Thursday, January 21, 2010


Admittedly sweetbreads aren't for everyone and even those who savor this special treat might not be up for making them at home. If you do like them, rest assured that this dish will pay off in spades. These tender bits of innards (if you have to ask...) usually pop up on French or Italian menus, often in a straight-forward saute, which can be lovely, or maybe fortified by a Marsala sauce. And recently, with the offal craze still in its ascendancy, in more elaborate preparations. Prepared here, you get the true taste of pure veal. It's an "a ha!" moment justifying the bit of extra effort.

These earn the international mantle because of the traditional French advance work (blanching, weight to remove excess liquid, simmering in stock) with a detour to the east for some chili paste and green curry, then a return to Europe for a cream and Parmesan finish.

I've always been intrigued by crazy sounding recipes. In this case it reads weird but is wonderful. Other instances have proved as repellant as they initially sound. My first disappointment came from The Bell Jar. Sylvia's roommate is addicted to avocado halves filled with hot grape jelly. Hoping for some felicitous combination I gave it a try. It's even worse than you'd imagine. There's another surreal-sounding one I treasure, though I've never attempted it. From a cookbook billed as authentic Celtic fare, it calls for an entire turkey breast smeared with liverwurst and topped with sweet cherry sauce. Funny perhaps, but also just wrong.

International Sweetbreads are just right. The required leap of faith pays off handsomely, the curry and chili balancing and blending with the cream and Parmesan, intensifying the original flavor, making veal sweetbreads even vealier. If you enjoy the succulence of a tender young veal chop this one will knock your socks off.

This originated in a mid '80s New York Times Magazine. I carefully clipped just the recipe so the attendant source information is lost. The statute of limitations must have expired by now so I claim this one as my own.

International Sweetbreads

1 pair (about 1 1/2 lbs.) veal sweetbreads
salt and ground pepper
1 peeled carrot, sliced
1 small onion, sliced
small handful of celery leaves
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
6 sprigs fresh parsley
1/2 t. dried thyme
1 bay leaf
2 1/2 chicken stock
2 T. butter
1/2 lb. thinly sliced shiitake mushroom caps
1 t. Thai green chili paste
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 c. grated parmesan

Prepare the sweetbreads: Submerge in a bowl of cold water and let soak in the fridge for several hours. Drain. Place them in a sauce pan in enough fresh water to cover. Bring to a low boil for 6 minutes. Drain, rinse under cold water, pat dry. Place in a shallow pan and weigh down with a smaller pan filled with water or heavy cans or a clean brick if you have one. Refrigerate at least two hours, the longer the better, up to overnight.

Remove sweetbreads from pan, discard accumulated liquid. Bring the chicken stock to a boil with the carrot, onion, celery leaves, garlic and herbs and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the sweetbreads, bring back to a simmer and cook for 8 minutes. Lift the sweetbreads from the pan, let cool a bit, then pick over and cut off any unsightly membranes and the bits and pieces around the edges that aren't so pretty. Cut into 1 inch cubes. Strain the flavored stock and reserve 1 cup.

Saute the shiitakes in the butter 'til lightly browned. Add the curry paste, saute for a minute, then add the reserved stock and reduce so just a 1/4 cup of liquid remains. Add the cream and the sweetbread cubes. Simmer and reduce again until the sauce is thick and clingy. Remove from heat, salt and pepper it and stir in the Parmesan.

Voila! Mangiare! And มีความสุข! (which I think is Thai for enjoy).

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