Monday, 13 February 2012

Se faire plaisir

On this day in the past I've followed Fergus Henderson's suggestion and had devilled kidneys for breakfast - a spectacular treat for me, especially here in France, where lamb's kidneys are not cheap. Dredged in flour, flash fried, supercharged with mustard, cayenne and Lee & Perrin's, a splash of chicken stock to give a little sauce. Blob of butter and a bit of a bubble, and onto hot toast! Yum diddley-yum yum! It's actually a fantastic way to discover the not-straightforward joys of kidneys - I didn't like them either...

This year I'll be breakfasting alone, so I've decided to push the boat out: in my shopping bag I have two whole pig's brains. You can actually buy this stuff in France. It'd be rude not to.

I've only cooked brains two or three times before, and eaten them maybe twice more. They're a bit strange. The first time I encountered them I was defeated. On a youthful holiday in Brittany I ordered the lamb – “No, it’s ‘ead” said the man, aware that I’d not understood cervelle d’agneau. Gulp. “No, no. It’s quite alright. I’ll give it a go...” The sauce was delicious. The brain was, well, a bit strange. And it looked a lot like a brain. I managed half of it.

I’ve grown up a bit since then – not in the sense where I’d no longer eat something potentially unpleasant out of sheer embarrassment. I’m stuck with that. But fewer things are potentially unpleasant. Well, fewer nice things...

I’ve painstakingly split rabbit heads in order to try the stuff back home. You don’t get much*, but it’s pretty good. I’ve merrily cracked open a guinea fowl’s skull at the end of a Christmas feast, and scooped out the surprisingly copious and tasty contents. This is a particularly fond memory. If you have the choice, leave the head on and roast strapped under the wing – it’s worth it!

Today I have some good bread, some bitter winter leaves, lardons and an apple. The brain needs gently rinsing under a trickling cold tap to remove the membrane and any blood clots, then poaching in a vinegary court bouillon for five or six minutes.  It’s removed, left to cool, then coated lightly in seasoned flour before being sizzled in butter until golden and slightly crunchy on the outside. I’ll have a glass or two of something delightful**, as recommended by the nice caviste man, and happy birthday me!

*Rabbits not being the thinkers sheep are.
** Touraine 2009 Le Rocher Des Violets Cabernet Franc.