Another thunderstorm rolled through last night, much like the one Friday night, except that it knocked out the power for a couple of hours. But we were too asleep to notice it. When I got up this morning, I saw that the clock on the stove and the microwave were doing that peculiar “I’ve been unplugged” flash-flash-flash.
And then, this (error-pocked text from the National Weather Service): “A strong low pressure system centered near Green Bay has brought strong winds to much of the upper Midwest today [Sunday, May 11]. Winds over northern Illinois and northwest Indiana has [sic] averaged between 25 and 35 mph with some gust [sic] reported as Hight [sic] as 55 mph.
“The low is moving slowly east and weakening. It will still be strong enough and close enough through Monday morning... however... that winds [sic] will continue to be strong overnight…. A Wind Advisory is issued when sustained winds are forecast to be 31 to 39 mph or gusts will range between 46 and 57 mph. Winds of these magnitudes may cause minor property damage without extra precautions. Motorists in high profile vehicles should use caution until the winds subside.”
Which is to say, a big damn wind is coming your way. It’s a little hard to visualize a “low pressure system” except as a very large L, somewhere up in the sky. Maybe you could see it if it weren't all cloudy. Also, the trees in our yard have more than “minor” property damage in their barky souls, should a strong wind meet one of them at a weak spot. So far (as of this posting) they’ve stood fast, however.
But enough of that. From automotive blogs (see several previous days), my subject naturally turns to… sweetbreads. Only because I made a recent visit to a restaurant called Café Iberico, an excellent tapas place in River North, the district just north of downtown Chicago. My experience with tapas was limited, so when the opportunity arose to do a bid’ness lunch there, I jumped at it — and finagled to get my whole staff (Bonnie and Angie) invited too.
It was the best kind of business lunch, because the person who invited me, Wendy H., had some genuine business things to discuss — a client of hers is going to be on the cover of my magazine later this year. But, since we’ve been friends for over 20 years, we weren’t stuck without anything else to discuss.
Unfortunately, I’ve never been to Spain, but somehow I felt that the Café Iberico décor reminded me of Spain — two airy rooms, a lot of cheerful wall tiles, and a substantial collection, in cabinets, of what I took to be Spanish ceramic figurines.
But décor is rarely anything but a sideshow anyway. The tapas, with one or two mediocre exceptions, were savory creations. The patatas ali-oli, a dish of red potatoes lingering in a garlic mayonnaise sauce, was some of the best potato salad I’ve had in a long time. Even better was the queso de carlina, goat cheese melted into a tamato basil sauce, which we spooned onto bread. We also ate sauted mushrooms — not bad, but it didn’t quite live up to its fine name, champiñones a la plancha — tenderloin skewer, and calamares a la plancha.
A little rubbery, that last one, but palatable. I was the only one at the table who would eat the baby squid, two of which came with the rest of the tentacle-based calamares. Mm, good. I have to admit, those itty-bitty squids can look a little funny on your plate, especially if the preparer leaves the heads on. It’s the kind of thing you put on a pillow, next to a sleeping head, for a prank.
On the day’s specials menu, I noticed sweetbreads. Well now, how often do you see that on a menu? I insisted that we order some, and when it came, I cajoled my lunchmates into trying them, while helping myself. They were reluctant, but I think everyone tried one. I thought the sweetbread was pleasing — a rich meat in a tangy brown sauce, roughly the size of a chicken liver but nothing like it in taste. There was some discussion at the table about what it was, exactly. We knew it was organ meat, but beyond that there was no consensus.
So, naturally, I looked it up later. From eat.epicurious.com:
“Prized by gourmets throughout the world, sweetbreads are the thymus glands of veal, young beef, lamb and pork. There are two glands — an elongated lobe in the throat and a larger, rounder gland near the heart. These glands are connected by a tube, which is often removed before sweetbreads are marketed. The heart sweetbread is considered the more delectable (and is therefore more expensive) of the two because of its delicate flavor and firmer, creamy-smooth texture.
“Sweetbreads from milk-fed veal or young calves are considered the best. Those from young lamb are quite good, but beef sweetbreads are tougher and pork sweetbreads (unless from a piglet) have a rather strong flavor. Veal, young calf and beef sweetbreads are available year-round in specialty meat markets, whereas those from lamb and pork must usually be special-ordered.
“Choose sweetbreads that are white (they become redder as the animal ages), plump and firm. They're very perishable and should be prepared within 24 hours of purchase. Before being cooked, sweetbreads must be soaked in several changes of acidulated water and their outer membrane removed. Some recipes call for the glands to be blanched to firm them, and refrigerated until ready for use. Sweetbreads can be prepared in a variety of ways including poaching, sautéing and braising. They are also sometimes used in pâtés and soufflés.”
Damn. I didn’t know enough to ask what kind of sweetbreads I was eating. Next time.