Veal sweetbreads are the thymus glands of a veal calf. They’re marvelously tender, with the flavor of veal plus a marked richness. That owes to a rather high level of cholesterol, which makes me think of sweetbreads more as an appetizer than as the entree it classically was. This dish gets added richness from the cream sauce.
The most time-consuming part of this dish is getting the sweetbreads ready for the sauté pan. The fresh product seems almost liquid, but firms up when you poach it.
- 2 lbs. sweetbreads
- 1 cup flour
- 1 Tbs. salt
- 1 tsp. white pepper
- 5 Tbs. butter
- 1/2 cup Calvados
- 1/4 cup apple juice
- 1 Tbs. Dijon mustard
- 3 cups sliced mushrooms, preferably shiitakes or chanterelles
- 12 oz. whipping cream
- 8 oz. orzo pasta, cooled al dente
1. Bring a pot of water to a boil and blanch the sweetbreads for about five minutes. Drain and plunge into a bowl of ice water. Peel the membrane from the outside of the sweetbreads. It might be necessary to pull apart the lobes to get the little shreds of membrane out, but don’t break the sweetbreads up too much. Drain the excess water.
2. Combine the flour, salt, and pepper. Dust the sweetbreads with the mixture.
3. Heat the butter in a skillet over medium heat until it bubbles. Sauté the sweetbreads until browned lightly on all sides. Don’t be concerned that they might not be cooked throughout; there’s yet another stage of cooking coming. Keep the sweetbreads warm.
4. Pour off the excess butter, but don’t wipe the pan. Lower the heat to medium-low, and add the Calvados. Bring to a boil, whisking the bottom of the pan to dissolve the juices and butter. Be careful; Calvados is highly alcoholic, and the fumes may flame. (That’s okay, but be ready to deal with it.)
5. When the Calvados is almost all gone, add the apple juice, mustard, and mushrooms. Sauté the mushrooms until soft. Add the cream and bring to a boil, stirring the pan to blend the ingredients. Be careful not to let the cream foam over.
6. Taste the sauce and add salt and pepper as needed. Return the sweetbreads to the pan and cook until heated through. Serve with orzo pasta.