La Notte Di Animelle: Hot plate of sweetbreads

hot offal plate

Braised sweetbreads, cow foot farrotto, crispy chicken skin and peach and apricot mostarda made up a rich, unctuous hot offal platter, the main course of the evening. Although it is monochromatic, I promise the flavor pops more than the colors. Peaches are Chiara’s favorite fruit and mostarda is an Italian condiment that will remind you of honey mustard with a chutney texture — this particular one is very pleasant and milder than other relishes. Braising sweetbreads is always my favorite style personally, and I wanted to share that homestyle, rich flavor for this dinner. Additionally, the broth I braised them in was a fresh, homemade stock from 1 roast chicken carcass and a bag of vegetable scraps, so that’s some extra garbage I incorporated!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2-1 lb sweetbreads, separated into one large cluster for each diner
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 quart leftover veggie broth
  • 1 cup farro
  • 1 cow’s foot
  • 1 large piece chicken skin per diner
  • 1 bag frozen sliced peaches (or fresh if you have, but NOT canned)
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 TB dried mustard seeds
  • 1 cup sugar

Preparation:

Ahead:

Start with the cow’s foot well ahead of time, and have your butcher cut it into 2-3 pieces so it will fit into a normal pot. I had mine ordered from Schatzie’s. The cow’s foot needs to be essentially dissolved into water. If you keep it covered in water, at a full boil for 3 hours, it should be enough. If you have smaller pieces it may go faster. When the meat is falling off the bone, turn off the heat, and wait until the meat is cool enough to touch, then remove all the bones and any hard cartilage, and chop the meat small and add it back into the broth.

Mostarda can also be made well in advance. In a pot, add the peaches and dried apricots with the sugar and a pinch of salt, and cook over medium heat. Meanwhile, use a spice grinder or mortar and pestle to mostly pulverize the mustard seeds, with a bit of salt. Add the mustard to the white wine and whisk. After the fruit is mostly broken down, add the mustard and wine and continue cooking until it’s coming to a jam texture, then take off the heat and refrigerate until cold. It should be served very cold.

To finish the dish, first preheat the oven to 450.

Then flour the sweetbreads and in a large, sturdy pan (i.e. cast iron), over high heat and with a bit of olive oil, sear on both sides, then cover 1/2 way up with the broth. When the broth comes up to temperature, turn the heat down to low, and braise for 1-2 hours, adding more broth each time it goes down, and when the broth is all in, turning and glazing the sweetbreads regularly. The sweetbreads have a very wide range of cooking time that will work, so gauge the doneness based on how beautiful the glaze is.

Next, skim a bit of fat off the top of the cow foot broth, then heat it over high heat, adding the farro, seasoning to taste, and cover for about 15-20 minutes to make sure the farro is fully cooked, then finish uncovered to let more of the broth cook off, as necessary.

While the sweetbreads are braising and the farrotto is cooking, take your chicken skins and, with your fingers, spread them out as much as possible on a baking sheet, physically stretching them slightly. Salt and pepper the skins, then put into the oven for 25 minutes or until starting to brown and crisp, then turn off heat and leave them to cool slightly.

When the sweetbreads are braised, the farro is al dente but soft inside, and the skin is crisp, a bit of each goes on the plate, with a nice scoop of the mild peach mostarda. This is the piece de resistance of my offal meal.

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