Sweetbreads Meuniere

By Published On: August 11th, 2015Categories: Appetizers2 Comments on Sweetbreads Meuniere
Sweetbreads right from the package!

Sweetbreads may not be everyone’s ‘thing‘, but I happen to love them and do not have them that often. In fact, this is the first time I have ever cooked them at home. Thanks to my friends, Duncan and Susan Blair of Rio Santa Cruz Ranch, (‘Like’ them on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/riosantacruzgrassfedbeef) I received a nice bunch of sweetbreads earlier this year from their harvest. Sweetbreads are offals, which are organ meats; the internal organs and entrails of a butchered animal; does not have to be a cow. Sweetbreads have a delicate texture and a mild organ-meat flavor all of their own. I am very interested in learning more about cooking and eating every part of a critter so cooking these sweetbreads was a thrill for me.

Meuniere is a simple French sauce which always includes brown butter, parsley and lemon. I got this recipe for Sweetbreads from Gourmet Magazine, which they published in 1973. I tweaked it a bit, but stayed pretty true. Here it is:

Sweetbreads resting after their water-bath.

2 lbs. sweetbreads
1 1/4 sticks unsalted butter, cut into tbsp. pieces
2 qts. water
1 medium onion, sliced
1 bay leaf
4 whole cloves
3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 Tbsp. plus 3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 lb. fresh chanterelles (I could not find chanterelles so used a combo of Crimini’s, Portabello’s, and White buttons
3/4 tsp. black pepper
1/3 cup finely chopped shallots–about 2 medium
1/3 cup dry Sherry
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice or more to taste
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

SOAK SWEETBREADS: Rinse sweetbreads under cold running water, then soak in a large bowl of ice and cold water in the fridge, changing water once or twice if water becomes pink, at least for 2 hours, then drain on paper towels or a linen dish towel.
MAKE BROWN BUTTER: Melt 1 stick butter in a 1 qt. heavy saucepan over moderate heat, then cook, stirring occasionally, until butter turns golden with a nutlike fragrance and flecks on bottom of pan turn a rich caramel brown, 10-20 minutes. Butter will initially foam, then subside. A thicker foam will appear. Stir more frequently toward end of cooking. Pour through a fine-mesh sieve into a heatproof measuring cup and set aside. You will have 5-6 Tbsp. of brown butter.
Bring water (2 quarts) to a simmer in a 3-4 qt. saucepan with onion, bay leaf, cloves, 3 cloves garlic, and 1 tbsp. salt. Add sweetbreads and poach gently uncovered, at a bare simmer–about 10 minutes. Transfer sweetbreads with a slotted spoon to a bowl of cold water to stop cooking.

My simmer was so bare that the sweetbreads stopped the bubbling when I first
put them in the water. They quickly came back up to gentle boil.

Pour 1 cup poaching liquid through a sieve into a small bowl and reserve for sauce, discarding remaining poaching liquid.

Drain sweetbreads and pat dry. Using a paring knife, cut away any fat and pull away as much membrane  and connective tissues as possible. This is a lot like taking the silver skin off any meat. The more thoroughly you clean and remove tissue the more tender and silken the sweetbreads will be.


Separate or cut sweetbreads into roughly 2 inch pieces. Arrange sweetbreads on a tray lined with paper towels to keep dry, blotting tops with more paper towels.
Cut/slice mushrooms. Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to lowest temp–175 to 200 degrees. Heat a 12 inch heavy skillet over high heat until a bead of water dropped onto cooking surface evaporates immediately–2 to 3 minutes.
Meanwhile, season the sweetbreads on both sides with 1/4 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper.

Sweetbreads just going into the pan with brown butter.

Add 2 Tbsp. brown butter to skillet, swirling to cover bottom (butter will smoke), then add seasoned sweetbreads without crowding. Reduce heat to moderately high, then cook, undisturbed until undersides are golden brown–2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer browned sweetbreads with tongs to a shallow baking pan, arranging them in 1 layer. Keep warm in oven.
Add the rest of the brown butter to the skillet and saute mushrooms, stirring occasionally until browned on edges–3 to 5 minutes. Add shallots and remaining 1/4 tsp. salt and pepper.

