This is the famous “green eggs and ham” dish. Sweetbreads are great, and if you introduce people to them cooked this way, most of them will think you’re a culinary genius because you’ve given them an appreciation for something they thought they would hate.
Classically, sweetbreads are poached whole, then sliced and sautéed. But we prefer to poach them only briefly, then separate the “nuggets” and grill them. This not only minimizes their sometimes mealy consistency, it also provides a crispy crust to contrast with the creamy, tender interior.
Try this as an appetizer in front of a simple grilled steak dinner.
- ¼ cup white vinegar
- 1 bay leaf
- 1½ pounds veal sweetbreads
- Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
- ½ cup olive oil
- 1 pound spinach, trimmed, well washed, and dried
- 4 slices bacon, diced small
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1. Build a fire in your grill.
2. In a large saucepan, bring the white vinegar, bay leaf, and enough water to cover the sweetbreads to a boil over high heat. Add the sweetbreads and salt and pepper, lower the heat so that the water just barely simmers, and poach gently for 10 minutes; drain and place the sweetbreads in a bowl of ice water to cool.
3. When the sweetbreads are completely cooled, drain them, dry them with paper towels, and remove as much of the membrane as possible. Separate the meat into nuggets, toss them gently with ¼ cup of the olive oil, and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Thread the sweetbreads onto four to six skewers (one per serving) and refrigerate.
4. Place the spinach in a large bowl. In a large sauté pan, cook the bacon slowly over medium heat until it is crisp and golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain off and discard all but 3 tablespoons of the fat, leaving the bacon in the pan. Add the sugar, the remaining ¼ cup olive oil, and the balsamic vinegar to the pan and bring to a boil. Pour the hot dressing over the spinach, tossing to wilt the spinach and coat it with the dressing. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
5. When the fire has died down and the coals are medium-hot (you can hold your hand 5 inches above the surface of the grill for 3 to 4 seconds), place the skewers on the grill and cook until well seared and crisp on the outside, 4 to 5 minutes per side. To check for doneness, nick, peek, and cheat: Make a ¼-inch cut in the thickest part of one of the nuggets; it should be warm throughout with no red, only the faintest trace of pink. When the sweetbreads are fully cooked, remove them from the heat and let them rest for 5 minutes.
6. To serve, place some spinach on each plate and top with a sweetbread skewer.
This recipe serves 6, and includes 1/8 teaspoon of added salt per serving.