Sweetbreads with Herbs and Mushrooms

Sweetbreads are often hard to come by, and are costly. Many butchers save all their sweetbreads for their restaurant trade, so you might have to pressure your local meat market to put some away for you. They must be absolutely fresh, and served the day they are bought. Sweetbreads always come in pairs and must be thoroughly washed, blanched, and the membranes and tubes removed. This takes a bit of trouble, but as the French say, "La grande cuisine cannot wait for man-man must wait for la grande cuisine."

The perfect companion for sweetbreads is fresh garden peas, or their frozen equivalent. We prefer to steam fresh vegetables in those round Japanese basket-style bamboo steamers, and peas come out superbly with this method. Put salt and a few leaves of fresh rosemary in the water, and you'll never cook peas any other way again.

Ingredients

  • 3 pairs of sweetbreads
  • ¼ teaspoon salt for blanching
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 6 medium-sized mushrooms, sliced
  • teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon chopped chives
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley
  • ½ teaspoon dried tarragon
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 1 teaspoon arrowroot, approximately

Method

Soak the sweetbreads for at least 1 hour in several changes of cold water, or in slowly running water.

In an enameled or Pyrex pan (never in aluminum!), cover the sweetbreads with 2 inches of cold water. Add ¼ teaspoon of the salt and the lemon juice, and blanch by bringing very slowly to the gentlest of simmers and simmering for 15 minutes.

Remove the blanched sweetbreads and plunge into cold water for at least 5 minutes. Carefully remove all the tubes and membranes without tearing the tissues. The sweetbreads are now ready for cooking.

Presoak a clay pot, top and bottom, in water for 10 minutes.

Place the sliced mushrooms in the pot, then add the sweetbreads and all the other ingredients.

Cover the pot and place it in a cold oven.

Turn temperature to 450 degrees.

Cook for 35 minutes.

When the sweetbreads are done, remove the pot and pour off the sauce into a saucepan. Heat, then thicken with the arrowroot. Serve with the sweetbreads.

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