Eating brains, in most circles, is a proscribed pastime. If offal eating traverses a spectrum, then brains are securely cordoned to the end of the line. Offal newbies generally start with the most approachable bits, the firm muscles–like beef tongue and heart–before graduating to the squidgy innards of intestine and stomach. Kidneys are somewhat right of center, as are the thymus gland and pancreas. But the brain, the command center of the central nervous system, is the final hurdle.
This is not without reason; eating the gray matter of mammals infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy–or mad-cow disease–is a potentially fatal risk. For the most part, though, brains are just another hunk of edible (and often delicious) protein.
Brain tacos, tacos de sesos, don’t get nearly as much love as al pastor and carne asada on the tortilla circuit. Rich and creamy as custard, brains collapse into mush when cooked, and they’re softer but similar in flavor to sweetbreads. With a spoonful of bracing green sauce, a taco de seso wouldn’t be out of place on the menu of some of the new DIY restaurants, where chefs flippantly search for unexpected flavors at any cost.
Brains are difficult to come by in our city. Cervette de veau–calf brain–is napped in black butter at Chez Napoleon in midtown, and lamb brains are served occasionally at Babbo, but with regards to Mexican cuisine, brains are a rarity. There is, however, one secure brain-slinging depot: La Superior, a Mexico City-style taco shop in Williamsburg. On a corner of that menu, you’ll find the sesadilla ($3), a quesadilla filled with calf brains. What emerges from the kitchen is a deep-fried taco de seso, a corn tortilla stuffed with a mash of brains, folded over and slipped into the fryer. The crispy package is delicate and hot from the fryer, frizzled where the filling has seeped through the cracks. The brain is indistinguishable, somewhat bland, a forcemeat dotted with tiny diced bits of jalapeño pepper that sparkles through the meaty filling.
In three bites, it’s gone.