Braised Sweetbreads

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • yield:

    6

    servings

Appears in

Sauces

By James Peterson

Published 1991

  • About

Regardless of how sweetbreads are cooked—they’re usually braised or sautéed—they first undergo a blanching and weighting process to compact them. Sweetbreads come in two forms. One, long and a bit ragged, is called in French the gorge, meaning “throat,” while the other, compact and spheroid, is called the noix, meaning “nut.” Always choose the noix, which will look neater on the plate and braise more evenly.

The most frequently made mistake when preparing this dish is adding too much liquid for braising. Keep in mind that the liquid released from the sweetbreads should be allowed to caramelize. It has a flavor of its own that shouldn’t be compromised with the addition of large amounts of stock or other liquids.

Ingredients

sweetbreads, preferably noix pieces lb 1.25 kg
carrot, cut into small dice 1 large 1 large
onion, minced 1 medium 1 medium
garlic clove, minced 1 1
butter 1 oz 30 g
white wine ½ cup 125 ml
glace de viande (optional) 2 tbsp 30 ml
heavy cream 1 cup 250 ml
salt and pepper to taste to taste

Method

  1. Put the sweetbreads in a pot with enough cold water to cover and bring to a boil over high heat. As soon as the water comes to a boil, take out the sweetbreads and put them on a sheet pan. Put a cutting board on top with some cans or pots on top of that to weight the sweetbreads. Store in the refrigerator for 6 hours or overnight. Trim off loose pieces of fat and tissue.
  2. In a pan just large enough to hold the sweetbreads in a single layer, sweat the carrots, onions, and garlic in the butter over medium heat until the onion is translucent but not brown, about 10 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).
  3. Arrange the sweetbreads over the vegetables in the pan. Place a round of parchment paper or aluminum foil loosely on top of the sweetbreads and slide the pan into the oven. Check every 10 minutes to make sure the juices are caramelizing but not burning. If the juices are threatening to burn, add half the wine.
  4. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until firm to the touch. Take the sweetbreads out of the pan and keep them warm. Add the wine to the pan and boil it for about 10 seconds to cook off the alcohol. Add the glace de viande and cream and bring to a simmer. Reduce the sauce if it needs thickening, but be careful not to overdo it or the sauce may end up gloppy. Season with salt and pepper. Slice the sweetbreads and top with the sauce. Here the vegetables are left in the sauce, but they may also be strained out.

Variations

This technique for braising sweetbreads and building a sauce is almost universal, but various ingredients can be added to the sauce minutes before serving to give it a different character. Chiffonade of sorrel, chopped fines herbes, sautéed fresh or reconstituted dried cèpes (porcini mushrooms), morels, and truffles are just a few possibilities. In the early twentieth century, sweetbreads were often served à la financière with truffles, chicken quenelles, and cockscombs. It’s also possible to use a brunoise of carrots and turnips along with the minced onions to braise the sweetbreads and then use this as part of the garniture. Michel Guérard serves a dish of sweetbreads in which the sweetbreads are separated into pieces—virtually all the connective membrane is removed—and the braised pieces served in a sauce made with morels and truffles. Wedges of artichoke bottoms are served with the sweetbreads to provide a subtly contrasting texture.