Sweetbreads Gaucho Style
When I was a girl in Argentina (¡Que viva y viva!) one of my favorite things was our weekly Sunday Asado – a BBQ meat-fest of epic proportions. One of my favorite parts of Argentine Asado culture is that we honor the animal that gave us our dinner by using every single part – not just the fancy steak, chops, ribs — we eat it all, and I do mean ALL.
“Offal” is the umbrella term for the cuts of meat that would fall off of a carcass as a butcher worked. These odd bits, including organ meats like liver, kidney, heart and intestines, are considered delicacies by chefs and wise folks worldwide because they possess unusual (and delightful) textures and flavors — and are more nutrient-dense (10-100 times more than muscle meats) than any other foods on Earth. Traditional cultures consumed them routinely, as should we — as they are amazingly healthy for the body and soul.
What follows is a recipe for Sweetbreads, or Mollejas in Spanish, which are absolutely gorgeous BBQ’d. When you smother them in our traditional chimichurri sauce, not only are they delicious, but you’re getting all the fabulous gut-health and microbiome supporting fiber from the medicinal herbs we use.
¡Que viva el asado!
For the sweetbreads:
1 lb sweetbreads
1/4 cup white vinegar
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
For the chimichurri:
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 medium shallot, chopped
1 Tbsp red wine or champagne vinegar
1 Tbsp freshly-squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp sea salt or Himalayan salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Rinse the sweetbreads well
- Squeeze the juice from the lemons
- Soak them in cold water, vinegar and lemon juice for 2 hours
- Put on some tango, pour a glass of Malbec, if you’re into that kind of thing
- Place the sweetbreads in a pot of boiling water (just enough to cover them), and add the vinegar and 1 tsp of the salt.
- Lower the heat and let them simmer for about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the chimichurri
- Place everything except the olive oil in a food processor.
- With the processor running, drizzle the olive oil in VERY slowly.
- Scrape down the sides of the processor and set chimichurri aside.
Back to the sweetbreads…
- Remove the sweetbreads from the water and pat them dry.
- Trim them as necessary to remove any gristle or membranes.
- Pull the sweetbreads apart into 1-2″ sections (this should be easy, but you can cut them if it isn’t – I use kitchen scissors).
- Toss the sweetbreads with the olive oil, then sprinkle with the remaining 1 tsp salt and the pepper.
- Thread the sweetbreads onto skewers and grill for 3 minutes at medium high heat.
- Flip and cook for another 3 minutes.
- Smother with chimicurri and enjoy!
Victoria Albina, NP, MPH is a licensed and board certified Family Nurse Practitioner, herbalist and life coach, with 20 years experience in health and wellness. She trained at the University of California, San Francisco, and holds a Masters in Public Health from Boston University and a bachelors from Oberlin College. She comes to this work having been a patient herself, and having healed from a lifetime of IBS, GERD, SIBO, fatigue, depression and anxiety.
She is passionate about her work, and loves supporting patients in a truly holistic way - body, mind, heart and spirit. A native of Mar del Plata, Argentina, she grew up in the great state of Rhode Island, and lives in NYC with her partner. A brown dog named Frankie Bacon has her heart, and she lives for steak and a good dark chocolate.