Rocky Mountain oysters are a type of food that actually consists of the testicles of bulls or sheep. They are part of a class of meat called offal, which is a term for the internal organs or entrails of butchered animals and includes other foods such as chicken gizzards, beef tripe and pork intestines. Also known as prairie oysters or calf fries, Rocky Mountain oysters usually are sliced, breaded, deep-fried and served with dipping sauce. Usually considered an appetizer rather than a main course, this dish is said to be an acquired taste.
A Novelty Appetizer in Restaurants
Steakhouses or other restaurants that have Western themes often serve Rocky Mountain oysters as a novelty item. Some recipes for calf fries or prairie oysters involve poaching or sautéing, but Rocky Mountain oysters are almost always served as deep-fried slices. Many customers who order Rocky Mountain oysters use generous amounts of hot sauce or dipping sauces to enhance the flavor.
Origin of the Name "Rocky Mountain oysters"
This dish earned its name through association with the prevalent cattle industry in the Rocky Mountain region and a passing resemblance to raw oysters from the sea. Cattle ranchers regularly remove the testicles of young bulls to discourage aggressive behavior. Meat packing plants also save the testicles of older cattle for possible resale as a meat byproduct.
Preparing the Dish
The first recorded preparation of Rocky Mountain oysters is unknown, but it is believed that ranch cooks experimented with different meats to find inexpensive sources of food. When properly seasoned and breaded, Rocky Mountain oysters are said to have a neutral or slightly liver-like flavor, with a chewy texture similar to that of chicken gizzards. Restaurants that serve this dish are likely to use a generous supply of salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper and seasoned salt in the flour breading.
Preparing Rocky Mountain oysters can be a little complicated. Obtaining fresh bull testicles is the first hurdle. Specialized butcher shops might be able to order a small supply, but in general, the product is sold in freezer packs. Some recipes for this dish recommend slicing the testicles while they are still frozen. Sometimes, the testicles arrive with a surrounding membrane that must be peeled off before preparation.