Sweetbreads, Veal Jus and Almond Puree
Sweetbreads are a type of offal that consists of the thymus glands and pancreas from veal or lamb. Unlike other offals such as heart and kidneys that have a strong rust-like and musty taste, sweetbreads in contrast are mild and creamy, similar to that of calf brains.
While slightly bothersome to prepare, cooking sweetbreads are easy as they are literally impossible to overcook. Furthermore when deep-fried, they develop a crisp outer layer when maintaining a nice creamy and soft inside. The main fuss during the preparation of sweetbreads include the initial step of soaking them in a liquid in order to remove their smell, which can be quite disgusting to inexperienced cooks due to its pungency but trust me, the sweetbreads themselves have almost no taste at all. The next step is to remove the membranes on the sweetbreads, which although hold them together, also give them a chewy texture. The trick here is to try to remove as much membrane surrounding the outside of the sweetbreads as much as possible without pulling the sweetbreads apart.
Sweetbreads are close to impossible to find in a supermarket but are not uncommon at butchers. It is even possible to order or reserve some at your local butcher. As a not widely sought after cut of meat, they are extremely cheap and definitely worth the hassle.
Panko Sweetbreads, Veal Jus and Almond Puree
- 400g Sweetbreads
- White Wine Vinegar/Rice Vinegar
- Panko bread crumbs
- Maldon Sea Salt
- 50g Blanched Almonds
- 100ml Almond Milk
- 50ml Cream
- 400ml Veal Stock/Beef Stock
- 5g Tomato Puree
- Cherry Tomatoes
- Balsamic Vinegar
To remove the smell and any impurities from sweetbreads, soak them in a mixture of cold water and one quarter vinegar for at least 3 hours before draining and drying well.
- Blanch the sweetbreads in a pot of boiling salted water for 5 to 15 minutes before dunking in ice water to stop the cooking. Dry the sweetbreads well with paper towels.
- Gently remove the sinew and membranes on the sweetbreads, be sure not to rip the sweetbreads apart.
- Beat the eggs together and Coat the sweetbreads in flour before coating the sweetbreads in the beaten eggs.
- Coat the sweetbreads with the Panko bread crumbs before frying in a frying pan until all sides are golden or deep frying at 180°C until golden brown.
Rest the sweetbreads on a paper towel to absorb the excess oil and finish with Maldon Sea Salt or any flaky sea salt.
- Soften the almonds by simmering them in a mixture of the milk and cream.
- Blend together using a hand blender or food processor.
- Season to taste.
- Whisk the tomato puree into the stock.
- Reduce the stock down until it coats the back of a spoon.
- Season to taste.
- Preheat oven to 200°C
- Score the cherry tomatoes and slightly salt them
- Cook in the oven till asparagus and soft to the bite and the tomatoes have slightly browned and released their juices.
- Plate a tablespoon of almond puree and place two pieces of sweetbreads on top.
- Plate the vegetables and drizzle the balsamic vinegar on the tomatoes.
- Drizzle on the veal jus.
- If possible, change the water at least once when soaking to sweetbreads.
- Traditional recipes call for sweetbreads to be soaked in milk, which I recommend if you do not want a slight almost unnoticeable vinegary taste in your sweetbreads.
- When blanching the sweetbreads, the duration doesn’t really matter as it is close to impossible to over cook sweetbreads.
- Blanching them makes their membrane significantly easier to remove.
- Be sure to dry the sweetbreads throughly to make sure that when you deep-fry/fry them, they do not cause the oil to splash.
- Flour the sweetbreads before coating with egg mixture to ensure that the egg is able to cling on to the sweetbreads, which in turns allows an even coating of breadcrumbs.
- If the coating of the breadcrumbs is not even, you can try and dip the sweetbreads back in the egg mixture and coat again in breadcrumbs for a double coating.
- Salt the sweetbreads immediately after frying as the salt is absorbed by the sweetbreads when still hot compared to when they have cooled down.
The veal Jus and almond puree is fairly rich which is where the balsamic vinegar helps to balance it out.
An ideal wine to pair with this dish would be a spicy and fruity light red wine to compliment the sweetbreads as although they come from from veal and lamb, the sweetbreads themselves are more like chicken in terms of their heaviness (e.g. more like white meat). A Pinot Noir from Oregon, a Syrah from the Northern Rhone or a Gamay from Beaujolais would work well. In terms of white wine, a South or Western Australian Chardonnay would work well too, with enough acidity to compliment the veal jus and almond puree. A more adventurous paring would definitely be white wines from the Jura, which consist of the grape varieties Savagnin, Poulsard, Trousseau, and Chardonnay. This is especially so for their famous vin jaune, which is made in semi filled barrels and stored under a layer of yeast called a voile which is similar to the flor under which sherry is stored. This gives it a slightly oxidised characteristic which gives it nutty notes which pair well with the almond puree while still preserving enough acidity to cut the fat in the sweetbreads.