So this is not a recipe blog and I’m domestically challenged and thus do not attempt the recipe world. But it is a calving blog, and in the ranching world, there is one time of year where we get to enjoy the delicacy of Calf Fries.
Maybe since it’s April 1st, some of you think this is a joke. But Calf Fries are no joking matter. I thought at least our Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond (whose recipes I love) would have a recipe on her site for calf fries, but in searching only found an article that said she doesn’t eat them. My Ranch Woman’s Manual book doesn’t say anything about them either. These women are missing out!
Some people use the phrase “Calf Fries” and “Rocky Mountain Oysters” interchangeably. In my opinion there is a BIG difference between the two. Rocky Mountain Oysters are typically found in restaurants and are from bull testicles while Calf Fries are from the calves we castrate at branding time. Which begs the question, if vegetarians can eat eggs and milk, can they eat Calf Fries? Nothing died from producing them? I think they could. My mother in law was a vegetarian for awhile (her religion encourages vegetarianism) and she would always eat the Calf Fries.
Bull testicles are much more chewy and tough, Calf Fries are like the most tender chicken fried steak you ever ate. The meat is super soft and melts in your mouth. Everyone has their own way of cooking them. I bread mine like chicken fried steak and fry them.
If you’re ever at a branding and some cow poke tells you to eat a Calf Fry “the cowboy way” by throwing it fresh off the calf, uncleaned, on the branding fire, he’s yankin’ your latigo. That is no proper way to eat testicles.
Here is the proper way to eat them.
First you have to castrate the calf. We put the testicles in a bucket of cool water while we’re in the branding corral. They get a rinse when they come inside, but stay in the bucket of water in the fridge until we’re ready to clean them.
To clean them, you’ll need a very sharp knife. I mean like fish fillet sharp. The testicle will have three layers:
The first two layers are cut through and not eaten (see, aren’t you glad you didn’t listen to that cow poke?). Make sure to rinse things so you don’t get any calf hairs. If you get one everyone else will want one too, and there won’t be enough.
You cut through each layer and then squeeze the meat out, bread it, then cook it. I may note NOT to put the meat into a dish of cool water, just place it on a plate. The meat is so tender it will fall apart in water and be unusable. Here is a short video of my husband cleaning a couple to help you see the process:
The meat is small little pieces and cleaning Calf Fries can be somewhat time consuming. It’s like lobster, a lot of work but the food is so good it’s more than worth it. That whole bucket is only enough to feed a couple people. Lucky for us my in-laws are gone today, leaving all the Calf Fries to ourselves.
First they are rolled in some flour with a little salt and pepper. Then they go in the buttermilk, then the flour, then the pan. If you are feeling REALLY ambitious, you can do flour, buttermilk, flour, buttermilk, flour. This gives them an extra thick breading but takes more time. Then again, these are Calf Fries, they deserve your time.
They go in the frying pan (cast iron is the only pan worthy of Calf Fries) with some canola oil. Flip em’ once to get each side golden brown. I don’t cook mine too hot because I want the meat to cook before the breading burns. If you’re inexperienced, use a meat thermometer and cook them to at least 165 degrees.
In the end you should have a plate of golden Calf Fries. I sprinkle a little more salt and pepper with them. Calf Fries’ best friends are fried potatoes and chocolate cake (fruit??? who needs fruit?). This plate is only about a third of them:
Some people may think this is odd, or backwards, or whatever. But in reality, it’s just plain resourceful. Why throw away all that perfectly good meat? That would be wasteful, especially when it taste this good. We even utilize the layers we discard as treat for the dogs. I might add that it is not wise to feed them all to a dog in one setting, a few at a time is plenty unless you want a mess on your porch.
We are in a very large ranching community and towns will host entire events centered around Calf Fries. They’re basically a staple in calving season here.