Cooking meat sweet breads can be a bit involved, but when they are cooked correctly they are wonderful.
It's not Awful it's Offal
A sweet bread is either the thymus gland or the pancreas of a lamb or calf. The animal has to be under one year old in order to be able to get a thymus gland from it. The thymus and the pancreas perform different functions in the animals, but look and taste similar enough for them to be considered the same and called by the same name.
In order to prepare your meat sweet breads, you will need to first soak them for at least an hour in cold water. This will draw out the blood from the sweet breads. It is best if you change the water two or three times during the hour.
Next you will need to blanch them in acidulated water, which can be made of either 1 quart water with 1 tablespoon of white vinegar or 1 quart water and the juice of 1 lemon.
Or a Court Bouillon, which is:
- 1/2 gallon water
- 4 ounces white vinegar
- 4 ounces diced onions
- 2 ounces chopped celery
- 2 ounces diced carrots
- 1 ounce salt
- 1/2 teaspoon peppercorns
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/4 teaspoon thyme
- 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
- Mix all the ingredients in a pot and bring them to a boil.
- Reduce to a boil and simmer for thirty minutes
- Strain the liquid and cool.
- Use this to blanch your meat sweet breads.
In order to properly blanch your meat sweet breads, cover them with a cooled version of one of the liquids described above. Slowly bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce and simmer uncovered for three or four minutes. Remove them from the poaching liquid and place them into a bowl of ice water. Once they are cooled, take them out of the water and remove the membrane from the meat sweet breads. If you are going to be cooking them whole, find two pots that fit rather snugly and place the sweet breads in one bowl. Place the second bowl on top and then weight the second bowl down with a large heavy can or two of whatever canned food you happen to have handy. If you are going to use them in small bits, you can just separate the pieces and store them in your refrigerator.
Meat Sweet Breads
Once you have prepared your meat sweet breads, you are ready to cook them in any way you like. You can coat them in seasoned breadcrumbs and sauté them in butter or you can broil them by coating them in seasoned flour (flour mixed with salt and pepper) and wrapping them each in bacon. Make sure the bacon stays on by using a toothpick. Broil them in your broiler with the rack set about six inches from the heat. Baste occasionally with butter. Cook to medium well.
By the way, the recipe for meat sweet breads that is demonstrated in the movie Ratatouille is not really a good recipe. In the movie, the "Sweetbreads A La Gusteau" recipe was sweetbreads crusted in seaweed, salt, and white fungus with dried chili-licorice sauce. Yeah, that's not a good idea. If you are interested in trying meat sweet breads for the first time, I would suggest trying them at a good restaurant. If you want to try cooking them on your own I would suggest sautéing them as it is easy to do and very tasty.
You can braise them if you like. You can do this by taking:
- 1 pound prepared sweet breads.
- 2 ounces butter
- 2 ounces diced onions
- 1 ounce diced carrots
- 1 ounce diced celery
- 1 pint demiglaze or, if you don't have demiglaze, 1 pint beef stock.
- Heat the butter in a large saucepan that has a lid.
- Add the vegetables and sauté them until they start to caramelize.
- Place the meat sweet breads on the vegetables and pour in the demiglaze or stock.
- Cover the pan tightly and place in a 325 degree oven.
- Cook for 45 to 60 minutes.
- Take the sweet breads out of the stock and place on a plate. Cover with foil to keep warm.
- Bring the liquid in the saucepan to a boil and reduce until thick.
- Strain and serve with the sweet breads.