Much like my old friend head cheese, sweetbreads have a very misleading name. They are neither sweet nor bread. At least head cheese is is half accurate: it has lots of head in it. Sweetbreads are most commonly the thymus gland or pancreas from cows, sheep or pigs. It took me quite a bit of searching my area, but I eventually found veal sweetbreads frozen from a local butcher. Based on the shape of them, I would say mine they were “throat” sweetbreads or thymus gland.
To say they are unpleasant to look at is an understatement.
I was almost afraid to handle this lump of impossibly soft meat. It felt like a one of those water-filled snake things you had when you were a kid.
There is a quite a bit of preparation time required for making them: they have to be soaked in salty or acidic water, then poached, then finished with some other technique. I went for fried.
After they are poached in milk, you can remove the outer membrane from each of the individual lobes of meat. Once I separated the pieces, it resembled a pile of fleshy cheese curds.
After stripping off what seemed to be endless amounts of membrane, it was time to fry them up. Like many of you, I am a firm believer in the idea that fried=good. Once I allowed a moment for them to cool, I popped one into my mouth. The texture was incredibly soft and smooth. I hesitate to use this analogy but the flavor was a lot like chicken. Not very strong at all, certainly meaty but not a huge punch of flavor at all. It certainly didn’t taste like other organ meats. A quick dip on some sriracha mayo and the second bite was even better.
Overall, they were very tasty, but I’m not quite sure I would go through the effort to make them myself again. However, if I saw an interesting preparation at a restaurant, I would not hesitate at all to order them.
Sweetbreads get a solid “Try It”– with a recommendation to let someone else make them for you.