Don’t judge a book by its cover, or a food by its name. That’s the lesson you’ll learn if you ever encounter sweetbread on a menu. Contrary to what you might think, sweetbread has nothing to do with bread or sweetness. It is actually a type of organ meat that comes from the thymus glands and pancreas of young animals, usually calves or lambs.
Sweetbread is one of those foods with misleading names that can throw you off guard. But before you dismiss it as something gross or unappetizing, you should know that it is a delicacy in many parts of the world, especially in Europe. Chefs and gourmets alike praise its delicate flavor and tender texture, which can be enhanced by various cooking methods and sauces.
Sweetbread can be poached, fried, grilled, roasted, or braised, and served in souffles, pates, salads, or as a main course. Some of the classic dishes that feature sweetbread are veal blanquette, vol-au-vent, and sweetbread with morels. It can also be paired with wine, cheese, herbs, and spices to create mouthwatering combinations.
Sweetbread is not only tasty but also nutritious. It is high in protein and low in fat and carbohydrates. It also contains iron, zinc, selenium, and vitamin B12. However, it is also high in cholesterol and purines, so it should be consumed in moderation.
There are two types of sweetbread: the thymus (also called throat, gullet, or neck sweetbread) and the pancreas (also called stomach, belly or gut sweetbread). The thymus is more prized for its softness and subtlety, while the pancreas is firmer and grainier. Both are considered delicacies in French cuisine, where they are called ris de veau (calf) or ris d’agneau (lamb).
The origin of the name sweetbread is unclear, but it may have something to do with the fact that the thymus gland produces a sweet-tasting hormone called thymosin. Alternatively, it may be a corruption of the Middle English word swetebrad, which meant fresh meat.
Whatever the case may be, sweetbread is a food that deserves more recognition and appreciation. It is a versatile and exquisite ingredient that can elevate any dish with its refined flavor. Don’t let the name or the appearance scare you away from trying this misnamed meat. You might be pleasantly surprised by how much you enjoy it.