The Chef: Kevin Binkley The Restaurant: Bink's Midtown The Animal: Veal The Dish: Sweetbreads Nuggets
What's not to love about sweetbreads? They're creamy, rich and have such an innocent sounding name!
And when they're done as well as they are at Bink's Midtown, you'd never know they're actually one of the nastier bits of animal that you'll find popping up on an increasing number of menus today.
Sweetbreads, or ris in French, are the culinary names for an animal's thymus and pancreas. Techincally, there are two kinds of sweetbreads: the "stomach" or "heart sweetbread" and "throat sweetbread," though unless you're planning to prepare them yourself the distinction doesn't really matter.
Most commonly sweetbreads are made from calves or veal and are prepared by poaching them, removing the outer membrane from the organs, and then baking or frying them. The idea of eating an animal's glands might sound wholly unappealing but when it comes to flavor and flexibility there's really a lot that sweetbreads have to offer.
Compared to some offal, sweetbreads actually offer a very mild taste, though for fans of the more uncommon animals parts, you'll probably still be able to recognize that offal-y taste. It's subtle but unlike almost anything else out there and with a creamy texture that you don't get from other meats. Most people describe sweetbreads as "creamy," though I'd say the texture is also a bit spongy thanks to the juiciness of the organs. In fact, you might find the texture to be reminiscent of a McDonald chicken nugget -- except with more flavor and without all the fake additives.
At Bink's Midtown, James Beard award nominated-chef Kevin Binkley (or Bink's Midtown's Chef de Cuisine Justin Olsen) prepares the sweetbreads in a light batter of cornmeal, flour, salt, and pepper. They're then fried and served with in a sweet and sour sauce with peanuts and scallions.
The tang you get from the sauce -- which offers sweet, citrus notes and plenty of acidity -- are a perfect counterbalance to the richness of the sweetbreads themselves. For texture, the light batter works to break up the monotony and the roasted peanuts and scallions do wonders to add layers of nuttiness and pungency to the mix.
The familiarity of the sweet and sour sauce and approachable presentation of this dish make it accessible even to those who might not be familiar with offal. And for those who are fans already, it's a home run of a dish and a great way to start your meal at Bink's.