Beef Sweetbreads in Mushroom Sauce

Serving Size: 4
Preparation Time: 1:00

  1. Put the beef sweetbreads in a pot with cold salted water, bring to the boil, drain and rinse. This is to remove the blood.
  2. Poach the sweetbreads in a court bouillon at a simmer till they are almost tender. Drain and chill under running water until they are cool enough to handle. Remove all membrane and gristle, and make 3/4 inch dice.
  3. Heat olive oil or clarified butter in a sauté pan on a high flame. When the olive oil is hot, you can smell it. Clarified butter will loose its yellow color when hot enough. Add the washed, dried and sliced mushrooms to cover the bottom of the pan. Let them take color before you shake them, toss them in the pan to color the other side, give them a squeeze of lemon and a generous squirt of fortified Dry Sherry, which will instantly flame.* This operation, done at high heat is intended to keep the mushroom juices inside the mushrooms. You may need to do this in more than one try, as you should never have the mushrooms two layers deep in the pan. As you cook the mushrooms, add them to the pot of Sauce Espagnole. Finally, deglaze the sauté pan with the remainder of the sherry and add it to the sauce.
  4. Add the diced sweetbreads to the pot of Espagnole with mushrooms, and simmer until the sweetbreads are very tender. The sauce should reduce by 1/3 in cooking to concentrate its flavor. Season if need be with salt and pepper

Important Note: The sweetbreads of beef are coarser and very much less expensive than those of veal. They must be cooked three times. First, blanch them in salted water to remove the blood. Second, poach them in a court bouillon to firm and whiten them, and to begin tenderizing them. Lastly, finish them in the sauce they are served in to let them absorb flavor, and tenderize.

Note on flaming: Fortified dry sherry is made by adding 1/3 brandy to 2/3 sherry. It flames better and tastes good. Be careful when flaming. To be perfectly safe, pour the fortified sherry into a long handled spoon to add it, or use a gooseneck serving dish with the pre-measured sherry in it. Adding sherry or brandy to a hot pan causes a burst of flame. It can even flash back into the bottle so be careful and don't flame from the bottle, especially a half full one. You can put the required amount of flammable into a cup or long handled spoon to add it. To deglaze, allow the pan to cool a little, add the sherry, put it back on the high flame, and tilt the pan when you see the liquid begin to boil. This will cause the vapors to flow over the side of the pan and ignite from the flame. Be prepared for this to happen, and NEVER jerk the pan, as it may splash hot flaming liquid onto your hand.

Serving Ideas: Serve in buttery puff pastry shells or on Basmati rice.

Note: This is a good example of the term Salpicon, a dice of cooked meat and other things, mixed with a sauce.

*This might be a good time to use one or two of a variety of mushrooms other than the domestic white. Fresh Portobello or Shitake mushrooms are easy to find in supermarkets today, as are other varieties, and good dried mushrooms are not hard to find. Most canned mushrooms have lost whatever flavor they had, so avoid them. Please avoid the use of the term 'a trio of mushrooms' in naming the dish. "A trio of" is so over-used as to be trite. There was a time in recent culinary history where everything and anything came in threes. There was no way you could get one of anything!

Steve's #21 Recipes

The Five Grande Sauces

Sauce Espagnole
Sauce Diable for Grilled Pork
Beef Sweetbreads in Mushroom Sauce
Chicken Stew Chasseur*
Braised Brisket of Beef
Fillet de Beouf aux Morilles
Autumn Roast Duck
Brown Stock—Estouffade*
Court Bouillon*

*Repeated from a previous article


©1996, Steve K. Holzinger. All rights reserved.

This Archived Page created between 1994 and 2001. Modified August 2007