Deep-Fried Lamb’s Brains

Before I continue my lamb brain tour, I’d like to again thank John Dossal, the manager of Zituna for being so accommodating.

Zituna is located at 970 N. Coit #3025 (SE corner of Coit & Arapaho) in Richardson, TX. Their phone number is 972-470-0101. Special thanks again go out to Sharon Peters for finding Zituna for me.

Now, back to the brains.

Before I started working on the brains recipes, I noticed that three of the four called on me lightly poaching them. So when I brought the brains home, I promptly poached all of them for use. The entire process was detailed in my last update.

A simple seasoned flour mixture, eggs and milk, and breadcrumbs were needed to coat the outside of the lobes. The process is pretty familiar to anyone that has breaded chicken.

It’s tough to tell that those are brains under the breading, isn’t it?

After a quick dip in hot peanut oil, the lamb brains came out gold brown and, quite frankly, delicious with just a smidgen of green sauce. My wife and I agreed that this was a preferred preparation method over slicing the brains and placing them on toast. Then again, I can’t think of an instance where frying something didn’t make it better. The subtle flavor of the brains was more pronounced; they tasted slightly like sweetbreads, but richer and more delicate. I could very happily eat this dish every week if the brains were easier to procure.

One down, one hundred and eighteen to go.

Cold Lamb’s Brains On Toast

This is a dish for those who particularly enjoy the texture of brains.

Before I started this blog, I was grappling with the prospect of finding some of the more exotic ingredients. I finally decided that if I could find a source for lamb brains, then I’d probably be able to beg, borrow or steal the other hard to find bits. Sure enough, a vendor at the the Austin Farmers Market assured me that his boss would be able to pony up lamb brains at my request. Unfortunately, when push came to shove, the vendor flaked out on me. Obviously this was after I had already started working my way though the cookbook, and I’d have to find someplace that could sell me brains. If it came down to having to pay for them to be shipped to me packed with dry ice, then I’d have done it.

Luckily for me–and my wallet–I managed to cross paths with Sharon Peters on eGullet. Sharon has incredibly intimate knowledge of Texas and where to find pretty much anything one would need for cooking. She initially helped me find the necessary ingredients for making haggis–which I am saving for a later update–by recalling that there was a halal friendly butcher in Weatherford, Texas. A few phone calls later I had an order in for various lamb guts. Two months later, I had a message from her: she had found a market that was able to sell me as many lamb brains as I wanted.

The weekend before last, my trusty puppy and I made our way up to Dallas to meet with a group of hardcore foodies from Dallas Food for some absolutely fantastic Mexican food before picking up my brains order. It was some of the best mole verde I’ve ever had without a doubt, and I look forward to catching up with them again in the future.

After finishing off my second glass of horchata, Sharon, Stumpy and I went to pick up my lamb brains at Zituna World Food Market in Richardson, TX.

Zituna offers a nice selection of fresh produce …

… packaged Middle Eastern, Greek, Persian, and Eastern European foods …

… and fresh lamb parts. The testicles are on the bottom left, and heads on the right.

Sharon introduced me to the store’s manager, who was very kind and incredibly accommodating. He brought my order out and offered to supply me with anything else I needed. I dearly regret that Zituna is a three hour drive from Austin. If it were closer I’d be a permanent fixture in the store.

Once we got home, I immediately jumped into action because I had no idea how long brains would keep.

Three of the lamb brain recipes call for a quick poaching in a light vegetable stock. I assembled the appropriate stock vegetables, added them to a pot of water and brought it all to a boil.

With the poaching done, I laid the lamb brains out on a kitchen cloth to let them cool and firm up.

To complete the dish, I sliced two of the lobes, placed the slices in a fish scale manner on the toast and topped them with olive oil, green sauce and sea salt. Of the four brains recipes in the book, this probably the easiest one.

When it came time to take the first bite of brains, my wife and I counted down. “Three … two … one!” Overly dramatic, I admit, but we were expecting some kind of transcendental moment, a tectonic shift in how we viewed food. It turns out that brains are almost tasteless. Maybe my palette just isn’t refined enough to catch the subtle nuances that brains have, because the powerfully flavorful green sauce just took over my taste-buds. That being said, brains are very rich and amazingly light. Imagine taking a bite out of a toasted bagel that has a softened pat of butter on it. It’s just like that. I could actually see myself making this again in the future.

