Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Cuscini con Cervelli di Vitello

This recipe came to me in a dream while I was laying my head down upon my fluffy pillow one night. This is an interesting pasta dish that you might find something similar to it if you were strolling through farming regions of Italy. It is a super simple pasta dish that shows the Italian way of thinking that nothing goes to waste. This pasta has to be one the easiest types of pasta to make that isn't store bought. Cuscini or "pillows", are a delicious chewy type of pasta that are very low in labor and ingredients. These pillows are used as the fluffy bedding for veal brains. That's right, veal brains. Now I'm sure most of you immediately turn your nose up at this concept of eating brains yet they truly are delicious. They have an incredibly mild taste and a super creamy texture that melts in your mouth. In this recipe, I have coated them in bread crumbs so you have two distinct textures working together.

TT= to taste

For Pasta:
1# or 3 1/2 cups of AP flour
1 1/4 cups water
1T salt
1T extra virgin olive oil

Combine all ingredients together in a bowl until dough forms
knead for 5 minutes, then place in plastic wrap or ziploc bag for 30 minutes
pull dough out and place on floured cutting board
use a rolling pin to roll dough out to 1/4"-1/3" thickness
use a pizza cutter to cut pasta into 1"x1" squares
places on parchment lined sheet pan dusted with flour and set aside

For the Brains:
1# of veal brains soaked in cold water with 2T of vinegar for 2 hours, then membrane and blood vessels removed, then picked apart into bite size pieces
AP flour
1-2 Eggs
2 cups of breadcrumbs
TT salt
TT black pepper
2-3T extra virgin olive oil

Make breading station (plate for brains, plate for flour, bowl for egg wash, plate for bread crumbs, holding plate for finished product)
Season the flour with salt and pepper
whisk the egg/s together with a couple tablespoons of water or milk
dip the brains into flour and coat
then dip into egg wash
then dip into breadcrumbs
then place on finished plate
heat olive oil in large saute pan over medium heat
once hot add the brains and cook until breadcrumbs are browned and crispy (about 1-2 minutes per side)
remove and put on plate lined with paper towel

For Condimento:
1 Stick of unsalted butter
15 sage leaves
2-3T grated buddha hand (substitute lemon zest)
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/4 cup plus extra grated Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese
TT black pepper

Bring 6 qts of water to boil
add 2T of salt to water
drop the pasta in the water in batches
heat butter over medium heat in same large saute pan as the brains
once melted add the sage leaves and cook until the stop bubbling and are crispy
turn heat down to low and remove the sage leaves
add the garlic and saute for a minute(the butter should take on a brown color and nutty aroma, but should not be burnt or black. If you see the butter is getting to hot, turn off the heat and remove the pan from the stove.)
turn off the heat on the pan
once all the pasta floats remove from the water and add it to the condimento and toss together using a little pasta water as needed to loosen sauce
repeat process with remaining pasta
once all the pasta is cooked off
add the grated buddha hand and the parmigiano reggiano and toss together
season with a little pepper
place the brains on top of pasta just to heat through
transfer pasta to individual plates
garnish with the veal brains, sage, a bit more grated cheese and zest
serve immediately

I like this pasta with chardonnay. The buttery and citrus notes of the wine work very well with the brown butter, the creaminess of the brains and citrus notes of the buddha hand.

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