Wednesday, May 11, 2011

chile-lime sweetbreads

Chile-lime sweetbreads, kimchi rice

Like I said. Chile-lime sweetbreads with kimchi rice.

The "special sauce": sriracha, mustard, mayo, sesame oil.

The kimchi rice: 1 part white rice, 1 part wild rice (real wild rice, hand-harvested - I hate to say it, but it really makes a difference), cooked in the rice steamer and then mixed with chopped kimchi, ginger, gochujang (Korean red pepper paste), black sesame seeds, sesame oil, and bean paste.

... oh, but sweetbreads. Well.

"Sweetbreads" generally refers to the thymus gland, although sometimes the pancreas or another cut of offal will be called sweetbreads. It can come from the cow, the calf, the lamb, or the pig, and what's the most common/default will depend on where you live and shop. I first cooked sweetbreads when I lived in Indiana, for instance, where the butcher carried lamb sweetbreads for about $8 (sweetbreads are generally about a pound). But since moving here, the only sweetbreads I've seen have been beef sweetbreads, for less than $2.

Sweetbreads are made up of individual nodules connected by membrane. The taste is mild - perhaps the mildest of all organs, although brains are pretty mild too. The texture varies somewhat depending on how it's cooked, but is firm and spongy - which may sound weird or offputting, but all meat sounds weird and offputting when described texturally. "Firm and spongy" is just chicken thigh or filet mignon, minus the fibrousness.

Let me put it another way:

If you flour and fry them they taste like fried chicken.

The typical prep for sweetbreads is pretty involved, though not difficult: soak them in saltwater or milk for a few hours or overnight to leech out any blood, poach them, stick them between two plates with a heavy weight on top for a few hours or overnight to firm up the texture, and then remove as much of the membrane as you can. You can skip basically all of that except washing them and removing the membrane, if you want - I didn't in this case, though my soaking liquid was a sriracha brine, and because the sweetbreads were SO cheap I didn't so much remove the membrane as I sought out the largest nodules, freed them from the mass, cut them in half, and tossed the rest.

Once I'd done that, I marinated them for a couple hours in lime juice and ancho chile, then poured the lime juice out, covered them in flour, deep-fried them until crispy, and squeezed lime juice on top, with a few sesame seeds.

Reeeeally really good.

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