Morbid Meals – Recipe Redemption: Sweetbreads

EXAMINATION

It is time for a Recipe Redemption! Back in June, I presented a recipe for a gourmet preparation of sweetbreads. It was OK, but it was a lot of effort for just “OK”. In another one of my kooky cookbooks I found a much simplified version.

The cookbook is Recipe for Murder: Frightfully Good Food Inspired by Fiction by Esterelle Payany. This charming collection features recipes that one might expect villains would serve if they started a catering company.

Thus I discovered therein “Hannibal’s Express Sweetbreads”. As a fan of the movies and TV show, I was definitely curious. The recipe as provided reduced the time of virtually every step from the gourmet version, and even skips a couple unnecessary steps.

ANALYSIS

Makes: 4 Servings

8 cups (2 quarts) water
2 Tbsp kosher salt
2 Tbsp (white wine) vinegar
2 sweetbreads (about 1 pound or so)
1/2 cup (50g) flour
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup butter

Apparatus

  • Large saucepan or pot
  • Cutting board
  • Sharp knife
  • Two baking sheets or plates
  • Saute pan or skillet
  • Paper towels

Procedure

  1. Into a large saucepan/pot, bring the water to a boil, and add the salt and vinegar.
  2. Add the sweetbreads to the boiling water then bring the heat down to a simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Remove the sweetbreads to a cutting board and allow them to cool. (Note that you do not have to shock them in cold water.)
  4. With an exquisitely sharp knife, remove all of the membrane and skin from the sweetbreads. Any remaining bits of membrane will become chewy rubbery nasty bits.
  5. Line a plate or baking sheet with paper towels, place your sweetbreads on the paper towel, and cover with another sheet of paper towel. Then lay on top another plate or baking sheet and place a weight on top of this. Place this all in your refrigerator to chill for an hour.
  6. Into a mixing bowl, add the flour. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Remove the sweetbreads from their press and slice them into thick strips.
  8. Dredge the sweetbread strips in the flour, coating them all evenly.
  9. Set a skillet on medium-high heat and melt the butter. In small batches, brown the sweetbread strips in the butter. Cook for 2 minutes, then turn over and cook for another 2 minutes.
  10. Transfer the golden-brown sweetbread strips to a plate and serve with your favorite sauce.

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DISSECTION

The original recipe also created a sauce made from “long shallots” and sherry vinegar. Opinions seemed to differ on whether scallions (or green shallots) could be substituted for long shallots, or if the author just meant large shallots. Furthermore, real sherry vinegar is very expensive and hard to find, being a Spanish import.

POST-MORTEM

In the end, I think the best solution is to have or make your own sauce and either dip or drizzle onto your sweetbreads.

Which, when prepared this way, they were absolutely fantastic. The ones that I got all of the membrane off of, that is. A nice sweet and sour sauce complemented these wonderfully, but you could easily have these with BBQ sauce or gravy, or a fine reduction of whatever exotic wine a master chef like Hannibal might have on hand.

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