Obtained from the thymus or the pancreas, the sweetbread is indeed a gland and not a muscle. And it is neither sweet nor a bread as we know that to be. (An example of Baaa to Rump eating…)
I’ve made calf sweetbreads fairly often — my mother used to make them when we were children. It turns out, however, that lamb sweetbreads (at least from the source I’ve obtained them) were way too fatty and not in a good way, when cooked by the same protocol as the beef variant. Some bits of lamb fat in certain parts of the body have a bad, roof-hugging texture which isn’t welcome. SO… I had to make these better…
Stir Fried Lamb Sweetbreads
Prep Time: about 20 minutes to clean sweetbreads, 15 to prepare the other ingredients.
Soak Time: 6-18 hours
Cook Time: Poach 7 minutes, plus about 25-30 minutes for stir fry.
Rest Time: Not necessary.
- About 10-12 ounces of raw lamb sweetbread.
- 1 teaspoon sea salt, divided
- 2-3 thin slices of lemon, for the juice
Rinse in cold water, set in a bowl with 1/2 teaspoon salt and water to cover, mix gently and put in fridge.
Allow to soak for 6-18 hours, changing the water two or three times. With the second change, rinse and add another 1/2 teaspoon water and another dose of lemon juice. With an optional third change, rinse and just add the lemon juice.
Remove from fridge, rinse. Add more water to the bowl, and with your fingers and a pair of scissors, remove any wads or small bits of fat. I do this now, prior to poaching, since it is easier to see the white fat against the pinkish sweetbreads. You can remove some membrane now, but most of the membrane on lamb is not much of an issue, and at any rate this is easiest removed after poaching.
Bring a small pot of water to a good simmer, and add the cleaned sweetbreads.
At seven minutes, drain the sweetbreads, set in a dish and pat dry. Remove any other obvious membranes. Wrap in clingwrap to cover the meat so the sweetbreads don’t discolor with air.
I weighed the remaining lamb sweetbreads after the above steps: 4-5 ounces. This wasn’t all fat loss – there is definite water loss during the poaching step.
- 1 tablespoon butter or ghee.
- 1 small onion, coarsely chopped.
- Sweetbreads from First Stage
- 1 small bell pepper, de-seeded and diced,
- 1/2 teaspoon thyme
- 1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons dry white wine
- 2 tablespoons blood orange balsamic vinegar (or any other fruit vinegar you have to hand)
- 2 teaspoons rice vinegar, unseasoned
- 1 scallion/green onion, chopped
- 1 rinsed tablespoon of capers
Heat a skillet to medium and allow the butter to melt, but not smoke.
Add the onions. Pan fry them until translucent, and some of them are turning just a touch brown around the edges, about ten minutes.
Remove from skillet and reserve. (If you like your bell pepper softer than this recipe, add in the bell pepper now. Stir until soft, and remove to the dish with the onions.
Add the sweetbreads — with a little more butter or ghee if so indicated.
Pan stir for about 6-8 minutes, until they begin to brown.
Add the peppers now (if you want them au dente, which was my preference).
In any case, continue stirring gently for another 2-3 minutes.
Return the onions (and peppers, if you wanted them soft) to the skillet, and then the seasonings: thyme, garlic, salt, pepper). Stir another five minutes.
Deglaze with the wine, balsamic vinegar and rice vinegar.
Stir for another five minutes.
Taste and adjust seasonings.
Transfer to a serving bowl, and top with the scallion and capers, and serve.
Suggested sides: Baked potato or sweet potato? (I’m attempting to keep suggested sides grain-free, but let your desires rule!)
Sweetbreads, by the way, have a mild and not gamey taste (but in lamb you need to get that gamey fat out), and my parents during my childhood tried to convince me chicken breast in some of their dishes was really sweet breads, in hopes that I’d dive in with gusto. That ploy didn’t work.
There would have been more photos, but I’m dealing with the Nasty Cold from Hell, and so just the one.
I obtained these lamb sweetbreads from US Wellness (grass fed and finished) last year, and regret to note I didn’t think about the lamb fat thing before attempting to make the earlier version. Which was a fail that I couldn’t eat. I am happy now, both to eat and to share, and to recommend them as a source if you don’t have something local to hand. (I’d also gotten some veal sweetbreads at the same time from them, which worked out wonderfully using remembered parental cooking guidance!) US Wellness has probably forgotten they sold me these meats, and so this just me saying, yeah, try here, rather than being sponsored or anything.
This recipe is hanging out at Fiesta Friday, where the cohost this week is Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.
I have never heard of lamb sweetbreads before, but this sounds so tasty so I know our friends at Fiesta Friday party would love this. Thanks for sharing!
I love sweetbreads but rarely see them in the market or in restaurants. And I am the only one in my current family who will eat them. But, growing up they were a special treat. Not good for gout though, which plagued my mother and father.
Yes, they aren’t recommended if one has gout… nor is shellfish.
I’ve never had sweetbreads but I know what they are, and wouldn’t mind trying them at all. I’ve just never seen them anywhere, just like Liz said, except on cooking shows.
I only find them at farmer’s markets or at local grass or pastured raised farms. Although these I purchased via US Wellness, a company that specializes in pastured/grass fed meats. (They were on sale when I got them.) Back in the day, Mom and Dad found them in corners of New York City that they loved to explore.