Cervelles d’Agneau Pochées
Serves 1 per person
I can say that it was a little hard to swallow the first bite or two, as the smell was subtle but new to me, and the texture a bit mushy. To my co-chef and former neighbor, Rebecca Pinsolle, the scent takes her back to her days visiting her grandmother. This is the same effect that smooth pork liverwurst has on me, it transports me to my childhood when I would smear that liverwurst on dark German bread for my breakfast. I am truly grateful for that small indoctrination into “strange” foods, as I think it has helped me to be able to enjoy other foods like chicken livers paté or just plain old liver. And foie gras, of course.
1 Lamb’s Brain (per person)
3 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar (per brain)
2 Tbsp Butter (per brain)
4 Tbsp Parsley, minced
Sea Salt & Black Pepper to taste
Soak the brains in a bowl of cold water and 2 Tbsp vinegar for 15-20 minutes to remove impurities.
Bring the salted water to a boil in a pot. Reduce the heat to a simmer and place each brain in the water to simmer for 10 minutes without bringing the water back to a boil.
Remove poached brains from the water allowing them to drip excess water onto a plate.
Melt the butter in a pan and gently place the brains into the pan to sautée them lightly on the bottom and top for a few minutes on each side. Add the rest of the vinegar and mix in with the butter. Use a spoon to pour the melted butter and vinegar over the brains (arroser in French).
Remove the brains from the pan and place gently on a plate.
Sprinkle with Parsley, Sea Salt and Pepper.
Chef’s Tip: Brains are extremely fragile and may fall apart a bit as you handle them during each step. This is only a problem when you are trying to photograph the finished product! Another way to do this recipe so that the brains do not fall apart is to remove the brains from the boiling water and to put them directly onto a plate and to just heat the butter in a pan and pour it over the brains on the plate. After a taste test, however, my friend Rebecca and I both agreed that the light caramelization effect of sautéeing the brains in the butter in the frying pan added texture and flavor to a dish that is otherwise pretty mushy in texture if one is not used to it.
Chef’s Tip: Another tip regarding sea salt is to add the crunchy (croquant) Fleur de Sel (the top layer, whitest and most revered of sea salts – see my photography expo on Ile de Ré Salt Harvesting on my photography website www.taniateschke.com): It’s pretty, crunchy and adds just the right amount of salt with just a few grains on top of almost any dish!
Wine Pairing Tip: Go for a medium red, either a Bordeaux Graves or Cotes de Castillon, for example, something balanced between Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, so as not to overpower the dish. Or else a crisp white, I love the Bordeaux Graves dry wines myself!
My friend Rebecca, a working mom and cook, is originally from the Dijon region, where she grew up, showed me this recipe. Her grandmother used to prepare lamb brains for her as a nutritous treat, and Rebecca says she never thought of this as an odd thing to eat. She was just happy to eat it at her grandmother’s house. I find that the French who grew up on offal and other foods Americans might find “strange” had the good fortune of just that: growing up with these foods so that they never thought of them as strange and as a result never missed out on the nutrients, as well as the convivial feeling of eating a warm dish prepared by a grandmother.
First Raw Beef Heart, and now Cooked Brains?!
I know this may literally be tough to swallow at first, but as I have said before, organ meats, or Offal (les Abats in French), are the most nutrient dense foods we can eat. Add butter, which is rich in K2 and saturated fat, and sea salt, which has a delicious blend of many of the trace minerals we need, and you’ve got yourself a power-packed meal (or part of a meal)!
I will admit that it can be difficult to eat more than just a forkful or two of lamb brains on one’s first attempt. But again, I am motivated by the quest to heal my gut, strengthen my body and accept those foods which keep me on that path, and lamb brains are just one example of the rich diversity of French traditional cuisine I am determined to learned about! Join me on this journey of discovery!
For some excellent video watching, and something that sums up much of what I have been learning over the past two years, watch The Weston A. Price Foundation’s President Sally Fallon-Morell’s talk on Nourishing Traditional Diets: The Key to Vibrant Health. If you want more, check out her video on The Oiling of America. Skip the usual TV series and listen to or watch these videos while you are in the kitchen, which is what I do, but beware, each one is two hours long.