After five days in Patagonia I was ready to enjoy the summer of the Western Hemisphere a bit closer to the Equator. I had come for, seen and conquered Perito Moreno. I had stood, mouth gape, paralyzed by the beauty of this end of the world. But the winds and cold were cramping my style and I wanted nothing as much as to put on a sundress and feel the muggy heat of February in Buenos Aires. I wanted to melt in the humidity of an un-airconditioned taxi as it rushed me off to a place with cold white wine and light numnums. I wanted city life and I wanted to interact with people who were neither hostel guests or hostel guest guides. I’d had enough of Manu Chao. I wanted a hot shower and to brush my teeth with toothpaste rather than hot water and lemon juice.
Shower I did, immediately upon arrival to my host friend’s apartment. As I groomed myself back into a human being I could recognize, he worked away in the kitchen, preparing something he had promised I’d enjoy. We had gone shopping to the local Carrefour a few days before my trip South. We got white fruit for clérico and I posed for a picture like an idiot in the mayonnaise aisle. We also stocked up on the two things Argentina never fails to offer me. I had waited, curiously, for what he would do with them without having a parrilla in his apartment. On my first night back the mollejas came into play.
He chopped up some veggies and sautéed them in a pan before adding the sweetbreads and giving them time to turn soft on the inside and crisp nicely at the edges. He also put on some risotto to cook. In the meantime I came out rejuvenated, clean in a clean towel, and was handed a glass of Torrontés (my favorite white, maybe) to wait for the food with. I sipped my glass and he refilled it, by reflex, each time it ran low. I miss that. We talked about my trip and I smoked cigarettes as he stirred the risotto and added crema to the mollejas. When they were ready he served them and waited for the photo shoot he had grown accustomed to before taking the first bite.
I have to be perfectly honest when I say that the dish was far better than I had expected. By this I do not mean to say that I doubted the ability of the chef, only that I thought the parrilla was an integral part in coercing the texture I love so much out of mollejas, which by nature turn rubbery very easily. Apparently sauteeing them is another viable option. They were a pleasure to chew, tender and fluffy with smoky, caramelized bubbles of char on the exterior. They were slightly sweet with that unmistakable twang of viscera. But it was a clean and right twang, unlike that of the rubbery and strangely marine-tasting lamb mollejas I had had at Don Pinchon the night before. The diced veggies were cooked soft, although they retained a bite and did not become completely translucent. The crema hobnobbed with the oil in which the veggies and mollejas had cooked and took on their flavors, imparting these onto and hydrating the bed of rice below. The crema was also a fantastic binder for everything. If only we had this magical product in the States…
I felt a little bit spoiled sitting there in a towel, stuffing my face with cow thymus and planning out the rest of my vacation. Meeting up with old friends the next day and then off to Mendoza the day after, then back to BsAs for the weekend. Sun and wine and good food illuminated perfectly for photos by natural light beaming down onto the plate. Patagonia had been wonderful but it had been lonely. This home-cooked version of one of my favorite things ever was a warm welcome back from windy Calafate.