“Beer n’ Balls is a festival at Four Deuces Saloon in which people drink beer and eat Rocky Mountain Oysters,” she said after a few seconds of silence.
As soon as I heard the words “Rocky Mountain Oysters,” I immediately cringed. I had seen them on the Travel Channel time and time again, and I always said to myself after, “That is one thing I will never try.”
For those of you who don’t know, a Rocky Mountain Oyster is a bull calf testicle. Grossed out yet? Well, you will be.
My professor, who loved the story idea, was asking for a brave soul to take on this gruesome task: eating one of these balls. I looked around the room, and I saw that everyone, including myself, was doing anything but making eye contact with the teacher, hoping he wouldn’t choose us.
It felt like forever before he said, “I’m looking at you, Sam.” At that point I knew, by nightfall April 14, I would have a Rocky Mountain Oyster in my stomach — also known as the grossest thing on this planet.
I grew up in Chicago, a city filled with meat, meat and more meat. You can’t go a mile without seeing at least one restaurant selling hot dogs or Italian beef, and for good reason — they are absolutely mouthwatering and each bite is packed with flavor. As a kid, I never ate too many vegetables. I stuck to the things I loved and didn’t stray. I never looked to broaden my food palette and certainly never considered eating bull balls.
Now you can see how hard it was for me to step out of my comfort zone and take that first big bite of a bull testicle. Just the thought of it makes me cringe. But I didn’t have a choice because I knew I had to take one for the Epitaph team — and that’s exactly what I did.
When I arrived at the Four Deuces Saloon and Grill on that dreaded Saturday morning — precisely at 11 a.m. — my anxiety and nerves started building. I could hear my stomach growling, but I wasn’t sure why. Was I just hungry? Or did my stomach know that soon there would be balls in it and the rumbling was a message: Don’t do it, Sam.
I truly believe it was a combination of both.
There was an issue right away; the oysters wouldn’t be ready until 1 p.m. Great.
I sat and got to think about eating this unusual food for another two hours. To distract myself – or at least to attempt distraction — I walked up and down Allen Street, watching the annual Rose Tree Parade with hundreds of other people.
The plan worked for a little while, but my impending meal of balls kept creeping into my thoughts. The best distraction was the ice-cold weather that descended on Tombstone. Fitting for the day I would eat the most horrific food item in my life. Gust upon gust of freezing wind hit me as I watched the parade, making me feel as if I was back in the windy city watching the Chicago Cubs play on a regular frigid April afternoon.
I looked down at my watch for what had to be the 20th time, and it read 12:45 p.m. Time for me to finally head over and eat some balls.
I walked up and saw the four different people set up behind a table, three men and one woman, each perfecting their own version of the Rocky Mountain Oyster.
It only cost $6 for the assortment of the four different oysters. So I could experience each recipe. Lucky me.
The first ball I sunk my teeth into was the best. Jackie Barta, the chef, cooked it with a recipe that used beer batter, cracker crumbs and a deep fryer that gave the oysters a nice golden-brown color. If there was any way for a testicle to look appetizing, this was it. Biting into this oyster was much different than the previous one. Rather than being chewy, it had a nice crunch to it. There was no need for ripping it apart; it had a clean bite. It was the easiest of all four to eat and that played an integral role my preferring it to the other three.
It didn’t take me long to figure out which one was the most disgusting — the one that looked as if it went straight from bull to plate. There were veins going in every direction and a soft, slimy exterior that had no traces of any seasoning. Bill Westbrook, the chef of this intimidating oyster, said he throws it fresh on the grill, or, as he said it, “bull to the fire.”
I was reluctant to put this particular ball in my mouth, but I knew I would regret backing down — for the experience if anything. I picked up the bald ball and nervously took a bite. It was at that moment I knew I would never taste anything this horrific again; at least I hope not. Immediately after biting down I felt everything on the interior of the ball release into my mouth. I try not to think what exactly it was that exploded in my mouth; all I know was one bite was enough. They say don’t judge a book by its cover, but this time, the cover could not have been more spot on.
After a week of anticipation and anxiety, I had finally finished. And I felt somewhat accomplished. I tried something I never thought in a million years that I would. Still, I hope I never have to again.
