Tuesday, January 24, 2006

A Brainy Breakfast, Brunch, or Lunch

Many years have passed since I’d seen calf’s brains on a menu, or for that matter on any of my frequent visits to numerous markets. But last Saturday, Wegman’s had them packaged in plastic, and priced very reasonably.

Calf's brains were commonplace enough in the early 1960’s to have been available in the cafeteria of at least one Baltimore County Public School. I learned this later in the sixties when upon mention of the name of a certain young lady, an acquaintance recalled and boasted: "I threw calf’s brains in her face at school in eighth grade."

For dealing with my recently purchased calf's brains, I turned first to James Beard’s American Cookery, and after reading all seven recipes, sensed no need to research further. Even when this classic cookbook was published back in 1972, Beard was lamenting how calf’s brains had "declined in use, perhaps because they require a little more preparation than today’s housewife has time for." Beard was so fond of one particular recipe featuring calf’s brains and scrambled eggs together that he further noted: "I have served this on many occasions as a luncheon dish, and many a club has featured it on certain days of the week." As prepared and photographed by us, here is Mr. Beard’s recipe:


1 pair calf’s brains
6 eggs
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon Tabasco
5 tablespoons butter
Freshly ground pepper
Watercress or parsley for garnish

Brains need to be prepared first by washing them well and then soaking them in ice water for 20 to 25 minutes. After soaking, remove the membrane and any remaining blood. (Removing the membrane without tearing the brains apart is a delicate and tedious task, the reason perhaps for Mr. Beard’s comment regarding available time for housewives back in 1972.) Next simmer for about 15 minutes in salted water or a light court bouillon made with approximately 1 quart water, an onion stuck with a clove, salt, two tablespoons vinegar or white wine, a few peppercorns, and a sprig of parsley. Let cool and cut into small dice or very thin slices. Beat the eggs slightly and add water, salt, and Tabasco. Melt the butter in a heavy skillet, add the brains, and heat through thoroughly. Add the eggs and scramble with a spatula, pushing the mixture into thin curls as it firms on the bottom of the skillet. When the eggs and brains have formed large curds, turn out onto a hot platter. Add some freshly ground pepper and garnish with watercress or chopped parsley.

from James Beard's American Cookery, Little Brown & Co.,Boston, 1972