This section is from the book "The Steward's Handbook And Guide To Party Catering", by Jessup Whitehead. Also available from Amazon: Larousse Gastronomique.
Both the thymus gland and the pancreas, are Included in the culinary name sweetbread, the substance of both being very similar and either answers the same purpose; the pancreas or stomach (or "heart") sweetbread being generally accounted the best, although the throat sweetbread is freer from veins and more delicate in texture and therefore often recommended in spite of its irregular shape, which is like a piece of pulled-off fat. The cooks rely upon the butchers for these, and as it never falls to a cook to have to kill and dissect anything larger than a turkey, he takes what the butcher furnishes him without much question concerning the localities where they are found within the animal, and then begins his part of selecting them, and cooking them according to their adaptation, the best in shape to be sliced, larded, broiled, baked, braised or otherwise cooked in good form; the unshapely, irregular, torn or diminutive ones to be cut or minced, served in patties, or mixed with other meats and mushrooms in various garnishes, or in the form of croquettes,rissols or kromes-kies, or the form of scailoped sweetbreads and, perhaps, if they be plentiful enough to devote to such a purpose, in soup.
Sweetbreads are not such very choice eating, they have but little flavor, but they are tender meat, like fat without fatness; they are white and adapted to be ornamented with strips of larding of black truffles, green cucumbers, or pistachio nuts, or red smoked or corned tongue, and they take the flavors of herbs, wines and well - made sauces. That is why they are sought after and necessarily in the nature of things they are scarce and have been kept among the exclusive delicacies, that it was thought common folks had no business to want. People who board in hotels, however, want everything. There is a large hotel in an English city, whose proprietors are trying their level best to set an American sort of a table, but to do that they have to send over to France for some of their supplies; they cannot get either tenderloins of beef or good veal sweetbreads from their home butchers. The French eat more veal, anyway, than any other people, and calves' sweetbreads must be so much the more abundant there. These are not the only kinds of sweetbreads, however, for lambs furnish the most delicate of all, and by reason of their smallness they must be the rarest and most exclusive dishes which are made of them.
Cooking Sweet •
Sweetbreads have taken their stand as an ubiquitous entree, and few elaborate menus are arranged without them. Patties of sweetbread and truffles are in high favor and seem to be the caterer's standard dish. In whatever way they are to be afterwards dressed, sweetbreads should always be steeped in water for two or three hours, then boiled from 5 minutes if very young and tender, to 1 hour if they are from very old calves, as the butchers sometimes bring them, and after that pressed between two dishes until cold.
Scollops or slices of sweetbreads prepared by cutting the cold and pressed sweetbreads into small thick slices, spreading them over with a croquette mixture of minced onions, mushrooms, parsley, seasonings and panada, egging, breading and frying them. Brown sauce containing sherry.
Paris restaurant specialty. Lamb's sweetbreads scalloped in shells. The sweetbreads are cut in dice, cut mushrooms mixed with them and both slightly fried in butter; rich white sauce added, filled into table-shells, breadcrumbs on top and melted butter; browned in the oven.
The sweetbreads already cold and pressed are larded with strips of salt pork on the best side, braised in stock with herbs and vegetables; the liquor strained, boiled down to glaze and poured over them; served on a bed of spinach.
The sweetbreads already partly boiled, pressed and cold are cut in slices, coated with thick white sauce, breaded, egged, breaded again and fried; served with white sauce and any dressed vegetable.
The sweetbreads already partly boiled, pressed and cold are split, buttered, dipped in bread-crumbs, broiled; served with colbert cauce.
Lambs' sweetbreads larded, braised and glazed, served with a jardiniere garnish of mixed vegetables.
The preceding with peas, can be served with asparagus points and other vegetables and named accordingly. The French name of sweetbread serves well to show how easy it is to be wrong in wording a bill of fare; " ris " is not only " sweetbread " but the same word stands for " smile." An American lady at a French hotel once astonished and amused a party of her country people by translating the dish "ris-de-veau a la Jinanciere," " the smile of a calf at the banker's wife," and was not far out of the way. To make it the more hazardous writing, while ris is sweetbread, "riz " is rice, thus.
A baked shape or border of rice filled with lambs' sweetbreads in sauce.
Veal sweetbreads fried.
Larded, braised with bacon, garlic, tarragon leaves, the liquor strained and boiled down to glaze.