Sweetbreads

Sweetbreads with Chestnuts and Parsnips
Sweetbreads with Chestnuts and Parsnips
This elegant preparation of poached and pan-seared sweetbreads served over wilted escarole with a port wine–cream sauce, comes from Boston chef Barbara Lynch.Todd Coleman

"Sweetbreads…what are those?" I wondered. I pictured the Portuguese rolls the corner bakery in my neighborhood sometimes sold. I couldn't have been more wrong. I was a teenager working at the St. Botolph Club, an elite private club in Boston. Chef Bonello's offal dish was dressed richly with ham, pearl onions, and cream sauce and was served with great ceremony under a glass cloche. The dome would be lifted, releasing a savory aroma that the expectant guest inhaled with eyes closed. I was only a chambermaid, changing beds after school. But I always made my way down to the kitchen to observe the magic happening under the classically trained chef Mario Bonello. When I turned 18, I was "promoted." As a white-gloved waitress at the club's elaborate banquets, I learned how to decant wines and to prepare a cheese plate. Seeing the guests' delight as they ate, I realized that I, too, wanted to be a chef. About two years ago I became a member of the St. Botolph Club (which began admitting women as members only in 1988). Chef Bonello is long gone and sweetbreads are no longer on the menu, but the memory of them reminds me of my journey, and of what's possible for even a onetime chambermaid to achieve. —Barbara Lynch, Barbara Lynch Gruppo, Boston

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