Wednesday, March 10, 2010

So You Want to Be a Baller?

Nose to tail eating is an ethos that embodies political correctness. Who can't get behind the idea of using every part of an animal? Sure, every sknny-jean wearing hipster with this month's copy of Edible Wherever tucked under his arm can settle into a pork jowl or trotter and take one for the Fergus Henderson team. The added bonus is that pork jowls and trotters (when cooked the right way) are delicious. So eating head to tail in this way is a bit like going to church only twice a year, on Easter and Christmas. You can put in your time and feel good about yourself; everyone sees you there; it doesn't hurt too much.

But who really practices true head to tail eating? How many among us delight in brain, or tendon, or testicles? These nasty bits, although they have a small following, often go ignored. But in the religion of nose to tail, having brains AND balls is what transcends the eater from political correct do-gooder to true enlightened guru. And for the record, balls (when cooked the right way) are delicious.

Deer balls, when held tenderly, feel disturbingly familiar.

This is the time of year when I open my freezer and find strange body parts. Hunting season is long past and the choice cuts have been eaten. I'm left with things like deer testicles.

There are a few tricks and techniques that come in handy when cooking them. As with anything,the key to cooking testicles, is understanding the ingredient. Testicles (and this shouldn't be surprising) are naturally salty. They also (and this is always surprising) tend to explode. I learned the latter the hard way when my friend Alan roasted two pair a few years ago; four balls went into the oven, three balls came out. After that incident, I did a little research. This post is about sharing that knowledge with you as a way to help with your journey toward food enlightenment.

Testicles have two membranes that surround the glands. The outer membrane encases the balls- a sack, if you will. Kitchen sheers help to cut through the tough tissue which can then be peeled back and torn away from the inner membrane. This inner membrane (tunica albuginea, for those of you following along in your copy of Gray's Anatomy) is what makes the balls explode when they are heated. It can shrink immediately when it comes in contact with heat, forcing its contents (the actual gland) to shoot all over the inside of your oven. To avoid this (and you want to avoid this), the inner membrane needs to be punctured, allowing it to shrink away from the testicle.

Here's a video demonstrating the peeling, puncturing, roasting, and slicing of a pair of deer testicles. It features Trent, Steve, Greg, and Elvis.

If you've come as far as the video shows, the the hard work is done. Bread and fry the slices of balls as you would a fried green tomato. Most importantly, you can feel good about yourself as an eater knowing that none of an animal has gone to waste. Welcome to true food enlightenment; feel free to bask in the salinity.


  1. "Testicles (and this shouldn't be surprising) are naturally salty."

    Brilliant writing. You're a true baller.

  2. OMG, I don't know whether to laugh or be totally grossed out. But, I would expect nothing less from you Ian! Glad to see you've found a new outlet post-Gourmet. All the best to you - hope you're well! :o)

  3. BALLS !!

    I've been all over the web and can't find out how to prepare chicken breast fillet with the wing bone on, restaurant style!

    Ian, I found you on youtube via gourmet. Your video on how to prepare a whole chicken I've found especially helpful and now buy whole chickens all the time!

    The only thing I can't seem to find out how to do on line (and I've been checking everywhere) is how to prepare a whole chicken breast fillet with the wing bone attached. I managed to do it last week using your existing method and simply leaving the wing on, but it gets in the way when you try to remove the ribs from the underneath of the breast. Actually now I think of it, the collar bones are a nuisance also. So I'm thinking there must be a much better way.

    I was looking for an email for you, couldn't find one... and the contact form on is f**ked.

    Cheers for all the tips dude!

    Rod Morris. Dublin, IRL.

    btw.. check out the roof on the Elements Hostel/Hotel on Mission St. SF the BBQ's might be going ;)


  4. That's so grody! I'd probably eat it though ;)

  5. A belated comment, but if you ever find yourself in Atlanta you should try Holeman & Finch. Their "schnitzeled" veal balls were really wonderful (though they seem to be off the menu now). The gratin of marrow was excellent too (but I've had better belly).

  6. I love the music selection for the video. Also I like the blog I'm glad I found it.