Sheet Pan

Pan-Fried Sweetbreads Piccata

July  7, 2021
3 Ratings
  • Serves 2 as an appetizer
Author Notes

The usual way I love sweetbreads is simply pan-fried with a spritz of lemon, but for our wedding anniversary earlier this week, I wanted to dress them up a bit. I figured I'd build on the way the lemon highlights their delicate flavor, adding the freshness of parsley and a few briny capers. The celery leaves were a last minute addition, but I loved how their clean flavor married with the other ingredients in this piccata-esque sauce, and so did my husband. Some nights playing with your food is so rewarding. —lastnightsdinner

What You'll Need
  • 4-5 ounces veal sweetbreads
  • milk to cover
  • 4 cups water
  • Kosher or sea salt
  • Juice of half a lemon plus 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup Wondra or other finely milled flour
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • 2-3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon brined nonpareil capers
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed picked celery leaves
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed picked flat-leaf parsley
  1. 2 days before cooking, place the sweetbreads in a bowl or small container, cover them with milk, and allow them to soak in the refrigerator overnight. Remove the sweetbreads, discarding the milk, and trim any veins or dark bits. Rinse them well and set aside.
  2. Place the sweetbreads in a small pot, cover with water, and add a big pinch of salt and the juice of half a lemon. Add the sweetbreads, bring the water to a boil, and blanch them for about 5 minutes. Remove the sweetbreads and plunge them into an ice bath.
  3. Line a small sheet pan with a kitchen towel and place the sweetbreads on the towel in a single layer. Fold the towel over them to cover, place another sheet pan on top, and weight it down – a heavy pot or a few cans of tomatoes work well. Place in the refrigerator overnight.
  4. If your sweetbreads are large, slice them into medallions. Spread the flour on a plate and season with lots of salt and pepper, then toss the sweetbreads in the seasoned flour until well coated on all sides.
  5. Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed skillet and cook the sweetbreads over medium heat until golden brown. Place the browned sweetbreads on a paper towel-lined plate and set aside, tenting loosely with foil to keep warm.
  6. Whisk the tablespoon of lemon juice with a pinch of salt, a few grinds of pepper, and the olive oil in a small bowl until emulsified. Add the capers, celery leaves and parsley and stir to combine. Place the sweetbreads on a serving plate, and drizzle the sauce all around. Finish with a little flaky salt if desired.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Holly Zajac
    Holly Zajac
  • coffeefoodwrite
  • shayma
  • Allison Cay Parker
    Allison Cay Parker
  • dymnyno

13 Reviews

Queenlacheesea September 26, 2020
While on my Staycation I thought it would be a good time to try my hand at Sweetbreads I have 48 hours to kill between projects . I saw your recipe and I was in ! It did not disappoint. I used the fresh piccata sauce to dress my bitter greens, sheer bliss! Will definitely do this again
maria December 9, 2016
when you say blanche , you mean simmer? Craig Claiborne suggests to simmer them. Blanching for 5 minutes don't know if you can do that?
maria December 9, 2016
when you say blanche , you mean simmer? Craig Claiborne suggests to simmer them. Blanching for 5 minutes don't know if you can do that?
maria December 9, 2016
when you say blanche , you mean simmer? Craig Claiborne suggests to simmer them. Blanching for 5 minutes don't know if you can do that?
Shortrib October 8, 2016
First time preparing these myself, but they were excellent! The caper dressing is perfect to balance the richness of the sweetbreads. Also excellent in a sandwich (with sauce, sriracha, mayo and arugula) the next day! If you've not tried sweetbreads because you don't like liver, kidney etc you must reconsider: they are not at all "organ-y" or strong tasting. They are as mild as turkey and as tender as scallops. There is no reason to hesitate! 18 euro per kg here in Amsterdam (special order), about the same as a cheap cut of beef. But so much nicer! (I didn't bother with the pressing step, but just cut sweetbreads into medallions after poaching and cooling. I also trimmed them at that stage to remove some further sinew.)
LLK December 9, 2014
we just had three pigs butchered and were gifted with the pancreas (sweetbreads) from each. Currently the package is in the freezer awaiting an attempt at a good recipe. How are pig sweetbreads vs lamb or veal? Thanks for any advice.
Holly Z. October 30, 2012
I cant find sweetbreads anywhere.
Dan D. June 26, 2012
I tried this recipe tonight (minus the parsley) and I loved the flavor and the texture combination of the sweetbreads and the sauce.
coffeefoodwrite February 26, 2010
I love sweetbreads as well, both lamb and veal. This is a truly inspiring way to eat them. I like the combination of lemon and celery.
shayma February 11, 2010
i agree with Pierino, a truly Roman dish you have created. i love the photo, J, so beautiful, jade-green leaves.
Allison C. January 30, 2010
Playing with your food is ALWAYS rewarding, if you ask me. (Just don't tell my son that.) Sweetbreads: I tried them for the first time with my husband, before we were married. Had them as you described--just sauteed to a nice crisp with a bit of lemon--and I liked the dish a lot. It's still not something I'd automatically order in a restaurant, but will always share some if someone else does. I've never cooked this myself. But maybe now I'll have to give it a try. I like the sound of what you've done with them.

And, by the way... Happy Anniversary! :-)
dymnyno January 22, 2010
I love sweetbreads! Unfortunately my husband inherited gout from his father (and so did son Charles).
pierino January 24, 2010
I love sweetbreads too. And I love celery leaves as well. A Roman match made in heaven.