May 13, 2011

How to Make Ham Sad

You know how you always seem to have more leftovers than you want when you serve a nice ham for Easter dinner?  It seems hams are better suited for a family of 12 than a family of four. This year, my kids asked if we could have anything besides ham or turkey so they didn't have to eat it again, and again, and again. As the person who has to come up with what to do with the leftovers, I thought that was an excellent idea. But maybe you set great store by keeping up the family traditions, and you served ham as your Easter entree. Since then, you have put ham in your mac and cheese. You have put ham in a quiche. You have mixed it in with red beans. You have mixed it in with baked beans.  The problem is that none of these dishes actually requires much ham, so you are always on the lookout for one more recipe to use up a little more ham. Today's recipe could be just what you are looking for....but I doubt it.  Perhaps the executives at United Gas Improvement Company were looking for a recipe that would demonstrate the precision stovetop temperature feature of the new Gold Star gas range in all it's glory, and they didn't really pay attention to anything other than the multitude of temperatures featured in this recipe.  Maybe they thought, as I once did, that sweetbreads actually involved something sweet, like sweet potatoes. Well, if they're not sweet, why are they called sweetbreads? According to The Straight, "They're called sweetbreads for the obvious reason that if you called them thymus glands or pancreas you couldn't give the damn things away." So true, so true.

There are a few gourmands who will swear to the great desirability of sweetbreads, including Ryan Adams, who blogs at He claims, "What keeps the sweetbread from gaining popularity in home cooking is the fact that they require a fair amount of fiddling with before you can actually get down to the process of cooking them. There is a thick membrane that needs to be peeled away, which is a bit more of an art form than technique. The goal is to keep the meaty nodules together with only a little bit of membrane covering to keep them intact." So it's only a matter of mastering the art of membrane removal that stands between me and the true pleasure of sweetbreads? I think not, Ryan. One look at the photo that heads your "Offal of the Week" column on sweetbreads ( is all it took to keep sweetbreads from ever being popular with me. Actually, just the idea that they are recommended by someone who writes an "Offal of the Week" feature is enough to permanently take them off my plate.

On the off-chance that, despite my warnings, you are willing to take Ryan at his word, and if the picture from his blog doesn't make you queasy, give this recipe a try. Don't say I didn't warn you.



1 pair calf sweetbreads
1 TBS. minced onion
3 TBS. butter
3 TBS. flour
3/4 cup dry white wine or chicken broth
1/2 tsp. kitchen bouquet
1/2 cup light cream
1 3-oz. can sliced, broiled mushrooms [never heard of these!]
1 cup julienne sliced cooked ham
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
1/8 tsp. dry mustard

Cover sweetbreads with water, let stand 15 minutes. Carefully remove thin outer membrane [remember to be artful!]. Place in saucepan and cover with cold water, adding 1 tsp. salt and 1 TBS. vinegar per quart. Bring to boil with TCTB dial set at 225 degrees F. Reset dial to 200 degrees and simmer 15 minutes. Drain; plunge sweetbreads into ice water. Cook onion in butter with TCTB dial set at 275 degrees F. Stir in flour. Add wine, kitchen bouquet, cream and mushrooms. Reset dial to 212 degrees F. Cook and stir until sauce thickens. Add ham, seasonings and quartered sweetbreads. Heat thoroughly. Makes 4 servings.

1 comment:

  1. Please never ever ever make this!!