Brains and Eggs

No, I was not reared eating brains and eggs in North Carolina, but my mother was, as well as a friend who grew up outside Pine Bluff, Arkansas. My earliest memory of the dish is of the strong hog’s brains my grandmother Maw Maw used to scramble with eggs, and it was only later, when another relative made the dish with milder, more delicate calves’ brains, that I became hooked. At one time, brains were considered a great delicacy in the South (as in France), and since I’ve noticed recently more and more frozen ones in the better markets, I can only assume they’re making a comeback with adventuresome home and professional cooks. The combination of brains and eggs produces a rich, subtle, distinctive flavor that makes the dish perfect for brunches. Just don’t forget that all brains are fragile and highly perishable and must be cooked within 24 hours. Remember, also, that if brains are unavailable, calf sweetbreads make a very acceptable substitution.

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Ingredients

  • 1 pound calf brains (fresh or frozen and thawed)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon bacon grease
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 6 tablespoons (¾ stick) butter, cut into pieces
  • 8 large eggs, beaten

Method

To prepare the brains in advance, rinse them carefully under cold water, place in a bowl, add water to cover plus the lemon juice, and let soak for about 2 hours in the refrigerator. Drain, gently peel off and discard as much of the thin outer membrane as possible, and dry the brains carefully with paper towels.

In a large skillet, heat the bacon grease over moderately low heat, add the prepared brains, the water, salt, and pepper, and simmer, uncovered, till the water has evaporated, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat.

When ready to serve, add the butter to the pan and, when melted around the brains, add the eggs, stir gently, and scramble over low heat just till the eggs are set and still slightly soft. Transfer to a warm bowl and serve immediately.