Calf fries are calf testicles, deep-fried. There are many other names for “calf testicles,” including “(Rocky) mountain oysters” or “prairie oysters.”
“Calf fries” are said to have been popularized by an immigrant from Spokje, Yugoslavia to Fort Worth, Texas named Theo Yordanoff (sometimes misspelled “Yardanoff"). Yordanoff served “calf fries” since the 1920s and operated the popular Theo’s Saddle & Sirloin at the Fort Worth Stockyards. Riscky’s restaurant in Fort Worth now carries on the “calf fries” tradition.
Wikipedia: Rocky Mountain oysters
Rocky Mountain oysters, mountain oysters, prairie oysters, Montana tendergroin or swinging sirloin are North American culinary names given to buffalo, boar or bull testicles. They are usually peeled, coated in flour, pepper and salt, sometimes pounded flat, then deep-fried.
It is a well-known novelty dish in parts of the American West and the Canadian Prairies where cattle ranching is prevalent. The name is derived from the Rocky Mountains. In Oklahoma and North Texas, they are sometimes called calf fries but only if taken from very young bulls. In many parts of Mexico they are referred to as “criadillas” and are colloquially referred to as huevos del toro (literally, “bull’s eggs” but huevos is also a Spanish slang term for testicles) in Central and South America. Rocky Mountain oysters are sometimes confused with lamb fries or animelles (lamb testicles), which are served in a manner similar to Rocky Mountain oysters. Boar (hog) testicles are served in some Midwest areas such as in Illinois, Indiana, and Iowa. In other countries, testicles are known as sweet meats.
Texas History from the Dinner Table
by John Raven, Ph. B.
I suppose everyone has heard of Rocky Mountain Oysters or Mountain Oysters or Calf Fries or Turkey Fries. These are the testicles of cattle, hogs, sheep and even turkeys. At the spring roundups on the prairies of Texas, the bull calves are treated to a simple operation that prevents them from ever being fathers. After this surgery, they are known as steers. In the old days, the testicles were thrown in the fire used for heating the branding irons until they were done (the testicles—not the branding irons). Then they were skinned and eaten as is.
Today the preferred method of preparing mountain oysters is to soak them in cold salt water for a while, then remove the skin and slice into manageable size, dredge in seasoned cornmeal or flour and deep fry. Lots of folks swear by them. Personally, they taste to me like fried lard. Calf fries and turkey fries are given the same treatment. Incidentally, the turkey doesn’t survive the operation. Turkey fries are removed when they are dressed.
TEXAS CALF FRIES OR MOUNTAIN OYSTERS
Calf fries as many as you want. Hot, not boiling water. Salt and pepper. Dip calf fries into hot but not boiling water. Leave 1 to 2 minutes. Longer if frozen. Drain and peel off outer membrane. Cut into bite size chunks. Beat together 1 egg, 1 cup milk, dip fries in liquid, then in equal parts of flour and cornmeal that has been seasoned with salt and pepper. Fry in deep, hot shortening. When they are done they will float to the top. Drain on paper towels; serve warm with dip.
Riscky’s Steakhouse (Fort Worth, TX)
Our house specialty served with homemade gravy.
Welcome to Cowtown
For Northside/Stockyards dining, (...) Riscky’s Steakhouse, 120 E. Exchange Ave., 624-4800, serves traditional American food. If you’re not in the mood for a full dinner, at least try some of their world famous “calf fries"--made from the tender organs that separate the bulls from the steers—invented by Fort Worth emigrant Theo Yordanoff in the 1920s as a cheap and nourishing workingman’s meal at his Saddle and Sirloin Restaurant.
(Dictionary of American Regional English)
The testicle of an animal, usu when fried for food—usu in combs calf fry, lamb ~, and varr; see quots. [Cf EDD fry sb. 1]
Cf mountain oyster
1889 Whitehead Steward’s Hdbk. 420, Rocky Mountain oysters, Lamb’s fries.
1937 American Speech 12.104 eNE, The testicles of lambs are eaten by some people and referred to as lamb fries or oysters.
1949 Emrich Wild West Custom 180, Rocky Mountain oysters, the “lamb fries” available at gelding time, were simply tossed into the ashes of an outdoor fire, like potatoes.
1950 WELS (Dishes made with lamb or mutton) 1 Inf, nwWI, Lamb fries.
c1960 Wilson Coll esKY, Lamb fries...Testicles of castrated animals served as food. Also called hog mollies.
