Morcilla is where most U.S.ers draw the line in the context of “sketchy” meat parts, seso is where many Argentines do. I’m talking about the young, cool Argentine, the overpriced Vie Bohème rag wearing portenos, long-haired collectors of neon platform Birkenstocks and identical Prune bags. Mention eating brain for dinner to these painfully hip youngsters and they’ll cringe and “queasco!” you into a shameful self-evaluation of your eating habits. Ask their mustacheod, cafe-dwelling grandpa about it though and they’ll tell you all the ways of making it delicious (there’s like 2) and all the ways to screw it up (like 200). It’s exactly these grandpas that one finds sitting lazily around their pastas, bread baskets and 9:00 pm espressos when walking into Munich Recoleta.
This place has a history very closely tied to that of Recoleta as a neighborhood. It was originally a dairy shop in the 30’s and converted into a German-style beer parlor in the 40’s. Since then it has evolved into a great traditional Argentine family restaurant with a MEAN revuelto gramajo and a milanesa that is apparently quite the showstopper, while also maintaining some of its original German features (the name, the gigantic porcelain jug the beer comes in, lebenwurst and sauerkraut on the menu, etc.). But my companion and I wanted none of these things on this particular night. We wanted something tipo-abnormal, something they don’t have on just any old menu. We came for the brain.
Sesos a la romana, battered and fried calves’ brains, that is! Comfortaby mushy, creamy-soft, melt-in-mouth tender gyri and sulci (folds) pulsating deliciously buttery, beefy flavor, wrapped in a golden brown and slightly crispy batter. Cut a piece and slap on a tiny bit of mayo (complements both the flavor and texture – one of the only cases in which mayo is my condiment of preference). Served with a heap of lemon wedges. Use the lemon wedges. I can’t stress this enough, use a LOT of lemon wedges. The thing is a calculating cholesterol bomb with or without it, but at least it will taste like less of one if you add some refreshing citric acidity. Comes with slightly watery mashed potato or pretty decent french fries which I had no room left for after consuming the three giant bundles of delicious thinking fat on my plate. My dinner company and I left happy, very full and maybe, just maybe, a LITTLE bit smarter.
My mom made breaded and fried brain at home one time when I was like 12. As she was prepping it before of my startled and attentive gaze, my neurophysiologist dad walked into the kitchen, picked one up and started pointing out parietal and frontal lobes, the hippocampus, the parts responsible for what the cow dreamed the night before it was slaughtered and those which controlled its hopes and dreams for the future. My mom just barely managed to grab the thing out of his hands before he could operate on it, scalpel and all, to show me some of the better known cortical folds… I should’ve been horrified, but instead I was fascinated. And what should’ve made me want to never eat brain (or meat in general) again made me even more curious about and hungry for it.
Maybe that’s how this whole thing started…