Recipe courtesy of Daniel Boulud

Braised Veal Sweetbreads with Fennel and Tomato

Getting reviews...
  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 1 day 1 hr 30 min
  • Prep: 30 min
  • Inactive: 1 day
  • Cook: 1 hr
  • Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Share This Recipe



  1. I think braising is the best way to cook sweetbreads. It's certainly the lightest way, compared with, say, pan-frying them and serving them with a creamy sauce, which is how they often are prepared in restaurants. Here, I coat the sweetbreads (which, for the record, are the thymus gland of a calf) with cornmeal before searing them. This helps keep them crisp even when they are braising. You'll notice that the braising temperature, at 350 degrees F, is slightly higher than usual. This also promotes a crisp crust, and the dense flesh of the sweetbreads can take the higher heat. Since sweetbreads are mild and delicate on their own, you can cook them with almost anything and they will absorb the flavors. This recipe, seasoned with saffron and anise (and, optionally, fennel pollen) and spiked with pastis, was inspired by Provence.
  2. The day before you want to serve this dish, trim the sweetbreads of any fat and veins (or ask your butcher to do this for you). Put the sweetbreads into a large bowl of ice water and refrigerate them for 24 hours, changing the water twice during this period. Drain and rinse the sweetbreads well. 
  3. Put a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. 
  4. Using a small paring knife, make a small hole in each sweetbread and push a fennel stick into it. Use half a fennel stick, if necessary. 
  5. In a spice grinder, finely grind together the salt, fennel seeds, white peppercorns, fennel pollen, if using , saffron, cayenne pepper, and star anise. Season the sweetbreads with this spice mixture and roll each one in the polenta, coating all sides and shaking off any excess. 
  6. Warm the 2 tablespoons each olive oil and unsalted butter in a medium cast-iron pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the coated sweetbreads, garlic, and fennel and sear until the sweetbreads and fennel are light golden brown on all sides, 10 to 15 minutes. Deglaze by adding the white wine and anise-flavored liqueur, bringing to a boil, and scraping up any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pot. Let simmer until the liquid is reduced by half, about 5 minutes.
  7. Add the chicken stock and tomatoes, bring to a simmer, transfer the pot to the oven, and braise, uncovered, turning the sweetbreads once, until tender, 30 to 40 minutes.

Fudge Factor

Train Frontman Pat Monahan's Dark Chocolate Obsession Feb 11, 2013

By: Cameron Curtis

Train frontman Pat Monahan, an avid chocolate lover, shared with us his top five reasons for eating dark chocolate.

Sifted: Plan-Ahead Valentine's Day Desserts Feb 6, 2013

By: Lauren Miyashiro

Get our take on the best in food news, recipes and more from around the web, including the best Valentine's Day recipes.

The Craziest Chocolate Creations for American Chocolate Week Mar 17, 2013

It’s officially American Chocolate Week. Check out photos of mind-blowing chocolate creations.

Review: Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert's Chocolate Bar Nov 16, 2012

Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert have teamed up with master chocolatier Christopher Curtin to create the "Good & Evil" chocolate b …

Over-the-Top-Delicious Treats to Satisfy Your Food Obsession

Are you infatuated with ice cream? Do you lust over lobster? Swoon at the sight of chocolate? Here's the best recipe for each food …

Chocolate Desserts

Indulge in our decadent chocolate desserts, from cookies and cakes to puddings, souffles and truffles.

Essentials: Chocolate Basics Sep 1, 2016

Satisfy that chocolate craving in your very own kitchen. All you need is baking chocolate and a little know-how. It also helps to …