Just as sure as Spring arriving, so does Easter – ushering in new beginnings. As part of Greek Easter we (Greeks) like to nosh on some mezedes as the day marches on, one hour closer to the roasted lamb, one bite more until finally….Easter is but a memory. One of the mezedes my family enjoys are sweetbreads which come from the thymus gland, at the chest entry just below the trachea. Sweet breads are only found in small animals and my favourite are the veal sweet breads.
You can place sweet breads in the offal category but they do not taste like liver at all. The meat is soft, buttery almost and they are best when the exterior is crisp – offering you a textural contrast when you bite into them. The most common way to enjoy sweetbreads is to simply grill them but frying them are also wonderful.
These morsels are firsrt lightly blanched in water & vinegar then coated in seasoned flour, eggwash then breadcrumbs. They are shallow-fried until crisp and golden and served warm with a squeeze of lemon juice and in this case, walnut skordalia.
Skordalia is Greek condiment made of stale bread or boiled potato and pounded in a mortar & pestle with garlic, vinegar and oil until a thick sauce. The best walnut skordalia I ever had was last year when I visited “To Bakaliaro tou Aristou” near the Port of Thessaloniki. Skordalia is traditionally served with battered and fried cod fish but it works very well here with the fried sweet breads.
Ask your butcher for veal sweet breads, abundant in the Spring and available at better shops. It’s a rich organ meat and I’m convinced you’l love their taste but moderation should be exercised as they are rich in calories. A meze of sweetbreads a few times a year won’t hurt and besides..life’s too short!
(appetizer for 4)
1 lb. of veal sweetbreads
1 cup all-purpose flour
zest of 1 lemon
2 tsp. fine sea salt
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. granulated (dried) garlic
1/2 tsp. fresh ground pepper
1 large egg well-beaten with a splash of milk
approx. 1 cup of breadcrumbs
4 slices of stale bread
2 cloves of garlic, smashed
coarse sea salt
1 tsp. red wine vinegar
1/2 cup of chopped walnuts
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup sunflower oil
olive oil for frying
- Place the sweetbreads in a pot of cold water and allow them to soak for at least an hour. Drain and refill the pot with another water to cover the sweetbreads. Add the salt and vinegar and slowly bring up to a boil over medium heat.
- Immediately drain and cover them again with cold water. Allow them to cool to room temperature. Remove the membranes and any visible veins, cut into 1-inch pieces and reserve.
- In the meantime, make the walnut skordalia by soaking the stale bread in water then use all the might of your hands to squeeze it free of excess water. Now place in a mortar with the smashed garlic, some coarse sea salt and the wine vinegar. Now pound the mixture into a paste with your pestle then add the chopped walnuts and pound into the paste.
- Now pound and swirl the pestle into the mixture while adding the oil in increments. Keep adding oil when the previous amount has been absorbed. Adjust seasoning with salt, wine vinegar and reserve.
- Now set-up three bowls: one with the seasoned all-purpose flour (listed ingredients from flour to ground pepper), another with the eggwash and the third with your bread crumbs. Pat-dry your pieces of sweet breads and dredge in flour, then the eggwash followed by the breadcrumbs and reserve on a plate. Now place about 3/4 of oil in a deep pan/skillet and bring up to 350F. Fry on both sides until golden and reserve on paper-towel lined platter, sprinkle with sea salt and serve with the Walnut Skordalia.
- Pair with with Sillogi white Malagousia/Assyrtiko from Moriatis of Paros.
Bonus: If you would like to serve with the beans and potatoes like in my dish, trim your green beans and blanche and drain. Then take some diced bacon and render in a skillet until crisp then reserve the bacon. If you have some leftover roast potatoes (or par-boiled), cut into chunks and sauté with some sliced mushrooms in the bacon fat. Add the beans, some salt and pepper to taste and toss until warm, season with salt and pepper and some thyme leaves. Serve as a bedding for your fried sweet breads and serve the Walnut Skordalia (which goes with everything on the plate).
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