Friday, November 20, 2015

Ris de Veau (d'Agneau) - Sweetbreads on French Menus. When sweetbreads are on the menu in France do not pass them by.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman
Updated May 2018
Pink roasted quail with a tortellini of the leg confit
and sweetbreads
Veal and lamb sweetbreads will be on many French menus. These uniquely delicate cuts with their clear and mild flavor and texture are highly prized by chefs and gourmands.
                              Where do these cuts come from?
Sweetbreads are the best of all the inside cuts like liver, tongue, and kidneys. They are the pancreas and thymus glands with some gourmands preferring one to the other. Others prefer veal over lamb.  However, when these delicate cuts are served with a light sauce or fried I cannot tell the difference. Sweetbreads have a texture somewhat similar to the finest milk fed calf’s liver but there the similarity ends, and please note that I only said similar, not the same.
What do sweetbreads mean?
Sweetbreads contain no bread. notes the words comes from old English where “swēte meant sweet and “bræd” meant flesh; hence sweetbreads for sweet meat.
In North America and the UK, sweetbreads are rarely on the menu. Despite that sweetbreads are a delicacy and in France, all good French restaurants will regularly have them on their menus. 
Sweetbreads on French menus:
Ris de Veau - Calf sweetbreads.
Ris d'Agneau- Lamb sweetbreads

Ris de Chevreau - Kid sweetbreads. 4-6-month-old goat, a kid, a chevreau's sweetbreads will also be on some menus.
Cassolette  d'Escargots et Ris d'Agneau à l'Oseille - A snail stew made with lamb sweetbreads and flavored with sorrel. A snail cassoulet is very different to the meat cassoulets of Southern France.
Ravioles de Ris d’Agneau au Gingembre et Citron - Ravioli stuffed with lamb sweetbreads and flavored with lemon and ginger.
Veal sweetbread ravioli served in a cream of artichoke sauce.
Ris de Veau à la Crème et aux Champignons – Sweetbreads with a cream and button mushroom sauce.
Ris Braise - Lightly fried sweetbreads. The menu should indicate whether these are veal or lamb, if not ask. When they are served with a sauce I cannot tell the difference but I like to know anyway.
Crispy veal sweetbreads
with diced parsnips, small potatoes and black truffle sandwiches.
Ris de Veau Croustillantes, Jeunes Carottes et Graines de Moutarde. Crisply fried sweetbreads served with baby carrots and flavored with mustard seeds.
Ris de Veau aux Girolles. Veal sweetbreads prepared with wild chanterelle mushrooms.
Ris de Veau Poêlée, Jus à la Cardamone et Panais. Lightly fried veal sweetbreads served with sweetbread’s cooking juices flavored with cardamom and accompanied by parsnips. N.B. Cardamom is the spice with a heady aroma and a special taste that is often used with spiced hot wines.  In Western Europe, outside of France, cardamom is only occasionally seen in the kitchen and therein lies a small but important difference in European tastes. The Swedes; however, do use cardamom in pastries and cardamom is important for all of Scandinavia. Without cardamom, there would be no Scandinavian Aquavit liquor with 40% alcohol to drink on festive occasions.
Sweetbreads and duck confit ravioli
Photograph courtesy of stu_spivack


Bouchée a la Reine au Ris de Veau

Sweetbreads may be on the menu fried, poached, grilled, stewed, and even roasted in the oven.  Sweetbreads may also be served as hot or cold hors d’oeuvres. As an hors-d'oeuvre then they may be served in a puff pastry vol-au-vent with a cream sauce and then they will be on the menu as “Bouchée a la Reine au Ris de Veau ” for veal or Agneau, lamb. Originally all Bouchées à la Reine were made with sweetbreads or sweetbreads and chicken; however, that is no longer the case.  Bouchée means a small mouthful and is often on the menu as an amuse-gueule, a small complimentary appetizer. Only occasionally will the Bouchée a la Reine on the menu be with veal or lamb sweetbreads.
Sweetbreads with fried water chestnuts

Why chefs love cooking with sweetbreads.
From my experience, the best recipes for sweetbreads are the simpler dishes that do not include tastes that compete with the delicate flavor of the meat.  One of the great advantages of sweetbreads is that not too easy to overcook them.  Unlike many dishes that should spend, at most, one or two minutes in the pan or under the grill and then are forgotten for three extra minutes will see the dish become inedible.  Sweetbreads forgive the chef. Sweetbreads will remain juicy for close to double the time indicated in a recipe. Fried sweetbreads will remain crispy on the outside while the interior will be bursting with the juices from the meat even if the recipe indicated frying for 3 or 5 minutes and the chef left them for 10 minutes.
Sweetbreads in French country restaurants
On village and country restaurant menus there may be ris de porcelet, piglet sweetbreads, ris de bœuf, beef sweetbreads or ris de chevreau, kid’s sweetbreads.  These animal’s sweetbreads have a stronger taste than lamb or veal and among the big city cognoscenti, they are not appreciated. These are country comfort foods and I have enjoyed kid’s sweetbreads on more than one occasion.
Turnips, (Navets) Parsnips (Panais) and Swedes (Chou-Navets or Rutabaga). Traditional Root Vegetables in Modern French Cuisine.

Searching for the meaning of words, names or phrases
French menus?

Just add the word, words, or phrase that you are searching for to the words "Behind the French Menu" and search with Google. Behind the French Menu’s links include hundreds of words, names, and phrases that are seen on French menus. There are over 400 articles that include over 3,000 French dishes with English translations and explanations.
Bryan G. Newman

Behind the French Menu
Copyright 2010. 2015, 2017, 2018

For information on the unpublished book behind this blog contact Bryan Newman

1 comment:

  1. We have a few halal markets in our area, Montgomery County, MD, one of which has ris d'agneau. I was so delighted to find a place to get it, and affordable as well.