Sweetbreads are one of my favorite organ meats. They are basically the thymus and pancreas glands of the animal and they are rich with good fat. Usually you’ll find sweetbreads from cows, lamb or pork. They are not expensive (like all organ meats) but if prepared the right way, they feel like a high end restaurant dish.
I chose lentils for this dish. I know that legumes are excluded from what considered to be a paleo cuisine but as i wrote in previous posts i’m not a paleo fanatic and i believe in the broader and more flexible definition of what is paleo.
The main reason the paleo diet is excluding legumes is because of their phytic acid content. Phytic acid considered to be an anti-nutrient that prevents the proper absorption of essential nutrients in the body. However there are 2 important things to remember:
The first is that we are bio-individual creatures. in other words, we were not created the same and our ability to digest legumes is individual. The second and maybe even more important is that the poor digestion of legumes, for many people, is due to lack of proper preparation. Legumes, like grains, need to be at least soaked, and even better, sprouted, to neutralize the effect of anti-nutrients in them and release their nutrition value.
In this recipe i soaked and sprouted the lentils before cooking for better digestion and absorption. That may make a huge difference for many people. The lentils give a nice earthy contrast to the sweetbreads but in case you’re someone who don’t get along with legumes,or you just don’t have the time for the sprouting process, by all means, feel free to follow the same recipe without the lentils.
2 cups sprouted french lentils.
1 onion sliced.
1 fennel sliced.
2 cloves garlic crushed.
3 chopped fresh sage leaves
1 tbs ghee
2 tbs chopped parsley
2-3 cups chicken stock.
juice of half lemon.
Spouting the lentils will improve the digestibility and absorption of nutrients in the lentils. Soak the lentils for 24-48 hours. Change the water for fresh water for 2-3 time during the soaking process. Strain the lentils and just leave them in the strainer. Make sure the strainer is wide enough to let the lentils have enough air contact. The sprouting process takes about 2 days. You’ll start to see the sprouts coming of the lentils a few hours after you strained them. In the sprouting process sprinkle the lentils every few hours with water to keep them moist. I like to finish the process when the sprouts are about 0.5 inch long. If you have leftovers of sprouted lentils keep them in a closed container in the refrigerator. if you have no problem digesting legumes soaking by it self may be enough.
Preparing the sweetbreads:
In order to separate some of the membrane tissue and cartilage form the sweetbreads, simmer in boiling chicken stock or water for about 5 minutes, than put them in ice-water to stop the cooking process. The sweetbreads are firmed-up now and are easier to clean. Remove the membrane and other cartilage tissues using a knife and your fingers. I found the lamb sweetbreads to be a little difficult to clean but also that the membrane doesn’t need to be completely removed. Dry the sweetbreads with a paper towel. Sprinkle salt and black pepper on both sides of the sweetbreads.
In a heavy pan heat the ghee for about a minute. Brown both sides of the sweetbreads and set a side. Add the chopped sage, fennel and onions to the same pan and sauté for about 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for another minute. Add 1 cup stock and lemon juice and deglaze – Let the liquid you just added to gently boil and scrape the browned food residues from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spatula. Simmer for 10 minutes.
Mix in gently the sweetbreads and the lentils and make sure everything is covered by the cooking liquids. Bring to a gentle boil than lower to low hit and cover the pan. Cook for another 15-20 minutes. Add salt and fresh ground pepper as needed. During this cooking time check every 5 minutes to see if more stock should be added. The lentils will absorb some of the liquid and you want to make sure the dish is not drying out and remains relatively moist. Let it cool for a few minutes before serving.