2000s Recipes + Menus

Southern-Fried Sweetbreads

Serves4 (main course) or 6 (first course)
  • Active time:40 min
  • Start to finish:9 3/4 hr (includes soaking)
Sweetbreads, the thymus gland of calves (and occasionally lambs), are some of the easiest offal for beginners to love—their delicate flavor and creamy texture are incredibly seductive. No matter how you’re going to prepare them, sweetbreads must first be soaked in cold water and then poached to firm them up. After that, these are rolled in a paprika-seasoned flour-and-cornmeal coating and deep-fried. The crunchy outside and pillowy interior are absolutely delicious dipped in the herbaceous Green Goddess sauce. If you want to take things to the next level, tuck the nuggets into a hollowed-out baguette with shredded lettuce, then smear on the Green Goddess and some hot sauce for an out-of-this-world po’ boy.
  • 2 lb veal sweetbreads, rinsed
  • 1 cup well-shaken buttermilk
  • About 12 cups vegetable oil (96 fl oz)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoons paprika (not hot)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • Equipment:

    a deep-fat thermometer
  • Accompaniment:

  • Soak sweetbreads in a large bowl of ice water in the refrigerator, changing water occasionally (2 or 3 times), at least 8 hours.
  • Drain sweetbreads and transfer to a 4-qt heavy saucepan. Cover with cold water by 1 inch and add 1 tsp salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until sweetbreads plump and feel slightly firmer to the touch, about 3 minutes. Drain in a colander and transfer to an ice bath to stop cooking. Cut away any fat and pull away as much membrane and connective tissue as possible with a small paring knife, then separate with your fingers into roughly 2-inch pieces.
  • Whisk buttermilk with 1/2 tsp salt in a bowl. Add sweetbreads and soak, chilled, 1 hour.
  • About 10 minutes before sweetbreads are finished soaking in buttermilk, start heating 2 inches oil to 350°F in a 5-qt wide heavy pot over medium heat. Whisk together flour, cornmeal, paprika, cayenne, and 1/2 tsp each of salt and pepper in a shallow dish.
  • Put a metal cooling rack in a 4-sided sheet pan and preheat oven to 400°F.
  • Drain sweetbreads well, discarding buttermilk. Dredge in flour mixture, shaking off any excess, then fry in 3 batches until golden and cooked through (cut one open to test), 3 to 3 1/2 minutes, depending on size. Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain, then season lightly with salt. Keep warm on rack in oven. (Return oil to 350° between batches.) Serve fried sweetbreads immediately.
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