Mollejas have traditionally been considered some of the most succulent offal meats. They are to be found on the menus of many haute cuisine restaurants: beef mollejas à la parisienne, lamb mollejas à la bordelaise, chicken mollejas salad with apple, duck mollejas with foie. As with other entrails, they may also be grilled, sautéed, breaded, fried, prepared in vol au vents or cooked in salads.
But, what are mollejas?
In the first place, you should know that this word is used to name two distinct organs having anatomical differences. On one hand, bird gizzards, which are one of the two parts of a bird’s stomach. Gizzards have thick muscular walls and are highly developed in grain-eating birds. On the other hand, the organs we are concentrating on in this text: sweetbreads, the common name given to an organ called the thymus, which is part of the immune system of mammals. It produces defensive cells and is located more or less at the base of the neck, close to the trachea. It is a flat, soft and whitish organ that atrophies with age until it practically disappears in adulthood. This is why only the thymus from young animals is available, mostly from calves and lambs. Sweetbreads from these two animals are tender and exquisitely flavoured, a delicacy that is only for the initiated. But they are famous for not being proper diet food, due to their fat content. This really depends, since, for example, veal sweetbreads have a fat content of 20%, lower than cured cheese. At any rate, it is difficult to eat too many since each animal only has one of these organs and hence not too many are available. This is why they usually must be ordered from the butcher, and sometimes other lymphatic glands or even the pancreas may be offered in place of the thymus.
Another matter that must be taken into account is that, depending on the geographical area, mollejas may be known as lechecillas, lleteroles, chapinas or rechiuelas.
Consumers must make sure that they are fresh before buying them, and should know that they should not be kept for longer than 24 hours. They must be carefully washed and soaked conscientiously, and the skin that covers them peeled off. Gourmets may want to discover this delicacy in a good restaurant. In any case, if you have never tried it, you now have the essential facts about this peculiar food.
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