Sweetbreads are the thymus gland (or pancreas) of a young calf or lamb. Famously, on season four of Top Chef, Stephanie Izard declared that properly cooked sweetbreads taste like Chicken McNuggets, and it’s true – the meat is mild and savory. Because they are so high in cholesterol – nearly 400mg per 100g cooked – sweetbreads are best served in small quantities.
In this dish, maitake supplements the sweetbreads and raw tart apple offsets the meat’s richness.
2 veal sweetbreads
1 large leek, white only, julienned
1 Granny Smith apple, julienned (1/16″) and held in ice water with lemon juice
2 large maitake (about 200g), trimmed and sliced
4 cloves garlic confit, pureed
2 oz unsalted butter
1 lemon, juiced and strained
pea sprouts, leaves only
1/4 c Wondra
espelette pepper (if unavailable, substitute white pepper and a tiny pinch of cayenne)
Prepare the sweetbreads at least 8 hours in advance by soaking in cold water (in the refrigerator), changing twice. Remove the membrane with a thin, sharp knife and then roll the sweetbreads in a kitchen towel to form and dry. Press the sweetbreads underneath a wooden cutting board weighed down with cans or similar in the refrigerator for about 2 hours before cooking.
Braise the julienned leek in 1 tbsp butter. Season and set aside.
Saute the maitake with the pureed garlic confit in a small amount of garlic oil. When golden, squeeze a small amount of lemon juice over maitake and season. Set aside.
Unwrap the sweetbreads. Slice 5/8″ thick. Season with salt and espelette and dredge in Wondra before pan frying over medium-high heat. Brown butter and add 1 tsp lemon juice.
Plate maitake and sweetbreads; place butter-braised leeks on top and drained julienne of apples. Spoon hot brown butter over dish. Place a small quantity of pea sprout on top.