Sweetbreads or ris are culinary names for the thymus (also called throat, gullet, or neck sweetbread) or the pancreas (also called heart, stomach, or belly sweetbread), especially of calf (ris de veau) and lamb (ris d'agneau), and, less commonly, of beef and pork. Various other glands used as food may also be called "sweetbreads," including the parotid gland ("cheek" or "ear" sweetbread), the sublingual glands ("tongue" sweetbreads or "throat bread"), and testicles (cf. Rocky Mountain oyster, prairie oyster, or lamb fries). The "heart" sweetbreads are more spherical in shape, and surrounded symmetrically by the "throat" sweetbreads, which are more cylindrical in shape.
One common preparation of sweetbreads involves soaking in salt water, then poaching in milk, after which the outer membrane is removed. Once dried and chilled, they are often breaded and fried. They are also used for stuffing or in pâtés. They are grilled in many Latin American cuisines, such as in the Argentine asado, and served in bread in Turkish cuisine.
The word "sweetbread" is first attested in the 16th century, but the etymology of the name is unclear. "Sweet" is perhaps used since the thymus is sweet and rich-tasting, as opposed to savory-tasting muscle flesh. "Bread" may come from brede, "roasted meat" or from the Old English brǣd ("flesh" or "meat").
Notes and references
- Oxford Companion to Food; Oxford English Dictionary
- W. A. Newman Dorland, The American Illustrated Medical Dictionary, 1922 full text
- The Medical Age, quoting the British Medical Journal, 11:702, 1893 full text
- Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition, 1989
- "Words to the Wise". Take Our Word For It (176): 2. 14 November 2002. Retrieved 2012-02-06.
- Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition, 1989, s.v. "brede"