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.

11 thoughts on “Cold Lamb’s Brains On Toast

  1. it’s amazing to what lengths you’ve gone to procure these! Brains are very similar in taste and texture to sweetbreads…maybe a bit softer. I like both (after poaching) sauteed with brown butter, pine nuts and finished off with a healthy dose of lemon juice. This is basically how brains are cooked in most Lebanese homes.
    In this case I’d hate to say it, but the salsa verde in the amount you applied it is a bit much. Try them with a bit less and see if you like them better.

  2. I’ll have to agree with you about the amount of green sauce I used for the final image. I’m also going to have to cop to the fact that I was terribly aware of the fact that I was eating brains, and that if I covered them up as much as possible they’d be a little easier to eat. Subsequent preparations used much less green sauce, but every time it overpowered the poached brains.

    I do have more insight into the flavor, but I’m saving that for the next brains recipe update. 🙂

  3. Good job Ryan! Looking forward to the rest of your entries! Andreww Zimmern should be be so lucky!

  4. Looking at the pictures again, where you have the brains just laid out (pre-slicing) something occured to me that I’ve noticed elsewhere in Fergusson’s recipes and I just could not put my finger on it at first. Now, I call it the “Britishness” of his food. While not necessarily a bad thing, and I know he sees is as a positive, many recipes need some color. The poached duck legs come to mind a few posts back, and some of the tongue preparations. I noticed this at first in the book when reading through it, but it sort of glares at me when I see the pictures here. Some dishes are just too bland-looking! Why not give them a bit of color by a last minute sear or some crispiness by broiling those duck legs? My question is of course rhetorical and directed at Mr. Fergusson..not you Ryan. I understand that you are staying faithful to the recipes.

  5. enassar,

    I completely agree with you. I have read the cook book, so seeing these recipes made and being able to see the pictures (in process and completed product) have been amazing!

    I have noticed that many of the recipes lack color and visual appeal.

    Thank you Ryan for posting all your work. You have inspired me to cook several of the dishes, now I just need to find the lamb brain…


  6. Frank M: Thank you very much. I dare say that this and the forthcoming lamb brain’s dishes are probably the most unnerving of the bunch. I do like Zimmerman, but he’s afraid of Durian though, the pansy. 😉

    Hank: A little bit, but it’s not too ba-a-a-ad. (Yes, I’m terrible.)

    enassar: I couldn’t agree with you enough on your point. I remember reading somewhere else that the recipes in the cookbook are a bit light on instruction. I feel that’s fairly true. I’ve managed to find a few pictures of the actual Pig Spleen, Sage, and Bacon dish at St. John’s and my work doesn’t look alike at all. I’ll go back and give it another shot in the future.

    lionofdharma: Thank you very much. Try calling your local Halal butchers for help on the brains!

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  9. in Houston, a good place to find lamb brains, innards and organs is Phoenicia on Westheimer. They carry all sorts and if you don’t see it ask the meat counter person

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