Special thanks to Sharon Peters for her help finding me lamb parts of all makes and models.

One down, one hundred and nineteen to go.

Ox Tongue And Bread

To serve four.

I’d like to apologize for not updating until today. This weekend was a whirlwind of activity, with long drives and the ever important maintenance of my neglected lawn. To make amends I will update twice this week.

With this post, I will have finished off all of the ox tongue recipes. It has been a real joy working with this maligned piece of meat because it’s just so darn tender and tasty. Every dish–minus the beet one–is something I’d happily make again, and that includes this weeks simple salad recipe. If you’d like to give it a go yourself, Mr. Henderson has posted the recipe here.

The recipe starts off asking for sixteen cubes of crustless day old white bread. The bread hadn’t gotten terribly stale when I was cutting it, but it wasn’t exactly light and yielding, either.

I dropped the bread cubes into a bowl with a heavy dollop of green sauce, mixing the two before setting the bowl aside and giving them time to get acquainted.

Before making this salad I had never used, nor knowingly eaten sorrel. The leaves had a very nice acidic zing with very pleasant light lemon notes. This was another one of those culinary “ah ha!” moments for me.

The very last bits of the brined ox tongue. I carefully sliced the remaining hunk of tongue, trying to keep a uniform thickness. You can see spots of iridescence
on the slices here and there, which intrigued me: Why do some cuts have that rainbow-like effect while others don’t? A quick Google search supplied the answer.

The iridescence (“rainbow-like sheen”) of certain cuts of meat is due to the regular muscle fiber structure of the meat combined with water droplets to create a “diffraction grating”. The reflection of light off the water in the regular fiber grating causes separation of colors much like what happens with a prism. In the meat industry, it is known that the effect is enhanced when phosphates (read: salt) are used to increase the amount of water held in the meat. A dry meat surface scatters rather than diffracts or reflects light. The iridescence is also not an indication of spoilage.

The sorrel leaves, the tongue slices, a few trimmed scallions and a big bunch of watercress were all mixed with the bread cubes and green sauce. On top of that, a healthy splash of extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice was added to loosen things up. Borage leaves were an optional ingredient, and despite my best efforts I was unable to find them. To remedy that, I have picked up some Borage seeds and come this spring I’ll have to try this recipe again with them.

The final dish. I’m a big fan of bright, acidic dishes and this salad–with all of its components working together harmoniously–totally fits the bill. The tongue again plays the rich, tender meat part very well, while the wonderfully schizophrenic green sauce balances things out. Out of all of the ox tongue recipes, this one is far and away my favorite.

Here’s a quick peek at the next update:

One down, one hundred and twenty to go.

Tongue And Beets

To serve six.

In continuation of the ox tongue recipes, this is the second to last example of how “dexterous” a meat it is. While I posted roughly eight different ways of utilizing tongue last week, I ended up using almost all of it for various meals up until I made this recipe. Having anything for breakfast, lunch and dinner can be monotonous after a certain point, but the extremely tender qualities of tongue will never get old as far as I’m concerned.

The interesting part of this recipe was working with the beets. I can’t remember the last time I ate beets, much less cooked with them. I had also forgotten that beets will outright stain anything and everything they touch. I’ll be buying a new shirt at some point this week.

After removing the tops and bottoms, I placed the beets in a roasting pan with salt, pepper, a big dash of olive oil and two cups of water. I covered the pan with aluminum foil and placed it in a preheated oven.

A little while later the beets were nice and tender, and as you can see from the wisps of steam coming off them, HOT.

Even with two rubber gloves, I was being scalded something fierce. Once they were peeled, it was like handling slippery, hot, round, purple magic markers. I really liked that shirt, too.

The peeled beets were then cut into “merry chunks” to which salt, pepper, olive oil and balsamic vinegar was added. Thankfully I didn’t have to use my hands for this part as the beets were still igneous in nature.

