very rich flavor that will remind you of liver, yet to me has a somewhat nutty, very earthy flavor. The texture is like that of cooked mushroom.
As with other offal, beef has the strongest flavor compared to lamb or pork. Beef kidneys are the only type you should use in a steak and kidney pie as they benefit from the long cooking time. Lamb kidney is much more tender and tastes wonderful sauteed or pan-fried.
Also, proper cleaning is important. You want to be sure to remove all of the white from the inside. Slice it in half lengthwise and then cut away the white interior so that you only cook the deep red "fleshy" part.
Cut it into very small pieces to hide it better in the pie and you may not even notice that you are eating it.
Cooking by weight vs volume
I am starting to switch over to cooking by weight, not volume, for baked goods. I've had requests from readers to make the switch, and after cooking from Brittany Angell's Every Last Crumb over the last year, I've realized it just makes sense and helps make recipes much more foolproof. I've made notes for approximate volume measurements, but for best results PLEASE weigh your ingredients. This is a great kitchen scale (the one I use), or pick one up at a local store.
I cannot guarantee good results if you don't weigh your ingredients.
I've provided approximate volumes, but you will be amazed at how different a cup of flour/starch can look in sifted vs unsifted, gently scooped vs lightly pressed. There are just so many variables when trying to measure dry goods by volume! I wish I had started sooner with measuring by weight.
The perfect pot-pie style crust
This crust is something incredibly special, and made possible by the glorious Otto's Cassava Flour. It truly reminds me of a classic pot-pie style crust and I am definitely going to do a chicken pot pie recipe with it. Enjoy!
Steak and Kidney Pie (Paleo, AIP)
Enjoy the incredible nutritive benefits of grass-fed beef kidney in a truly delicious, warm, and comforting pie, perfect for winter!
IngredientsFor the filling:
- 2 lbs ground beef (can also use a roast or steak cut into small cubes - see recipe notes for instructions)
- 1 to 1.5 lbs beef kidney (grass-fed if at all possible for best taste)
- 4 cups diced mirepoix (2 cups diced onion, 1 cup chopped celery, 1 cup chopped carrots)
- 1/2 to whole head of garlic
- 8 oz mushrooms
- 2-3 TB cassava flour or tapioca starch, for coating and frying kidney
- 2-4 bay leaves
- 1 pint bone broth
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2-4 TB lard or other mild fat for frying (will need the high end if using cubed steak/roast vs ground beef)
- 185 grams cassava flour (approximately 1-1/4 cups plus 2 TB)
- 30 grams tapioca starch (approx. 1/4 cup)
- 65 grams palm shortening (about 5 TB)
- 30 grams canned pumpkin puree (about 2 scant TB)
- 165 grams coconut milk (about a scant 3/4 cup)
- 2 grams unrefined salt, fine grind (about 1 tsp)
- Begin by preparing the kidney. Slice in half lengthwise and remove ALL of the white interior. You may find using kitchen shears makes this easier. Chop cleaned kidney "flesh" into small pieces - the smaller they are the easier they will be to hide in the pie. If using steak or a roast, cut it into cubes about 1" in size.
- Heat lard or other mild fat in a large, wide-bottomed pot (at least 5 qts capacity). Coat kidney pieces with cassava flour (using as much as necessary to coat entirely). Do not add cassava flour to ground beef.
- Fry coated kidney, working in batches if necessary, browning all sides, about 2-3 minutes per batch. Remove to a clean plate. Add all ground beef to pan and cook, stirring, til browned throughout. Remove from pan and strain pan drippings, leaving about 2 TB of fat for cooking veggies.
- Add mirepoix to heated fat in pan and cook til fragrant, about 3-4 minutes.
- Next, add mushrooms and garlic, cooking about 2-3 minutes.
- Add kidney and ground beef back to the pan along with salt, bay leaves, and bone broth. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook for 1 to 2 hours, until kidney is tender (larger pieces of kidney need longer cooking).
- While filling is cooking, make the crust. Weigh cassava flour, tapioca starch, and salt and combine in a large mixing bowl. Weigh shortening and pumpkin and use a dough blender or a fork to cut them both into the dough. It will take about 1-2 minutes and the finished product will look like pea-sized or smaller granules.
- Stir in coconut milk with a large spoon and mix until you have a dough. Use your hands to form it into a ball.
- Place dough ball between two sheets of parchment paper and roll out into a rectangle shape about an inch longer and wider than your 3 quart baking dish (approximately 9.5 x 14.5 inches - test it by placing your dish on top of the dough to see).
- Transfer cooked filling to the baking dish and let it cool for 20-30 minutes to make the crust easier to place.
- This is the tricky part - transferring the crust to the dish. It will be incredibly difficult to transfer it in one piece, so I recommend slicing it into 4 or 5 short pieces width-wise to lift and place on the dish. Then, use your fingers to *mostly* pinch together the seams (using a little water can help get them together) - you want there to be a few holes in the crust to vent steam. You may find it easier to actually let the filling mixture cool completely before placing the crust (I did this, I actually put the filling in the fridge to chill).
- Once covered completely with the crust, add to a 400F oven and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until crust is golden and cooked to your liking.
- Let pie rest for about 10 minutes before cutting and serving. Enjoy!!
Cook time: 01 hrs. 35 mins. to 02 hrs. 45 mins.
Total time: 01 hrs. 55 mins. to 03 hrs. 05 mins.
- You may use steak or roast, cut into 1" cubes instead of ground beef if you prefer. You will need a few additional tablespoons of cassava flour or tapioca starch to coat the cubes. Fry them in batches as necessary.
- ONLY USE BEEF KIDNEY. Other kidneys do not need long cooking the way beef kidney does. Also for best taste please source grass-fed beef kidney. You can order online if you don't have a local resource. Grocery store kidneys can have a much stronger odor and taste that could turn you off to the idea of eating kidney.
- Remember, buy Otto's Cassava Flour here, not from Amazon, and you'll save $6 per bag!
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