Pee, pan-dairy pancakes & a pledge you should make


Gourmandistan is not normally a territory enthused about the prospect of kidneys. Even a fan such as Jaques Pépin is forced to describe their flavor as “an assertive taste that some may not find inviting.” Putting it bluntly, kidneys pretty much always taste of urine, quite possibly because their primary function is producing the stuff. While we’ve received them in several whole animal purchases, we’ve usually (somewhat secretly and shamefully as nose-to-tail enthusiasts) allowed them to go to waste. Today, however, we’re here to argue quite the opposite position on kidneys. Just not in a culinary way. That’s what the pancakes are for—along with celebrating the start of a new status for Michelle’s father as a transplant recipient.


Tom was on dialysis for several years—a time-sucking, location-limiting lifestyle adjustment the entire family had begun to accept as our normal way of life. Weekend before last, however, he received what the doctors called “a perfect match,” donated by the family of a girl who died far too young at the opposite end of the country. The procedure took the better part of what became a blurry, sleepless night, with Michelle and her mother stumbling home around 6:30 on Sunday morning to report a successful surgery before collapsing in happy exhaustion.


Steve needed a way to feed three ladies with different sleep schedules and asked Michelle’s sister for suggestions. The reply was “pancakes,” a food not seen in Gourmandistan for many years. Steve’s first sleep-deprived stab at finding a recipe was Edna Lewis, but waiting 8-10 hours for sourdough to ferment was out of the question. Turning to the “breakfast” shelf of Gourmandistan’s cookbook library, Steve’s tired eyes fell on Morning Food: From Café Beaujolais, possibly because its bright yellow dust jacket penetrated his gummy eyelids. “Cottage Cheese Pancakes” seemed simple enough, except Gourmandistan at the moment possessed no cottage cheese. Substituting a dab of almost-out-of date ricotta and some Greek yogurt seemed to do the trick, as Michelle’s sister pronounced the thin, tasty, almost crêpe-like cakes extremely satisfying. A few hours later Michelle’s mom awoke and, after a small plateful, agreed—noting that she often made the same recipe at home with the called-for cottage cheese.

In the days since, we’ve treated the entire newly-kidneyed clan to several other pancake breakfasts, once using all ricotta and another time using all yogurt. All versions were equally good, perhaps made even tastier seasoned with the anticipation of life after dialysis.


We may not care for the flavor of lamb or beef kidneys, but we surely hope to enjoy this one—and the idea that someday we might provide such a gift for another family. Because someone cared enough to be generous even in a time of grief, we can share this happy story and simple, family-synchronous recipe with you. And we urge you, if you have not done so already, to become an organ donor.


  • Servings: 7-8 small pancakes
  • Print

(adapted from Margaret S. Fox and John Bear’s Morning Food: From Café Beaujolais)

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 c. cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, Greek yogurt or some combination thereof
  • 2 TB vegetable oil
  • 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 t. baking powder
  • 1/4 t. salt

Place all ingredients in a blender.  Combine on low speed until smooth and all flour is incorporated.

Pour batter in 1/4 cup increments onto a nonstick or lightly buttered hot skillet. Turn when bottoms of pancakes are browned.

Serve on a warmed plate with butter and/or maple syrup.


  1. That sounds like good news 🙂
    The French often soak or poach kidneys in milk to remove the smell of urine. Braising them in a heavy beer (Guinness or a dark English bitter) with steak for a steak and kidney pie is also very good.

    • Thanks!
      I might try them again in a pie—with lots of bitter beer. I have bad memories of some rare grilled ones at a fancy Parisian restaurant. And, of course, felt I had to eat them or face the derision of the waiter!

  2. Eha

    God-bless to be dialysis free 🙂 ! My hopes and prayers all’s well that ends well: even if you have to eat Macca’s for awhile 😉 !

  3. Daria

    All my Gourmandistani prayers are with you all….
    I’ll soon be raising one or two steers (I too am in Kentucky, with 6 acres) and want to know if anyone wants the kidneys and/or tripe??? not my favorites

  4. “Mr Leopold Bloom ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls. He liked thick giblet soup, nutty gizzards, a stuffed roast heart, liverslices fried with crustcrumbs, fried hencods’ roes. Most of all he liked grilled mutton kidneys which gave to his palate a fine tang of faintly scented urine.”
    –James Joyce, ULYSSES

    Sorry, too hard to resist. We used to eat kidneys regularly when I was a kid, usually in steak and kidney pie (which I still like, if I can find a good one).

    Thanks for the pancake recipe–I’ve never made them with cottage cheese or yogurt. Sounds really intriguing.

    And finally, I’m glad that all’s well that ends well for your dad. May he enjoy many a breakfast with you to come.

    • How could you resist? Can you believe that I, the English major, have never read Ulysses? I don’t know how I avoided it. Do try the pancakes. I’ve never cared for the big, thick ones in restaurants. These are a different sort altogether. And, thanks for the kind wishes, Ken.

  5. Receiving the gift of a kidney after years of dialysis seems a bit to me like living on the moon, tethered to an oxygen supply and suddenly for “atmosphere” to appear. How THRILLING this must be! (For all of you!) So very happy for you! (I’ve got my organ donor card, but could never tire of changed-life stories such as this one!)
    (And naturally, the pancakes sound delicious! The pancake we like most around our house is made with ricotta too – so delicate and tender!)

  6. Lovely story. (My grandmother passed away several years ago of kidney failure, so I understand how taxing that disease can be.) Sending well wishes your way!

  7. I agree: a wonderful story and wonderful news about your dad!

    I am also not surprised to hear that Edna Lewis came in to save the day. Such an amazing cook. These pancakes look wonderful. Not a kidney fan either, but pancakes, very much so!

  8. I am so glad that your dad is now healthy, Michelle! 🙂 That must have been such a long and difficult experience for all of you.

    These pancakes look great. How cool that you used your kitchen knowledge to improvise with what you have. Curls and Carrots doesn’t usually have cottage cheese,either. 😉 I am looking forward to making these for our family. Thank you for sharing. Oh, and the photos – delicious – edible! 😉

    P.S. Hubby and I are both organ donors!

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