Sweetbreads with Chestnuts and Parsnips

  • Serves

    serves 4-6


This rich and elegant dish was inspired by a recipe from Boston chef Barbara Lynch.


  • 2 14 lb. veal sweetbreads
  • 6 black peppercorns
  • 3 carrots, cut crosswise into 1/2″ slices
  • 2 ribs celery, quartered
  • 2 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 large white onion, cut into eighths
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into 1/8″ coins
  • 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 12 cup port or madeira
  • 12 cup chicken or veal stock
  • 6 prunes, pitted and quartered
  • 6 roasted and peeled chestnuts, halved
  • 8 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 bunch escarole, washed and chopped
  • 12 cup heavy cream
  • 13 cup flour, preferably Wondra


Step 1

Put sweetbreads into a bowl and cover with cold water; refrigerate overnight. Drain sweetbreads and transfer to a 6-qt. pot; add 12 cups water along with the peppercorns, carrots, celery, parsley, thyme, onions, and bay leaf. Season lightly with salt and pepper; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer until cooked through, about 10 minutes. Set a strainer over a 5-qt. pot; strain sweetbreads, reserving 1 cup cooking liquid, and set both aside.

Step 2

Peel and discard membrane from sweetbreads. Separate sweetbreads into 2″ pieces; pat dry and refrigerate. Heat oven to 300º. Toss parsnips in a bowl with oil and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a baking sheet and bake, turning occasionally, until tender, about 30 minutes; transfer to a rack and set aside. Meanwhile, bring port to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat and reduce by half. Add the stock, boil, and reduce liquid by half. Remove pan from heat, add prunes, and let steep for 10 minutes. Stir in chestnuts; set aside and keep warm.

Step 3

Bring reserved sweetbreads cooking liquid and 2 tbsp. butter to a boil in a 12″ skillet. Add escarole and cook, stirring occasionally, until wilted, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer escarole to a bowl; cover and keep warm. Add heavy cream to skillet and continue cooking, whisking occasionally, until sauce coats the back of a spoon, about 3 minutes. Remove pan from heat, cover, and keep warm.

Step 4

Season sweetbreads with salt and pepper. Put flour into a shallow dish and add sweetbreads, tossing to coat. Shake off excess flour and transfer to a rack set in a baking sheet. Working in 2 batches, melt 3 tbsp. butter in a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat. Add sweetbreads and cook, turning once, until golden brown and crisp, about 5 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain. To serve, divide escarole between 4 warm serving plates. Spoon cream sauce over escarole. Arrange sweetbreads over top. Arrange parsnips, chestnuts, and prunes around the rim of each plate; spoon port sauce over them and serve hot.

Pairing Note: A succulent, cherry-edged sangiovese, Villa di Capezzana Carmignano 2004 complements the sweetbreads' earthiness.

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