Braised Sweetbreads in a Sealed Casserole

Braised sweetbreads is a dish that has many variations, but the one I like and that always makes me think of New Year’s Eve is this one when it has fresh truffles in it. But then almost anything with fresh truffles in it is wonderful, and if you do not have them, try wild mushrooms, and if you cannot get them fresh, reconstitute dried morels, cèpes, field mushrooms, etc., in stock and use them, reducing the stock and putting that in as well. It is a dish of kings that, once you have cooked the sweetbreads and paid for the mushrooms, is easy to set up, cook, and serve. You will need two-cup-capacity covered ovenproof dishes. Ideal are the metal charlotte dishes from France.

Ingredients

  • 2 large braised sweetbreads
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled
  • 1 large onion, peeled
  • 2 stalks celery
  • ¼ cup malmsey Madeira
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 sprig fresh tarragon
  • 2 sprigs parsley
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • ½ pound fresh cèpes, chanterelles, morels, or field mushrooms
  • ½ cup flour

Method

Prepare the sweetbreads, reserving 3 cups of the cooking liquid.

Cut the carrots in 1/16-inch-thick julienne; then cut crosswise to make a precise dice of 1/16 inch in diameter. Cut the onion and celery into the same size dice. Mix together and set aside.

Add all but 1 tablespoon of the Madeira to the sweetbread cooking liquid and reduce to 1 cup.

Heat the oven to 350°F.

Put the carrot mixture and herbs in a pot. Cover and bake for 10 minutes. Let cool covered and remove the herbs. Spoon the mixture into four 2-cup ovenproof casseroles.

Pull the sweetbreads apart into ¼-inch pieces. Season the pieces and toss them in a bowl with the remaining 1 tablespoon Madeira. Add them to the casseroles.

Chop the fresh mushrooms and truffles if you have them and put on top of the sweetbreads. If you are using dried mushrooms that you have reconstituted in stock, chop them and add to the casseroles. Pour over the reduced cooking liquid.

Turn the oven up to 400°F.

Make a paste of flour and water so that it can be rolled out in your hands to form sticky ropes. Press the ropes around the outer rim of the covers and then press the covers down on the casseroles so that they are sealed. If the paste falls down, push it back up to seal the cover and the dish.

Bake for 20 minutes. Take the dishes to the table and break open the seals to serve.

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