Bulgarian Veal Brains and Ratatouille

This recipe is inspired by a dish I ate in a Bulgarian restaurant in Moscow many years ago. If I’m correct, the restaurant was called Mekhana Bansko and is now closed. I clearly remember that the veal brain was unapologetically served whole in an earthenware dish —  quite a sight once the lid was removed! I had to improvise a little for the rest of the recipe, and I opted for a quick variation on ratatouille with some paprika.

Brains are quite popular in the Balkans, and Vladimir Mirodan’s Balkan Cookbook lists no less than 6 different recipes, including deep-fried, as a pudding, or in stuffed tomatoes. Buying veal brains can be tricky, as I discussed here. I seized the opportunity of my trip to France to try this recipe, as it is pretty easy to special-order brains from a butcher there without having to deal with the whole head.

Bulgarian veal brains and ratatouille
Yields 2 servings

1 veal brain
6 oz medium-diced eggplant
6 oz sliced red pepper
3 oz olive oil
3 oz sliced shallot
6 oz medium-diced tomato
sweet Hungarian paprika

  • Soak the brain in cold water for 30 minutes, then change the water and repeat.
  • In a blender, mix 1 qt water with 2% salt. Place the brain in the salted water, and refrigerate for 6 hours.
  • In a hot pan over high heat, sauté the eggplant and red pepper with 2/3 of the olive oil until brown. Add the shallot and tomato, season with salt and paprika, and simmer over medium heat for about 15 minutes to get a thick vegetable mixture. Reserve.
  • Drain the veal brain and pat dry, and sauté in a hot pan over high heat with the rest of the olive oil for a couple minutes on each side. Transfer to a terracotta dish, sprinkle with paprika, and arrange the vegetable mixture around. Cover and bake in a 350 F oven for 15-25 minutes, until the internal temperature of the brain reaches 145 F. Serve immediately.