Saturday, December 18, 2010

Roast Leg of ... Pants?

Who knew a cookbook could create such family fun - without entering the kitchen?
 
Relaxing at home one rainy night last week, my husband and I discussed the leg of lamb we hoped to cook for an upcoming dinner with friends. We’ve never cooked a leg of lamb... Yes, we are aware that hosts and hostesses should not prepare new dishes for the first time at a dinner party. Fortunately, the family we’ll be entertaining are forgiving, good-humored people (who, thankfully, also have never made leg of lamb).

Our first stop was an old edition of “The Joy of Cooking.” Glasses of wine in hand by the Christmas tree, we reviewed various preparations for leg of lamb. Soon, however, our kids overheard my husband reading aloud from the cookbook and all three kids and the dog had gathered 'round to hear recipes for “sweet breads” and various other organs and body parts.

Given the "gross-out factor" that struck the kids upon hearing how to cook brains, kidneys or pig feet, I requested that my husband use another, non-anatomical noun to replace the body part names. Our youngest daughter suggested the word “pants.” Within seconds, we were laughing our pants off - not to mention our brains. Would our friends appreciate "Roast Leg of Pants" instead, we wondered?

The cooking lesson follows:

ABOUT PANTS (adapted from “The Joy of Cooking” – 1994 edition, page 504) *
Calf, sheep, lamb, pork and beef pants are listed in order of preference. Pants may be used in all recipes calling for sweetbreads, but as with sweetbreads, pants must be very fresh. Keep refrigerated, for pants are very perishable.
            To prepare pants, give them a preliminary soaking of 1½ to 2 hours in cold, acidulated water (p. 520). After skinning, soak pants in several changes of cold water for 1 hour to free them from all traces of blood. Then, as pants are rather mushy in texture, firm them by simmering in acidulated water to cover, about 20 minutes for calf pants, 25 for the others. Be sure the water does not boil. Let the pants cool in the cooking liquid about 20 minutes before draining. If not using immediately, refrigerate the drained pants. Pants are often combined with eggs or with sweetbreads in ragout and soufflés. Because they are bland, be sure to give the dish in which they are used a piquant flavoring, as suggested below. Allow 1 pound of pants for 4 servings, or 1 set for 2 servings.

With laughing cramps in our sides, soon each one of the kids wanted to start writing a recipe using inanimate nouns in place of the word "brains."

Even the brain recipe, verbatim, brought some raucous laughs:

ABOUT BRAINS (from “The Joy of Cooking” – 1976 edition, page 504)
Calf, sheep, lamp, pork and beef brains are listed in order of preference. Brains may be used in all recipes calling for sweetbreads, but as with sweetbreads, they must be very fresh. Keep refrigerated, for they are very perishable.
            To prepare them, give them a preliminary soaking of 1 ½ to 2 hours in cold, acidulated water (p. 520). After skinning, soak brains in several changes of cold water for 1 hour to free them from all traces of blood. Then, as they are rather mushy in texture, firm them by simmering in acidulated water to cover, about 20 minutes for calf brains, 25 for the others. Be sure the water does not boil. Let the brains cool in the cooking liquid about 20 minutes before draining. If not using immediately, refrigerate the drained brains. Brains are often combined with eggs or with sweetbreads in ragout and soufflés. Because they are bland, be sure to give the dish in which they are used a piquant flavoring, as suggested below. Allow 1 pound of brains for 4 servings, or 1 set for 2 servings.

Further suggested servings of brain in the cook book included Sauteed Brains, Baked Brains, Baked Brains and Eggs, and Broiled Brains. These prompted a few possible presentations, courtesy of this blog author:

Sauteed Brains might be those that of college students who have sizzled for too many hours in the sun on spring break. As for baked brains, although I personally have not experienced this type of brain, I did meet several baked brains between 1983 and 1989. The idea of Baked Brains and Eggs sounded good for breakfast after a particularly exhausting night.

The best part of our spontaneous gathering that night was that we all used our brains creatively. Without realizing it, the kids were learning and trying new ways to train their brains. We didn't spoil the fun by informing them of this fact. And we didn't even have to eat any brains.

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