Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Spanish Veal Chops

If the idea of consuming veal bothers you, read no further. I understand the moral issues many folks have, and have no intention of debating them here. Or anywhere else, for that matter. As I tell customers all the time, you spend your hard earned dollars for the food you eat, so only YOUR taste, values, and opinions matter. Nuff said.

I do love veal. And on the rare occasions I can afford it, this is one of my favorite preparations. I don’t really follow recipes too much, and never write them, so bear with me.

For dinner for four, you’ll need:
4 large bone-in veal chops, about 1 ½ inches thick.
2-3 oz. Serrano ham, very thinly sliced
3-4 oz. Manchego, Zamorano, Roncal or Idiazabal cheese, sliced very thin (see note 1)
1 Tbs fennel pollen (see note 2)
1/2 Tbs Spanish paprika, the mild smoky one (and please, don’t use that Hungarian stuff) 1/2 tsp dried thyme, or 1 tsp fresh, finely minced
Salt and pepper to taste
Good quality EVOO, preferably Spanish

Using a sharp knife, make a slit in the side of each veal chop, about an inch long, almost to the bone. Using your finger (preferably washed), make the slit into a pocket by expanding inside the slit. Stuff each chop with ¼ of the meat and ¼ of the cheese, making sure none sticks out. Don’t worry, the cheese won’t melt to the point of runny, so you don’t have to use anything to close up the pocket. And go easy on the Serrano, it’s very salty and can overwhelm the veal.

In a small bowl, mix the fennel pollen, paprika, and thyme. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add the EVOO, a little at a time, stirring to make a paste. Don’t worry, if you add a little too much, just add some more fennel pollen and another dash of paprika. Paste should be wet enough to rub on the chops and stick, but not runny. Ok, you know what’s next. Rub the paste all over the chops. Do this sparingly, we just want the aromatics and flavors to subtly accent the veal, not overwhelm it.

Light your gas or charcoal grill. Preheat the oven to 375. Cook the chops over a gas or charcoal grill, medium high heat, for about 4 minutes a side for rare, an extra minute per side for medium rare. Place on lined baking sheet, and finish in oven for 7 to 10 minutes. This is all relative, depending on how thick your chop is and how hot your grill is. I don’t clock it, I poke it with my finger to test for doneness, so use your best judgment. (If you eat your veal cooked more than medium rare, we have nothing to talk about, and you shouldn’t be wasting your hard-earned duckets on veal.)

If you’re cooking them in the oven, preheat to 475, roast in a pan for 5 minutes, then reduce heat to 375 til done.

Let veal chops sit under foil for 10 minutes before serving, and don’t waste any of that juice left in your baking pan or your resting plate…pour it on.

This is fantastic served on a bed of sautéed root veggies. After the notes, I’ve included a simple buy yummy recipe from our Napa friend Alan Bree.

#1 – My preference for this dish is the Idiazabal, for its subtle smoky flavor, but any of the aged Spanish sheep’s milk cheeses will do. Just make sure you slice thin, using a cheese plane or sharp chef’s knife.

#2 – If you’ve not cooked with fennel pollen, don’t worry, it is not like cooking with fennel. It does not have that anise flavor, it is delicate and aromatic. Once you’re used it, you will make it a regular item to stock in your kitchen. It’s that good, and plays well with veal, pork, chicken or lamb.

Recipe for root vegetable medley:
1 medium turnip
1 medium rutabaga
1 medium kohlrabi
(substitute or add your favorite root vegetable)
Milk (see note)
A nob of butter

Peel and trim your root veggies, and cut into ¼ inch dice. Poach in the milk, about 15 to 20 minutes, until beginning to get tender. Drain. Melt a couple tablespoons of butter into a small sauté pan or large sauce pan. Saute the veggies until tender and sweet, adding your favorite seasoning. I use a pinch of summer savory and a tiny pinch of cayenne pepper. A grind of salt and pepper, and you’re done.

Note: We’re not root vegetable fans, and had never used them in our cooking, until Alan was visiting one day. Took him to Chino Farms, and he loved the kohlrabi and turnips there, and said he’d fix us a great meal with salmon and the veggies. We advised we weren’t fans, particularly of turnips, due to the very acidic and earthy (dirty) flavors. That’s when Alan taught us the trick of poaching turnips in milk. We were skeptical, but he knows what he’s doing so….we ended up standing at the stove after dinner scraping up every last morsel of the veggies. They were awesome!

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