I finally got my hands on veal sweetbreads from a place is called, “we have to see you as a good customer before you gain access to certain things.” Just kidding, it probably came down to having bad luck on timing or other unforeseen causes. Or not? Most of the people I know say that this is the place to score but, I have always received a polite “no” or ramblings from the butchers about how the ranchers overslept or something. But ever so often, I hear from these same people, who recommend the place, “We had some great mollejas over the weekend, you should have picked some up.” “I tried looking last week but they didn’t have any.” “Oh, but you have to go around this time of the week,” they say. Yeah, well they never seem to have any when I go on those days. Since sweetbreads seem like a hot commodity it was probably bad timing. However, maybe the butchers remember me as the guy who only pops in to ask if the velvety thymus glands are in stock but doesn’t buy anything else. Maybe they believe that I’m loyal to a rival. I’ll just have to start buying their goods to see if that turns things around. Anyway, a friend who is a frequent customer of theirs dropped off four pounds this past weekend while picking up some for himself–after constant pleas for help.
If you are not familiar with veal thymus gland sweetbreads they have a pinkish color and an elongated shape with a lightly firm texture(almost similar to chicken livers). Sorry, no photos this time because I gave a family member the chore of slicing them up while I was busy preparing the grill. I solve that problem next time.
For grilling, this time, it was decided not to soak or blanch beforehand. Just toss them on the grill, then squirt fresh lemon juice and sprinkle some salt around during the cooking process. Next time I’ll try and compare other methods and will update this post in the style of previous meat posts when that happens.
Now, raw sweetbreads are super delicate and will stick to the grill like glue if the grill surfaces is not super clean, well oiled, and hot. As a backup, I threw the sweetbreads into a baking dish, poured in a few glugs of cooking oil, and tossed to coat. Raw sliced sweetbreads can be cooked fast or slow, just depends on personal preference and the outcome is different but, I’ll cover that later. In this case, I already had a few thick cuts of beef slowly cooking away with the grill rack about 15 cm above a thin layer of coals so I decided to treat the sweetbreads the same. After about 15 minutes, when the sides facing the coals were turning golden and crispy while the sides facing up were starting to turn a creamy white, I flipped them. After that, I spread some fresh hot coals around, sprinkled on some salt and lemon juice, and cooked for another 15 minutes. Veal sweetbreads really shine when they are extra crispy with a little char so I added an abundant amount of coals underneath and cooked them for about 5 minutes extra on each side. During this time, extra lemon juice and salt was sprinkled on the sides that were not covered before. Served with slices of lemon and everyone cheered after digging in.
If you have a fear of offal or had a bad experience with sweetbreads cooked in some manner that didn’t include grilling, seriously, give them a try by grilling them up. You don’t know what you’re missing.
Overall they were excellent but a few of the thicker pieces had a bit of an iron tasting bite to them. Not entirely unpleasant but I can see why soaking and/or blanching comes in hand.
After cooking and eating lamb sweetbreads for some time, I’ve come to the realization that veal is much better overall. Lamb is a pain to clean and prepare, to the point where some lamb meat is better left attached and that can ruin the overall sweetbread experience. With veal it is easy to get sweetbreads and only sweetbreads.
Although in the future I’m going to try different methods, the best veal sweetbreads I’ve had were grilled as whole pieces for a bit to firm up the flesh, then thinly sliced and cooked until crispy. Look forward to that next time.