Salvador Dalí Had A Surreal Avocado Toast Recipe

Salvador Dalí (1904–1989) is undoubtedly one of the most famous artists in the world, even now, more than three decades after his death. Along with symbols of the subconscious mind, Dalí's work also features a surprising amount of food. From eggs, cheese, and bread, to fish, lobsters, and sea urchins, all serve as recurring themes in his art. Starting in the 1940s, he began hosting lavish dinner parties with his wife, Gala. It was for her that in 1973 he published his cookbook, "Les Diners de Gala."

In true Dalí fashion, the surreal fine dining dinner parties featured weird costumes, elaborate decor, and exotic animals that roamed freely among the guests. The recipes were later showcased in Dalí's cookbook, accompanied by artwork and hand-drawn illustrations. While some of the meals seem outlandish, top chefs of the time created them, and they are based on classic French cuisine. Among the more provocative menu items — such as calf kidney in a shell, larded meat a la mode, frog cream, pierced heart, and ox snouts in puff pastry – is an unexpectedly familiar entry: avocado toast.

No ordinary avocado toast, mind you. Salvador Dalí's recipe is decidedly different from the variety served these days in trendy brunch cafes with a sprinkling of sea salt. The uncommon pairings in this strange hors d'oeuvre bring together avocados with tequila and poached lamb brains.

The method for properly prepared brains

While those unaccustomed to eating brains may initially balk at the idea, the organ is a delicacy consumed worldwide; from grilled pig or goat brains in Mexican tacos de sesos to French cerveaux  – calf brains pan-fried in butter. Brains have their place in American cuisine too — where in the South, they're eaten with silky scrambled eggs, and in the Midwest, they're fried into crispy sandwiches. While Dalí's cookbook unabashedly aims to shock, his recipe for avocado toast is thoughtfully balanced.

The recipe lists the following ingredients: three avocado pears, one lamb brain, minced almonds, tequila, and sliced rye bread. The first step is to prepare the brain by soaking it in cold water — and then removing the outer skin. Dalí instructs readers to return the brain to water, and that "there must be no blood in it" — so occasionally change the water until it remains clear(per "Les Diners de Gala"). Next, boil a pint of water with vinegar and beef bouillon. Gently place the brain in the water and poach for 25 minutes. When ready, remove the brain and mash with a fork — it is fattier than other meats and will break down into a creamy paste-like consistency. Mix together it with the smashed avocado, salt, cayenne pepper (Dalí encourages you not to be shy about it), three tablespoons of tequila, and minced almonds for a nutty crunch. Toast the rye bread and top with the avocado-brain mixture.

Food for thought

With the rise of nose-to-tail eating, more butchers may now offer brains, and international grocers are more likely to carry them. If you can't get brains anywhere, you may have better luck finding a different cut of offal. Sweetbreads are organ meat from the thymus gland (pancreas) with a similar taste and texture to brains when cooked.

If you're not willing to eat brains, try topping avocado toast with shrimp or lobster. Neither will quite match the flavor or texture of lamb brains, but would make for suitable and appetizing substitutes of which Dalí — with his fixation on crustaceans — would surely approve. Whole shrimp with the heads still on lend themselves to whimsical plating fit for a surrealistic display, and the heads are also full of flavor.

For a vegetarian option, either hard-boiled eggs or sunny side-up with runny yolks provide that additional creaminess to the avocado that contrasts so well with dark rye bread — and doubles as a tasty breakfast. Perhaps more than any other symbol, the egg features most prominently in Dalí's mythology, even adorning the buildings of his museum in Figueres, Spain. While Dalí's rendering of avocado toast might not be for everyone, there's no denying the deliciousness of a ripe avocado smashed onto toast, which — in the hands of a creative chef — becomes a blank canvas for endless artistic interpretations ... from the simplest to the most fantastic.