Lesson 41: Sweetbreads & Baby Back Ribs

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Today started with a rather weird encounter with a lady on the elevator.  Everyone that was crowded in the tiny elevator got a blessing from this lady who assured us that we cannot be too sure if we'll be on this earth tomorrow and we should all live today as our last day (and continued with a prayer).  I guess it's not bad advice, since we should all realize how fortunate we are to have all of the simple things in life.  But, needless to say she exited the elevator on the psychiatric floor.

After that bizarre moment, I headed into kitchen 1401 to prep for the day's recipes.  Today was our first day of "Cooking Methods Review".  We went through all of the cooking techniques of the modules, so for the next 3 days we are simply reviewing these techniques with more in-depth recipes.

I was very excited (and kind of nervous) to work on the first recipe: Braised Sweetbreads.  The first time I ever heard of "sweet breads" was probably about 10 years ago at a French restaurant in NYC.  My sister was about to order them, thinking they were actually sweet breads (literally).  Thankfully, our waiter informed us what they actually were and she quickly refused them.  Since then, I forgot exactly what they were and thought they were cow's brains.  They are actually the thymus and pancreas of a calf or lamb.  Sounds yummy, right?

Preparing these sweetbreads is not all that glamorous.  They soaked in milk overnight and looked like a gloppy, slimy mess.  We blanched them in water with a little white wine vinegar. After we shocked them in ice water, Matt took charge and removed the outer membranes.  These seriously looked like brains..gross.

After dredging them in wondra flour, we browned them in a skillet with some mirepoix and added white wine and stock.  It simmered for about an hour and actually resembled a delicious-looking stew.  I was quite impressed.

As I told myself I was just eating chicken, I took a bite and could not get the brain image out of my head.  I have to admit that the flavor was good, but I really didn't like the texture all that much.  Maybe if I didn't see what it looked like before it was cooked or didn't know what it was then I would be less biased.  I don't think I'll be making sweetbreads for myself anytime soon, but maybe I would give it another try at a nice French restaurant.

Next on the menu: Chicken Supremes with a white wine port reduction.  We all took turns breaking down the chicken into supreme breasts (semi-boneless with the wing tip on).  Matt and I worked together browning the chicken in canola oil and finished cooking them in the oven.  In the meantime, mushrooms were being sauteed for the sauce.  When the chicken was done, we let them rest on a cooling rack and added some minced shallots to the pan.  We de-glazed the pan with the white port and added some chicken stock.  The mushrooms were added in and we let the sauce reduce down until it was nice and thick.  After mounting it with cold butter, we plated our supremes with the sauce.

The stuffed baked potatoes were very simple to make.  The recipe was kind of boring, so the class decided to add some extra ingredients to the potato mix to make it more interesting.  After putting the potato  "pulp" through a ricer, we added warm heavy cream, grated cheddar cheese, sour cream, and chives.  We topped some of the potatoes with bacon bits.

We actually piped the potato mixture in the shells to make them look pretty and professional, but they ended up overflowing a bit in the oven.  Still tasted good though!! :)

The ribs cooked the entire time we were in class.  The first few people to get to class made the rub and got them right in the oven.  Allison and I worked on making the barbecue sauce, which included a ton of extra ingredients that were not in the recipe.  We added tomato sauce, ketchup, worsteshire, chipotles, some of the spice rub, red wine vinegar, brown sugar, chicken stock, and sauteed garlic and onions.  It tasted like it needed something (it was very tomato-y), so Al added some extra spices at the end (like cinnamon and some more salt).  The sauce turned out fantastic!

I brought home some leftovers and made up a gourmet dinner for my brother.  I'm such a good little sister!

I also made him try some sweetbreads and he loved them!  He agreed that the texture was weird, but once you got past that it was pretty good.  My family asked me if it was good for you nutritionally and I actually have no idea!  I told my brother (who's a personal trainer) that it has lots of protein--helps build muscle! ;)


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