Never ones to shy away from organ meats like most other Americans, rural Southerners relish sweetbreads (the thymus glands of calves, lambs, and pigs) as much as chitlins, liver, heart, and even “mountain oysters” (pig’s testicles). Never was I served more sublime veal sweetbreads than at a cozy retreat called The Orchard Inn, up in Highlands, North Carolina, almost on the intersecting borders of South Carolina and Georgia. Without question, the most delicate, creamy sweetbreads are from young calves and lambs; those from older animals and hogs are tougher and much stronger in flavor. Today, veal sweetbreads are available fresh or frozen in more and more markets. Do remember not only that they must be soaked overnight in acidulated water and the tough membranes removed before cooking, but also that they are the most perishable of all organ meats and should be prepared within 24 hours of purchase. Since nothing seems to enhance sweetbreads like fresh lemon juice, I like to serve a bowl of seeded lemon wedges on the side.
Drain the soaked sweetbreads and place them in a large saucepan with the lemon juice and enough salted water to cover. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, simmer 10 minutes, and transfer to a bowl of ice water. Cut away all membranes, then separate the sweetbreads into 2-inch pieces. Pat dry with paper towels, cut into ½-inch slices, and season with salt and pepper.
In a large skillet, melt
Add the remaining butter to the skillet, add the scallions and mushrooms, and cook, stirring, till softened, about 3 minutes. Add the flour and continue to cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Add the broth and half-and-half, bring to a simmer, and cook about 3 minutes. Add the browned sweetbreads, simmer 10 minutes, and serve on toast points arranged on individual plates.
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