Terrine of Veal Sweetbreads

Terrine de Ris de Veau

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


Appears in

Simple French Food

By Richard Olney

Published 1974

  • About

The mode is now on the decline (chicken in vinegar, bass in pastry, and duck with green peppercorns having risen to stardom) but, during the 1960’s, sweetbread terrines proliferated on the menus of France’s fashionable restaurants. They were all poor, vapid things, underseasoned (except for one master who leant heavily on the cayenne) but, otherwise, mysteriously defying analysis: white, parboiled sweetbreads trapped in a white and remarkably insipid sort of panade—wrapped in their white cloaks of pork fat; the only relief for the eye was the caramel color of the chopped commercial jelly garnish and, for the palate, there was none.

Finally, I think that sweetbreads lend themselves best to hot preparations, but the idea of a sweetbread terrine has always appealed to me—it still does—and I am convinced that a respectable result depends on their being first braised in a richly flavored stock. The fragility of sweetbreads cannot permit their being mixed roughly into the general composition as one does with the rabbit. For variation, add to the forcemeat a handful of chopped spinach (first parboiled for a couple of minutes, refreshed under cold running water, and squeezed repeatedly to rid the mass of all possible liquid) or a half cup of stiff duxelles, a chicken breast, skinned and cut into pieces, or, as in the preceding recipe, skinned and coarsely chopped pistachios. A sweetbread terrine is accompanied to perfection by a sorrel mousse.

Tinned truffles, the container of which is filled to the brim with a brownish liquid, have been boiled in water before being sterilized and rarely retain much perfume. The best conserves contain very little liquid—the fresh truffles are sterilized directly with only a small addition of fortified wine, usually Madeira.

The following proportions will give two 1-quart terrines.


  • 2 lobes (about pounds) veal sweetbreads


  • 4 ounces veal, all fat and nervous tissue removed, finely chopped
  • 2 ounces fillet of pork, finely chopped
  • 5 ounces fresh fatback, cut into tiny cubes
  • 2 chicken livers, finely chopped
  • 1 small tin truffles or truffle peelings, chopped (liquid added to stock)
  • Salt, pepper, nutmeg, cayenne
  • ounces stale bread, crusts removed, crumbled
  • 2 eggs
  • cup Madeira (or good sherry or port or Cognac)

Braising Elements

  • Mirepoix (4 ounces finely chopped carrots, small branch finely chopped celery, 4 ounces finely chopped onion, 1 ounce butter, 1 teaspoon dried, crumbled, mixed herbs, ½ bay leaf, finely crumbled or chopped, salt)
  • 2 cups gelatinous veal stock
  • 1 bay leaf for each terrine
  • About 8 ounces thin sheets fresh pork fat
  • Melted lard (optional)


Soak the sweetbreads in cold water for 2 or 3 hours, changing it a couple of times. Cover them well with cold water in a large saucepan, bring to a boil over a medium flame, simmer for 5 or 6 minutes, drain, and plunge them into a basin of cold water. Peel off the loosened surface membrane, all fat, and the tubelike cartilaginous material, but leave the connecting membranes that hold the sections together. Arrange the sweetbreads flat, side by side, between two towels placed on a board. Place another board on top, weight it (3 or 4 pounds), and leave for several hours.

Mix together all of the elements of the forcemeat except for the breadcrumbs, the eggs, and the wine, and leave, covered, for several hours (or refrigerate overnight), permitting the truffles’ perfume to permeate the mixture.

Choose a heavy pot, preferably copper or earthenware, just large enough to contain the sweetbreads arranged side by side on the bottom. Cook all the elements of the mirepoix in butter over low heat, stirring from time to time, for about ½ hour; they should not brown. Arrange the sweetbreads on the bed of vegetables, pour over the stock (which has been melted with the truffle juice), bring to the boiling point, and cook, covered, at a bare murmur for about 45 minutes. Remove the sweetbreads to a plate and pass the sauce through a strainer, pressing well to extract all cooking juices, but without passing the vegetables into the sauce. Lift off any fat on the surface, return to a boil and, over a period of from 10 to 15 minutes, keep at a light boil to one side of the saucepan, pulling the fatty skin that forms on the surface to the other side with a tablespoon and removing it. Reduce over a high flame, stirring constantly, to bring the liquid to the consistency of a heavy demi-glace—about ½ cup or slightly more should remain; then add the breadcrumbs and work into a firm, sticky paste.

Add the crumb-stock paste, the eggs, and the Madeira to the forcemeat mixture and mix thoroughly, using your hands. Spread half the forcemeat into the bottom of the fat-lined terrine (or terrines). Press the sweetbreads regularly into place. Fill the terrines with the remaining forcemeat, tap to settle the contents, place a bay leaf on the surface, press a sheet of fat over the surface, and cook in a bain-marie as for the rabbit terrine, but counting only about 1¼ hours, the sweetbread core being already cooked. Cool under weight and, if to be kept for more than 4 or 5 days, pour melted lard over the surface.