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Friday, November 20, 2015

Ris de Veau (d'Agneau) - Sweetbreads on French Menus. When sweetbreads are on the menu in France do not pass them by.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman

Crispy fried sweetbreads served on top of morel mushrooms sautéed in butter.

Veal and lamb sweetbreads will be on many French menus. These uniquely delicate cuts with their clear and mild flavor and texture are highly prized by chefs and gourmands.
                              Where do these cuts come from.
Sweetbreads are the best of all the inside cuts like liver, tongue and kidneys. They are the pancreas and thymus glands with some gourmands preferring one to the other. Others prefer veal over lamb.  However, when these delicate cuts are served with a light sauce or fried I cannot tell the difference. Sweetbreads have a texture somewhat similar to the finest milk fed calf’s liver but there the similarity ends, and please note that I only said similar, not the same.

Large pieces of sweetbreads
dusted in flour and fennel seed powder until crispy on the outside and molten hot on the inside. The sweetbreads sit in a mushroom broth flavored with grilled scallions and duck bacon.
What does sweetbread mean
Sweetbreads contain no bread. notes the words comes from old English where “swēte meant sweet and “bræd” meant flesh; hence sweetbreads for sweet meat.
In North America and the UK, sweetbreads are rarely on the menu. Despite that sweetbreads are a delicacy and in France all good French restaurants will regularly have them on their menus. 
Sweetbreads on French menus:
Ris de Veau - Calf sweetbreads.
Ris d'Agneau- Lamb sweetbreads

Ris de Chevreau - Kid sweetbreads. A 4-6-month-old goat, a kid, a chevreau in French, will also be on some menus.
Cassolette  d'Escargots et Ris d'Agneau à l'Oseille - A snail stew made with lamb sweetbreads and flavored with sorrel. A snail cassoulet is very different to the meat cassoulets of Southern France.
Ravioles de Ris d’Agneau au Gingembre et Citron - Ravioli stuffed with lamb sweetbreads and flavored with lemon and ginger.

Veal sweetbread ravioli served in a cream of artichoke sauce.
Ris de Veau à la Crème et aux Champignons – Sweetbreads with a cream and mushroom sauce.
Ris Braise - Lightly fried sweetbreads. The menu should indicate whether these are veal or lamb, if not ask.

Crispy veal sweetbreads
with diced parsnips, small potatoes and black truffle sandwiches.
Ris de Veau Croustillantes, Jeunes Carottes et Graines de Moutarde. Crisply fried sweetbreads served with baby carrots and flavored with mustard seeds.
Ris de Veau aux Girolles. Veal sweetbreads prepared with wild chanterelle mushrooms.
Ris de Veau Poêlée, Jus à la Cardamone et Panais. Lightly fried veal sweetbreads served with sweetbread’s cooking juices flavored with cardamom and parsnips. N.B. Cardamom is the spice with a heady aroma and a special taste that is often used with spiced hot wines.  In Western Europe, outside of France, cardamom is only occasionally seen in the kitchen and therein lies a small but important difference in European tastes. The Swedes; however, do use cardamom in pastries and cardamom is important for all of Scandinavia. Without cardamom there would be no Scandinavian Aquavit liquor with 40% alcohol to drink on festive occasions.

Maple sweetened sweetbreads on pancakes
Sweetbreads may be on the menu fried, poached, grilled, stewed, and even roasted in the oven.  Sweetbreads may also be served as hot or cold hors d’oeuvres. As a hors d’oeuvre then they may be served in a puff pastry vol-au-vent with a cream sauce and then they will be on the menu as “Bouchée a la Reine au Ris de Veau ” for veal or Agneau, lamb). Originally all Bouchées à la Reine were made with sweetbreads or sweetbreads and chicken; however that is no longer the case.  Bouchée means a small mouthful and are often on the menu as an amuse-gueule, a small complementary appetizer. Only occasionally will the Bouchée a la Reine on the menu be with veal or lamb sweetbreads.

Vol-av -vent

Why chefs love cooking with sweetbreads.
From my experience the best recipes for sweetbreads are the simpler dishes that do not include tastes that compete with the delicate flavor of the meat.  One of the great advantages of sweetbreads is that not too easy to overcook them.  Unlike many dishes that should spend, at most, one or two minutes in the pan or under the grill and then are forgotten for three extra minutes will see the dish become inedible.  Sweetbreads will forgive you. Sweetbreads will remain juicy for close to double the time indicated in a recipe. Fried sweetbreads will remain crispy on the outside while the interior will be bursting with the juices from the meat even if the recipe indicated frying for 3 or 5 minutes and the chef left them for 10 minutes.

Scallops and sweatbreads.

Sweetbreads in French country restaurants
On village and country restaurant menus there will be ris de porcelet, piglet sweetbreads, ris de bœuf, beef sweetbread or ris de chevreauu, kid’s sweetbreads.  These animal’s sweetbreads have a stronger taste than lamb or veal and among the big city cognoscenti they are not appreciated.  Nevertheless, these sweetbreads will be on menus in restaurants outside the big cities. These are country comfort foods and I have enjoyed kid’s sweetbreads on more than one occasion.
Connected Posts:

Turnips, (Navets) Parsnips (Panais) and Swedes (Chou-Navets or Rutabaga). Traditional Root Vegetables in Modern French Cuisine.
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Bryan G. Newman

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