The final dish of cold tongue and beets. On the tongue, you can see there are areas where fat has collected. The second the beets came into contact with tongue slices, the fat began melting and the tongue loosened up a bit, just as Mr. Henderson had described. The beets themselves took on a very soft and buttery like texture, which worked fantastically with the fatty meat. I’m not sure when or if I’d ever make this dish again, but it was without a doubt something different and tasty.

One down, one hundred and twenty one to go.

Boiled Ox Tongue

You can salt the tongue yourself in a brine; keep the tongue in it for 7 days. Alternatively, get a corned beef tongue from the butcher.

For some reason, a lot of people are squeamish about eating tongue. Like the heart, it’s nothing more than another muscle. Texture-wise, I would say it’s close to brisket or roast beef but a bit smoother. A week in the corning brine gives the tongue the exact same flavor as corned beef, and come March 17th almost everyone and their brother eats corned beef. So don’t fear ox tongue, there is no good reason to.

My local supermarket again surprised me with their wares. Every week, fresh tongue is available in cryovaced bags. I really don’t know if I would have found tongue so readily in California.

I know I’ve mentioned it before, but cooking dishes from the cookbook is incredibly cheap, and this instance is no different. The ox tongue was so inexpensive I bought three of them.

After a week in the brine, I rinsed off each tongue and put them in a pot of water with carrots, leeks, celery, onions, a few heads of garlic, some peppercorns and a big bouquet garni. The water was brought up to a boil, and then dropped to a simmer for three hours.

Mr. Henderson gives instructions to peel the tongue right after it is removed from the water, as the rough skin covering the muscle comes off much easier. It was fairly easy, with the skin peeling off like old rubber being pulled off a basketball. I spent about 5 minutes peeling all three tongues.

Now, if I followed the recipe to the letter this would be the end of this weeks update. But at the end of the recipe Mr. Henderson gives nine different suggestions on what to do with the tongue once it was cooked. I’ll show you eight of the ways, with the ninth being next week’s update.

You can serve tongue:

Hot or cold. You can see how much firmer the cold tongue is compared to the heated pieces.

Broiled or fried. The fried tongue was very tasty, with nice crispy edges.

In a sandwich with English mustard and tomato. I managed to find a tiny little bottle of Colman’s mustard in one of the high end supermarkets. I’m a little sad that it isn’t more popular here in the states, as it is quite delicious. It puts normal yellow mustard to shame.

With a caper sauce. Mr. Henderson doesn’t have a caper sauce listed in the book, so I borrowed the pan sauce Alton Brown uses in this pan fried fish recipe.

With Horseradish or Green Sauce. Both of these sauces are listed in the book, so they’ll count toward my total.

Horseradish Sauce – “A very fine thing.

Mr. Henderson asks that the horseradish be finely grated. He also mentions that “this can be quite an emotional experience and may bring tears to your eyes.” It was so emotional, that I had to take three ten minute breaks before I finished. Once I got done crying, I added a splash of lemon juice to keep the horseradish from changing colors.

Crème fraîche was folded into the grated horseradish and seasoned with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. I’ve never had a horseradish sauce like this before. I’m more used to the ultra hot, liquid like sauces. This was much firmer, with a mild heat. Next time I make prime rib I’ll be using this to go with it.

Green Sauce – “Green sauce is a wonderful thing and goes with almost every meat, roast, boiled, or cold; vegetables; and some fish. Its companions know no bounds. The parsleys are essential, the other herbs good additions–rejig the parsley if you’re not including any of them. Never use a food processor to make Green Sauce, as you will end up with a pulp rather than a textural delight.”

As you could tell from the description, this sauce is made primarily from herbs. Mr. Henderson calls for two kinds of parsley, dill, mint and tarragon. Also needed is garlic, capers and anchovies.

I chopped the herbs and the capers, my wife took care of the garlic and anchovies.

The garlic, anchovies, capers and black pepper were mixed into the herbs and then extra virgin olive oil was added until I had the proper consistency. I’ve been sitting here for three minutes trying to figure out how to describe Green Sauce. With the variety of herbs you get this zesty, sweet, savory mish-mash. It’s a very unique experience, and if you’d like to try it for yourself, Mr. Henderson has been kind enough to post the recipe here. He also lists a few recipes for dishes that I have already finished.

Three down, one hundred and twenty two to go.