Saute for another minute or so. Add sherry, lemon juice, and reserved poaching liquid and boil, scraping up brown bits until mushrooms are tender and liquid is reduced by half–about 5 minutes. Remove sweetbreads from oven and add them and any liquid into the skillet. Add parsley and remaining 2 Tbsp. butter (not the brown butter), then remove from heat and gently stir until butter is incorporated into sauce. Serve sweetbreads immediately. I served on buttered toast points as a first course.

Here’s a funny story…I made these sweetbreads for our neighbors. They came with 2 of their teenage kids and I was so impressed the kids not only tried the sweetbreads, but seemed to really like them. As I was doing the last stir on the sweetbreads one of the kids offered to video tape me. She was filming with my camera; I was talking in my Martha Stewart voice; and all of a sudden every smoke alarm in the house went off! I was so excited to be cooking sweetbreads that I forgot to turn the overhead fan on. The video is funny, but not very useful because early-on all you hear are the alarms!

If you are making an all French meal, you might want to follow the sweetbread course with this classic French salad.

Salad Lyonnaise ready to serve.

This salad gets its name because it originates in Lyon, France. It is a very simple salad with a few key ingredients: just the right salad dressing; perfectly poached egg; good quality lardons of bacon; and fresh greens. Traditionally you would serve over frisee, but I could not find frisse so served over mixed greens with herbs.
5 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/2 inch strips
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 small shallot, minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 Tbsp. extra virgin Olive Oil
8 oz. frisee, or other greens torn into bite-sized pieces
1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
4 eggs

Boil bacon and 1 cup water in a 12 inch skillet. Reduce heat to medium-high; cook until water is evaporated and bacon is crisp. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Transfer 3 Tbsp. bacon fat (do NOT skimp on the bacon fat) to a large bowl. Add lemon juice, mustard, shallot, salt, and pepper. While whisking, slowly drizzle in oil until vinaigrette is emulsified (slightly thickened and completely incorporated). Add reserved bacon and the frisee. Toss and divide between 4 plates.
Bring a large shallow saucepan or frying pan of water to slow boil. Add some salt. Crack eggs one at a time into a small bowl or cup and carefully slide into the water. You want the water to be bubbling, but not boiling. If too hot the eggs will disintegrate. If too cool they will run all over the pan. Cook until whites are set–about 2 minutes depending on size of egg. Using a slotted spoon, carefully life eggs out of the water and divide between plates; garnish with more black pepper and make a little slit in the yolk to open before serving.

Add here’s the salad before the egg is broken.

I would love to hear from those of you who enjoy sweetbreads and also hear how you cook them. Hopefully for those who have not tried them, this might inspire you!

My husband, Jerry and I recently spent my (big!) birthday weekend in Bisbee, Arizona. We had a few days to kick back and enjoy this beautiful, old mining town. We also had the opportunity to visit a fabulous ranch in McNeal, just outside of Bisbee. The family owned and operated ’47 Ranch’ is totally off the grid. All their critters are lovingly raised on grass with no antibiotics or hormones. We met some pigs and sheep along with the owners, Dennis and Deb Moroney, and main ranch-hand Nessa. They also have 500 head of cattle and raise goats at another location. You will be hearing much more about this ranch and their products in future posts.

This is the special birthday glass my brother Skip gave me years ago
to celebrate my birthday!

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  1. Diana Brock Makes August 12, 2015 at 4:44 pm - Reply

    YIKES. Not so sure about these. However … if I were to EVER taste them, it would be with you.

    Brown butter …. sounds like a faster version of making ghee. Do you know the difference?

    LOVE the story about the neighbor kids!!

  2. Cindy Rabbitt August 30, 2015 at 2:20 pm - Reply

    Thank you…thank you! I am just about to do a blog and saw I had a comment!…my first! To make brown butter you heat butter on medium heat until it begins to foam. Swirl the pan a couple times. You want to cook it until it becomes a nice rich mahogany color. Let it cool and then pour off the liquid portion leaving the milk solids (looks a little like the sediment in a wine bottle). It should have a wonderfully nutty flavor. The only difference between brown butter (in French beurre noisette) and ghee is the length of time you cook. You want your brown butter to caramelize and you do not want to cook your ghee until it is a deep brown color. The brown butter has a greater depth of flavor. Hope this helps!

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