1979 Daily Forum (Maryville, MO) 7 Mar nwMO, swIA, Dennis Jeffers is the acknowledged expert on preparing and cooking the morsels, and his friends anticipate for months his annual oyster fry...Wayne Valentine says.."We couldn’t have fries if we didn’t have him to cook them.”
1981 KS Qrly. 13.2.67, Fries..testicles of castrated calves and lambs kept for preparation as special dish; “calf fries” and “lamb fries.”
3 September 1939, New York (NY) Times, “The Story of the Trail That Ran to Santa Fe” by Horace Reynolds, pg. BR3:
That one of the delicacies of the Trail was liver spiced with gall, liver and gall warm from a freshly killed buffalo, summons back the life of the Trail, as surely as do broiled calf fries and first-class-son-of-a-gun the later life of the Texas Trail.
17 November 1939, Ada (OK) Evening News, pg. 6, col. 6 ad:
27 August 1948, Amarillo (TX) Globe, pg. 10, col. 3:
The bloom was on his cheek though the day a lady came in and said her husband had sent her for “mountain oysters.” “I thought all oysters came from oceans,” she puzzled. Clarence gulped and stammered that it was just a term for “calf fries” as butchers called them.
Her stare remained as vacant as a deserted house and after Clarence had finished a detailed explanation that they were actually male sex organs, popularly used in son-of-a-gun, he was scarcely able to see over the sawdust which covered his floor.
19 December 1975, Dallas (TX) Morning News, section B, pg. 20:
Theo Yordanaff (sic)
FORT WORTH—A mass of Christian Burial for Theo Yordanoff a longtime restaurant owner, will be celebrated at 9:30 a.m. Friday in St. Patrick Cathedral here.
A burial service will be held in Mount Olivet Cemetery.
Yordanoff, who operated Theo’s Saddle and Sirloin Inn in the Stockyards area, died Wednesday in a hospital.
Yordanoff came to the U.S. from his native Yugoslavia as a 14-year-old boy. He worked as a porter for a doctor, then operated a confectionary and lunch counter on the North Side before opening his restaurant.
North of the River:
A Brief History of North Fort Worth
by J’Nell Pate
Fort Worth, TX: TCU Press
By 1920, a young fellow named Theo Yardanoff (sic) managed to purchase a small cafe on Northeast Twenty-Third Street.
When Yardanoff opened his small cafe in 1920, he preferred to go over to the packing plants personally to pick out meats. Europeans traditionally ate more organ meats than Americans—liver, calf brains, and sweetbreads—so he did not rule anything out. One day, however, a cowboy came in and ordered “calf fries.”
“What do you mean, ‘calf fries’?” Yardanoff is said to have asked.
“They are what separates the bulls fro mthe cows,” the cowboy explained indulgently.
With this knowledge, Yardanoff went to the packing house manager and asked how much they would charge per pound for the male parts.
“You can have them for nothing if you will carry them away,” he was told. So Yardanoff began carrying them away. He devised a calf-fry sandwich which he sold for fifteen cents. The cowboys and other adventurous customers loved it. Theo yardanoff had created a culinary legend though it was ironic that it took a Yugoslav immigrant to popularize a “traditional” western dish.
Yardanoff eventually met a Polish immigrant named Josephine, and they were married. They had three children, Theo, Jr., Helen, and Wanda. In 1942, Theo bought the 120 East Exchange building that already housed the Saddle and Sirloin Club, a popular watering spot for cattlemen, ranchers, and commissioners. He opened Theo’s Saddle and Sirloin Inn at the new location.
Calf fries remained on the menu.
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • (1) Comments • Saturday, March 15, 2008 • Permalink
Calf fries are the logical result of the spring calving roundup. Cowboys rope all the calves for the year, brand them and neuter all the males. Ranches usually buy their bulls from specially bred stock. Obviously you end up with a lot of calf testes.
It’s extremely unlikely that these were thrown out until some Serb in Fort Worth thought of cooking them up. I’ll grant Mr. Y the distinction of having the huevos to serve them in his restaurant but I guarantee the Mexicans were frying them up 200 years before there was a Fort Worth. Cowboys got the recipe from their cocineros just like they got their riatas, saddles, reins and hackamores from the charros and vaqueros.