Sweetbreads in a Sealed Casserole

Braised sweetbreads have many variations, but the one I like the most (and that always makes me think of New Years Eve) is when they are bathed in fresh truffles. But then almost anything with fresh truffles is wonderful. I have included this old classic since it can be made two days before serving, sealed, kept in the refrigerator, and heated up at the last moment. When the crust seal is broken and all the aromas escape out onto the table, the result is spectacular.

If you do not have truffles, try wild mushrooms such as boletus mushrooms or morels, and if you cannot get those fresh, reconstitute dried ones in stock.

You will need four small (2-cup capacity) ovenproof casseroles with covers. Metal charlotte or soufflé dishes from France are ideal.

Ingredients

  • 2 large braised sweetbreads
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled
  • 1 large white onion, peeled, finely chopped
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 2 parsnips, peeled and cored
  • 2 cup braising liquid
  • ½ cup Malmsey Madeira
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 4 sprigs fresh tarragon
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 pound fresh cépes, chanterelles, morels, or field mushrooms (if you want to use fresh truffle, 2 ounces should do)
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

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

Add all but 4 tablespoons of the Madeira to the braising liquid and reduce to 1 cup.

Put the vegetable mixture, thyme, tarragon, and butter in a 2-quart pot with 2 tablespoons of water, cover, and sweat over low heat for 5 minutes. Remove the herbs and spoon the mixture equally into the four casseroles.

Pull the sweetbreads apart into ¼-inch pieces, discarding all the membrane. Season and toss in a bowl with the remaining Madeira and the parsley. Divide the sweetbreads among the casseroles.

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

Put the flour and 4 to 6 tablespoons water in a small bowl and mix with your fingers into a slightly sticky paste so that it can be rolled out in your hands to form 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. Up to this point the dishes can be prepared the day before and refrigerated.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

If refrigerated, bring to room temperature before cooking. Bake for 20 minutes. Take the dishes to the table and break open the seals to serve.

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