Brain is something I've had before on several occasions, but only prepped i ways I couldn't even begin to replicate, so I'm trying something different here, prepping it two ways. One is apparently a Cuban tradition (based loosely on this recipe) and the other is a much simpler way of preparing it.
One of the first things you learn when working with brain is that no matter how well the butcher cleaned the brain before you get it (and this one seems to have been cleaned pretty thoroughly), there will be a lot of blood in the brain. Like, a lot. Like if you left it in your fridge to thaw but the bag is not perfectly vacuum-sealed, you will have blood all over your fridge. Kind of annoying, but enjoy the moment -- after all, how many times have you have to scrub blood out of the nooks and crannies of your crisper? It's an adventure! Unless you do it a lot. Then it's probably not an adventure. But then again, if you're regularly cleaning large amounts of blood out of your fridge, you're probably a serial killer, so...In any event, I suggest opening the bag in the sink, preferably in a colander or something else than be used to rinse it.
|This is a cow's brain, mostly thawed.|
|Yup, definitely a brain.|
|Bloody brains. At this point, your inner 13 year-old boy is very excited.|
Then you need to clean the brain of any remaining skin, hair, and whatnot. It's kind of hard to know what does and doesn't belong, so you attempt to remove the parts that are...well, I don't want to say "gross looking," because it's all gross-looking. But you know, the parts that are even grosser...er. Anyway, then the brain needs to be either boiled or simmered, depending on who you believe. If you ever want to get down a weird internet rabbit hole, there are some strong opinions on the internet about the proper preparation of cattle brains. Since I couldn't find a definitive source on the subject, I figured I'd split the difference, so this brain got a few minutes of boiling, several minutes of simmering. The point of this is apparently to firm the brains up a bit, which it definitely did. Most sources said to just use boring old plain water, but I jazzed it up with some beef stock (made from the oxtail leftovers!). Here's what a boiling brain looks like:
|It may also be what your brain looks like on drugs.|
After this, you need to let your brains cool a bit (so many steps of this process sound like something a faux-badass 80s action hero might say to their rad teenage sidekick). I chose to put them into a bowl, but you can decide where your brains cool. It's a wonderful world of opportunities like that. In any event, much like the tongue, there ain't no confusing what you're working with here.
It's at this point you notice that while the brains aren't terrible aromatic to you, they must be the best thing that has ever existed in the history of smells to a dog. My dog began begging for some scraps of brain they second they were unwrapped, and this has been her polite begging position for the hour or so I've been working on the brains so far:
|Excuse me, sir. I would like to eat some of that and am sitting ever-so-politely.|
|Some sort of witty caption here.|
|Seasoned brains, slurry, pulverized snack crackers.|
|You only notice the difference when you bite in.|
|Thought maybe you couldn't see me, so I inched a bit closer.|
|This is what stuff looks like whilst frying.|
|I am a half-eaten chunk of brain.|
|Kinda looks like brown cauliflower.|
|Now they're on a plate.|
|Never! I shall beg 'til the day I die!|
Fried Brains: FUCK and YES. I was pretty apprehensive about this because I don't usually fry stuff and didn't know if the brains would hold up, but they did. Like little savory champions. Granted, being an American, I can eat basically anything if it has been fried. But these were not something to be survived for the sake of novelty, these were incredibly delicious. Think chicken nuggets, but instead of being full of chicken, they're full of melt-in-your-mouth, super savory marshmallows. The majority of them were gone before I even got to the sautéing. If you ever come across some deep fried brains, eat them. Eat them all. You will not be disappointed.
Sautéed Brains: Yes, but I should have planned ahead. The thing about brains is that they are delicious, but incredibly rich. Like think of the craziest thick cheesecake you've ever had, and they're about 20 times as rich as that. Seriously, your mouth will be coated in brain after one bite. Which is not a bad thing given how delicious they are, but just an indication of how rich they are. So you don't really eat brains as main course, but instead use them with or on top of things that could use some delicious richness. Being that I was spending all this time on prep, I never got around to anything to go with the brain. I saw a recipe that called for adding eggs and tomatoes during the sauté process, so I'm going to try that next.
Have We Learned Anything So Far?
Yes. Cooking with offal and various other organs and muscles is difficult and time-consuming. But it's also more entertaining than a lot of other things you could do with your day, so all-in-all, I recommend it.