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Aug 18, 2009 05:42 PM

Sweetbreads: Any Tips

I'm planning to make Susan Spicer's Sauteed Sweetbreads with Sherry Mustard Butter. Anybody have any tips. I've cooked a lot (I mean a lot) over the years, but I've never attempted this before. Today I was in a high end market in SF and asked my butcher if he carried them. He said that I'd have to order them, but the other butcher informed him that they had just received a shipment an hour earlier, so I saw it as an omen to make them.

Please let me know any tips you might have etc....

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  1. Yummm, never made them but have enjoyed them. Whenever I take on a project such as this, I first take out the Bible, Barron's Food Lovers Dictionary. Since I can't give you advice as to how to prepare them specifically, here's some notes on them, without my being a wise ass and just plopping a "let me google that for you" link that a lot of other hounders do:

    "...sweetbreads are the thymus glands (called neck or throat) and pancreas (called heart, chest or stomach sweetbreads) of young animals. The former is elongated, the latter, rounder and larger. ..considered the more delectable (and therefore more expensive)...Sweetbreads from milk-fed veal or young calves are considered the best. Choose sweetbreads that are white (they become redder as the animal ages) plump & firm. They're very perishable and should be prepared within 24 hours of purchase. Before being cooked, sweetbreads must be soaked in several changes of acidulated water and their outer membrane removed. Some recipes call for the glands to be blanched to firm them, and refrigerated until ready for use. Sweetbreads can be prepared in a variety of ways including poaching, sauteing, and braising. They are sometimes used in pates and souffles."

    I have mainly had them sauteed, and they were delicious, but one obviously needs to know what one is doing. So go soak them in some water with lemon juice, start researching, I'd even start with Julia, she knew how to make everything, and GET ON IT, time's awastin'!!! Lucky dog!!

    1 Reply
    1. re: Phurstluv

      Thanks, that's probably where I should start. Off to soak them. I'm not sure if they're heart or throat yet. Hopefully they're heart--Thomas Keller mentioned they were preferable as well so you're in good company...

    2. I have made them many times, and have always braised them. They turn out nice and creamy. Whatever you do, do not deep-fry them as I have had them deep-fried in a few restaurants (high-end ones at that) and have found that the process destroys the creamy texture.

      I do the blanching and refrigeration thing mentioined by Phurstluv before I braise them, in white wine, chicken stock, carrots, onions, and tomato puree (recipe from the La Varenne cooking school in France). I then strain out the solids and reduce the cooking juices with cream.

      I once had sweetbread pate at a restaurant in Montreal, and it was wonderful. I tried to replicate it by pureeing the sweetbreads with the sauce. It destroyed the creamy texture.

      1. I've followed Julia Child and Jacque Pepin's method of soaking and blanching (cover with cold water, bring up to a simmer, and simmer for about 20 minutes; drain and plunge into cold water for a few minutes). After, I also weight them down for a couple hours in the refrigerator (overnight is ok); a five pound can is what I use. This firms them up and gives a texture that I like. Remove some of the tough membranes before braising or sauteeing. Two classics are braising them with stock, cream and mustard or sauteed them with mushrooms, a little white wine, stock and herb.

        1. For a Mexican twist, Poach the sweetbreads (thymus gland type) in beer till mostly done then finish on the grill until the exterior is crispy and golden. Also grill some sausage (Polish type works especially well) Make tacos with chopped sweetbreads and sausage. Add some lime juice and grilled onions, and you have one of my favorite all time meals.