Chef in Venice #1 - Veal kidney with oyster mushrooms

Tuesday, November 18, 2008
I left the Adagio from Mahler's fifth on the CD rack at home - this, after all, was the chef in Venice rather than Death in Venice.
The Billa on the Zattere in Venice has to have the best view from the front of a suprarket of any shop in the world - looking out over the Guidecca canal to the Island of the same name. It also has the most amazing array of quality ingredients - but that’s probably only because I am used to English supermarkets. The charcuterie and cheese counter makes you almost believe you are back in the food halls of Harrods or Selfridges, which, living in the Cotswolds as I do now, are but a distant memory. And the variety on the pasta, polenta and rice shelves make you want to move there permenantly.

On the fresh meats counter we stocked up on the essentials - veal escallops, veal kidney and whole quail - not exactly what you find in the local supermarket back at home.
It had been a while since I had cooked veal kidneys - lambs or pigs (which, having a stronger flavour is preferable I think to lamb, and more economical) being the more usual choice.
The preparation is the same. You just need to cut them through the middle laterally, then snip out the main veins which you can do with scissors - especially with veal kidney as they are so large.

I then fried them in olive oil (when you’re in Italy it’s the only thing to use) about 5 minutes either side till just cooked in the middle (if cooking for high risk groups I.e. children or pregnant women ensure they are cooked through) then rested. Meanwhile, without my normal stock of ingredients I have back in my own kitchen, I made a sauce from sautéing the oyster mushrooms, then deglazing the pan with red wine - and when this was reduced adding a little butter. Just before serving I added a little chopped rocket - using it as a herb.

Roasted squash and gnocchi finished off the dish.

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