People told me before I ate them, that bull balls tasted like chicken. Maybe my taste buds were off that day, but to me, the Rocky Mountain Oyster wasn’t even close to chicken. The only way to truly know what this fare tastes like is to get out and try them for yourself.
Maybe you’ll like them so much you go out, buy a bull and make them yourself.
Or maybe not.
Bellow are three Rocky Mountain Oyster Recipes
Ingredients: 2 pounds of bull testicles, 2 tablespoons salt, 1 tablespoon vinegar, 1 cup flour, 1/4 cup cornmeal, 1 cup red wine, salt, pepper, garlic powder, bottled hot sauce, cooking oil or fat (for frying).
1) Split the tough skin-like muscle that surrounds each “oyster” (use a sharp knife). You can also remove the skin easily if the meat is frozen and then peeled while thawing.
2) Soak in a pan of salt water for one hour; drain.
3) Transfer to a large pot and add enough water to float the meat.
4) Add the vinegar to the pot.
5) Parboil, drain and rinse.
6) Let cool and slice each oyster into 1/4-inch thick ovals.
7) Sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides of sliced oyster to taste.
8) Combine flour, cornmeal and some garlic powder to taste.
9) Roll each slice into flour mixture.
10) Dip into milk.
11) Roll again into flour mixture.
12) Dip into wine.
(repeat the procedure for a thicker crust).
13) Fry in hot oil or fat seasoned with the bottled hot sauce to taste (be careful, it will sizzle when you add the hot sauce); fry until golden brown.
14) Drain on paper towels.
15) Serve with cocktail sauce if desired.
What’s Cooking America’s Recipe
Ingredients: 2 pounds calf testicles, 2 cups beer, 2 eggs beaten, 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour, ¼ cup yellow cornmeal, salt and ground black pepper, vegetable oil, 1 tablespoon hot pepper sauce
1) With a very sharp knife, split the tough skin-like muscle that surrounds each testicle.
2) Remove the skin (you can remove the skin easily if the testicles are frozen, then peel while thawing).
3) Slice each testicle into approximately 1/4-inch- to 1/2-inch-thick ovals.
4) Place slices in a large pan or blow with enough beer to cover them; cover and let sit for 2 hours.
5) In a shallow bowl, combine eggs, flour, cornmeal, salt, and pepper.
6) Remove testicles from beer; drain and dredge thoroughly in the flour mixture.
7) In a large, deep pot, heat oil to 375 degrees F.
8) Deep fry for 3 minutes or until golden brown (will rise to the surface when done).
9) Drain on paper towels.
10) Serve warm with your favorite hot pepper sauce.
Food Newtork’s RMO Stew Recipe
Ingredients: 2 pounds large bull testicles, 1 cup all-purpose flour, salt and freshly ground black pepper, 1/8 cup canola oil, 2 teaspoons chopped garlic, 2 cups sliced white onions, 1 stick unsalted butter, 1/2 bottle red wine, 1/8 cup tomato paste, 1 teaspoon freshly chopped chives, 1 teaspoon freshly chopped parsley leaves, 1 crispy French Bread sliced and toasted,
1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2) Remove outer membrane from the testicles and slice into 1-inch disks.
3) Toss into flour, seasoned with salt and pepper, and shake of any excess.
4) In a large oven-proof skillet, add canola oil and heat until it starts to smoke.
5) Add garlic and onions and sauté until cooked, tossing quickly so as not to burn the garlic.
6) Remove from pan and set aside.
7) In the same pan with the oil residue, add the butter and place the disks of the testicles, flat side down, into the hot skillet.
8) Cook until golden brown on both sides.
9) Add the wine, stir in tomato sauce until well incorporated, then add back the sautéed onion and garlic mixture.
10) As the dish cooks it will thicken because of the flour dusting on the testicles.
11) Continue to cook on top of the range for about 15 minutes, then place the pan into the preheated oven for another 30 minutes or until testicles are tender.
12) Remove from oven and adjust seasoning. Let rest for approximately 10 minutes so flavor enhances.
13) Garnish with chopped herbs and crispy bread.