Monday, September 10, 2012

Veal Sweetbreads & Wild Mushrooms

A treasure of wild mushrooms was spread out on my kitchen counter. Freshly-foraged golden chantarelles, tube chantarelles, and blue staining boletes. Not that I did the foraging. Well, not in the forest anyway. My foraging was done at the local farmers market this summer in the Laurentians. I must admit, the blue staining bolete needed a little convincing by the mushroom man. In my natural mistrust of blue food, I looked doubtful (to say the least) when he demonstrated why it is called the blue staining bolete. It literally turns blue when you cut into it. "But", he convinced me: "it is a delicious mushroom."

The wild mushrooms with their delicious aroma and earthy flavors would go very well with the velvety tenderness of veal sweetbreads that I had prepared. 

Sweetbreads. Velvety and delicate.

This is not the first time I blog about sweetbreads. And no, sweetbreads have nothing to do with sugar or bread. It is an organ meat.  A "pale, limp, shapeless knobbly piece of meat called the thymus gland found in young animals" as I described it in last year's post Oh Sweet Breads. There is the larger sweetbreads from the stomach (as in below picture), and thinner ones from the throat.

veal sweetbreads: a pale, shapeless knobbly organ meat
Tempted already?

While lean and with a calorie-count similar to white chicken meat, sweetbreads are also high in cholesterol. It is a meat I consider a special treat. Good-quality sweetbreads are not easy to come by, anyway. And they're a lot more time-consuming to prepare than, say, chicken breast. Once a year though - from my organic butcher in Quebec - I bring home a knobbly chunk of sweetbreads to soak, blanch, peel, and cook.

Below is a recipe for veal sweetbreads sautéed with wild mushrooms. If you have no wild mushrooms, button mushrooms will be fine.

the moment you cut into this mushroom, it turns blue where you cut it
Preparing Sweetbreads

First step: degorging. Soak the sweetbreads in ice cold water for several hours (up to 24 hours). This step is done to remove any trace of blood and your sweetbreads come out whiter and will be milder in taste.

Next step: blanching. Place the sweetbreads in a large pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil. If you have large (stomach) sweetbreads, simmer briefly (for 1-2 minutes, no more). Take off the heat and immediately dunk in ice cold water (it stops any cooking). This blanching-step is done to further clean the sweetbreads and also to slightly firm them up. It makes it easier to handle the sweetbreads. 

Allow the sweetbreads to cool under slight pressure (place a small weight on top of the (plastic-covered) sweetbreads). Again, this is done to firm them up for easier handling.

Final preparation step: portion the sweetbreads (either slice or disconnect the individual morsels you see). Take off any vein or other impurity you see. Also take off the outer thin membrane as much you can, without breaking up the sweetbreads too much.

Your portioned sweetbreads are now ready to be cooked as you would (raw) white chicken meat. In fact, you could replace the sweetbreads by chicken breast in this recipe.

Veal Sweetbreads Sautéed with Wild Mushrooms
(main course recipe for 4)

400gr prepared (see above) veal sweetbreads (I prefer from the stomach)
200gr wild mushrooms (whole or big ones torn smaller) 
2-3 shallots, chopped very fine
1 clove garlic, crushed and chopped very fine
1 tsp Dijon mustard
salt/pepper to taste
1 tbsp fresh parsley (and a little fresh sage if you have), chopped fine
1 tbsp double cream
1 tbsp unsalted butter

Season the sweetbreads with salt and pepper. Heat a skillet and melt the butter until foaming but not yet browning. Add the sweetbreads and sauté (= toss around in the pan as you cook them) until slightly browned and firm. Add the mustard, toss some more. Take out and keep warm. In the same pan, sauté the shallots until soft, and add the mushrooms. Continue to cook for a few minutes, then add the garlic. Cook for one more minute, add the parsley and the splash of cream. Add the sweetbreads back into the pan and warm through. Serve immediately.

See also Veal Sweetbreads on the Camp Fire Grill (recipe here)

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1 comment:

  1. Love that blue mushie. We do fairly well here with mushrooms in Dubai considering we live in the desert, but never seen anything like that here.