One woman’s red ant is another man’s main course. The things humans eat are as varied as their cultures.
Johnathan L. Wright/RGJ
RENO — If you’re going to undertake the tricky knife work to release lamb testicles from their sacs then thinly slice them, bread them and fry them in pans to serve as lamb fries to a gathering of political poohbahs, including Vice President Mike Pence, then you’ve got to begin well in advance.
“It’s a painstaking process,” said Mark Estee, chef-owner of Liberty Food & Wine Exchange, speaking not only about testicle preparation, but also about what it takes to obtain the organ meat in the first place.
Though the testicles themselves are fairly large (roughly, four to a pound), the market for them is small, and procuring the orbs (more oblongs, actually) in significant quantity means “collecting them ahead of time and stockpiling them,” Estee said.
The chef has been doing just that for Saturday’s Basque Fry at Corley Ranch in Gardnerville, where Estee and crew will serve more than 300 pounds of testicles cooked à la minute into cutlets. The lamb fries are the event’s signature dish.
More: Eating at your desk? Your cubemates may be seething
More: Watch crazy state fair food from across the country
Morning in Nevada PAC hosts the annual event to raise money for conservative causes, candidates and organizations. This year, Pence, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt are among the featured speakers.
Laxalt hails from a Basque clan, and lamb (in all its cuts and variety meats) ranks among the staples of Basque cooking, of course.
“My grandfather’s fry would serve them stewed,” Laxalt said of the testicles. “There basically was no choice about eating them, and those who didn’t were noticed. I’m OK with them any style but probably like fried best.”
Estee worked with Wolf Pack Meats, the University of Nevada’s meat processor, and local producers like Borda Family Lamb to source the testicles, but eventually, he ranged as far as Colorado to find them.
At the Basque Fry, the chef will dredge the testicle slices in seasoned flour, dip them in beaten egg, then dredge them again in bread crumbs before delivery to a hot pan for about 90 seconds. After that, folks can anoint the fried testicles with a squeeze of lemon juice.
Estee compared the taste and texture of lamb fries to abalone. The fries will be offered in a separate buffet line “because not everyone will want to eat them,” Estee said. In all, the Basque Fry will feature 21 buffet lines (plus two VIP tents) for an expected 3,500 attendees.
Chops and chorizo
This year marks the second time in a row Estee is catering the Basque Fry. Last year, before his inaugural outing, the chef had to bone up on his testicle technique, on how best to handle the plump glistening organs.
“We like to think we can cook anything,” he said of the Liberty Food & Wine team, “but we had to do some research. I didn’t have a grandma who taught me how to do this.”
The chef isn’t just applying himself to testicles. He’s butchering 10 animals from Borda Family Lamb for loin chops, rib chops and lamb stew, and he’s fashioning chorizo from two locally sourced grinds spiked with paprika.
With his Basque Fry experience, Estee could be developing into a lamb fries specialist. And the dish certainly fits with his whole-animal, snout-to-tail approach to cooking. In fact, why not add the fries to the menu at Liberty Food & Wine?
That’d be a ballsy move.
Read or Share this story: https://usat.ly/2xtSxi0