So Apicius is chugging along at a fast clip. We now officially have less than two weeks until the final restaurant simulation. Wow.
However, in the meantime, we have been doing some pretty rockin’ stuff and I thought I’d share a particularly interesting day with you. My favorite class this semester is World Cuisine. It is taught by the one, the only, the giant among men, Il Barba. This man loves food (like really, really, really loves it). So he can’t help but say yes if we want to stray from the curriculum and make a few dishes that have piqued our fancy.
This was the case a couple of weeks ago during our Indian Foods class. We were slated to make a slew of curries and tandoori and whatnot, but I’ve been having a real hankering to work more with the NastyBits. You know, the parts that normally get thrown away or makes people go all wrinkly nosed with, “That? Eww. Are you kidding? I would never eat that.”
To these folks I would advise a quick retreat back to their boneless, skinless, chicken breast world and let the rest of us get on with some real eating. These low men on the meat totem pole can be seriously delicious if handled properly. More people are catching on as recently the NastyBits have experienced a little status boost thanks to the concept of Nose to Tail eating. It’s kind of that old Indian philosophy that says if you’re going to hunt it done and kill it you’d better use every part of it.
But enough of that. Back to food. Il Barba appeared on our appointed day carrying a large dripping plastic bag. He proceeded to pull out pig intestines, liver, veal brains, chicken hearts and cockscomb (the flappy thing on top of the rooster). We gathered around.
Il Barba was raised on this stuff and he wanted to start with his grandmother’s intestine recipe, a very Tuscan preparation where the long tube is cleaned, cut into tiny snippets and then braised for a long time with garlic, rosemary, white wine and tomato. Why not?
Next we started on the cibrèo. Cibrèo is a very old chicken stew based basically on various chicken organs and scraps. You start by cooking down the livers and hearts (adding some herbs and other aromatics if you want) then you throw in anything you can get your hands on: the cockscomb, the testes, nervetti, embryonic eggs, anything really. Add some water or broth and cook until everything is done.
The last step is to thicken the mess with a mixture of eggs and lemon juice. This is the defining step that makes cibrèo, cibrèo. Spoon it out over some toasted bread and you’re in for a seriously old school gastronomic treat. The cockscomb has a particularly nice texture. It’s a little chewy but soft- kind of like the rind of parmesan that you find floating in pots of soup around here.
Il Barba pulled out the brain. “I cooked this last week for my young son. When my wife came home from work his whole face was covered with it. She barely had time to make it to the bathroom.” I guess this proves that not even all Italians are big organ fans.
John, one of the guys in my class started blanching the brain in acidulated water. In an unfortunate turn of phrase he announced, “If any one here ever needs brains, I’m your man!” He cringed and stammered a quick retraction as the alternate slang of his pronouncement set in.
Once the brains were blanched we took off the membrane, sliced them and dipped them in a simple batter. After deep frying them to a golden brown you just serve them with some sea salt and a squeeze of lemon. The flavor isn’t much, but the texture is amazing. It’s super soft and pillowy like a whipped oyster mousse.
The cooking done, we laid out our huge spread. Normally, I wouldn’t recommend serving traditional style Indian food with Italian style organ meats. However, in this particular case I can’t complain. Everything was delicious and now I have a great idea for some curried testes and palak intestines.
A dopo. -L. Pants