After my last, perhaps PETA-unfriendly, observation about the innate tastiness of the baby sheep…I decided it was time to give my husband what he’s been not-so-subtly hinting at for several months.
Not that, you naughty thing!! 😉
The hubmeister has been asking me to cook veal for a while now and for some reason I’ve been resistant. It’s a moral thing, I think…I mean, veal is a baby cow, right? Cute and cuddly, and that’s just not…
Nah, it’s definitely not a moral thing. I have no problem with a baby animal dying for me to enjoy its tender, delicate flesh…or to wear it. I didn’t cry when Bambi’s mother died, either. I only look like a softie; the hub is the one with the Kleenex box during Saving Private Ryan.
I’m not sure why I’d been putting off the veal for so long. But after a particularly grueling Iron Chef: America session (and maybe some needling about being afraid of a baby herbivore) I agreed to try cooking veal.
Now, I don’t really know if I’ve ever eaten veal. I’d guess I have, probably, at least once. While working in the restaurant industry and traveling abroad, I’m pretty sure veal has crossed my lips multiple times. I eat what’s available, and if it’s fried, that’s even better. But I can’t call up a memory of a specific meal in which I consumed veal.
As usual, I started by reading as many veal recipes as I could find. I discovered that it’s pretty much interchangable with pork in recipes. You can do pretty much anything with it, and it (like the teensy baby critter it is) will just take the abuse, looking tender and delicious.
So I decided to do something with it like I would do with lamb, picturing in my (admittedly over-fertile) imagination a duel of sorts. In one corner, the bleating, trembling lamb, its sparse smattering of wool barely curling and still a little damp…and in the other, the spindly-legged, staggering baby cow, downy, light-red sides heaving while it butts tentatively at the oncoming lamb.
But that’s just in my mind. We were going to cook veal. Sorry, rabbit-chasing again. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Now.
I chopped up some fresh rosemary and garlic, put them in a bowl with some olive oil and salt & pepper, and rubbed those beautiful, 1″ thick boneless veal chops down liberally with the resulting paste. Both sides and sides.
I let this sit on the counter on a plate for about 15 minutes – long enough to let the flavors sink in, not long enough for bacteria to take hold.
Preheated my grandmother’s cast iron skillet to medium-high/high with a little more olive oil. Not quite smoking…but almost.
Sizzle sizzle! Veal certainly SMELLS like heaven! I am a happy kittie. Brown, brown, both sides, baby cow!!
Chops, nicely browned on both sides, go into a baking dish and into a 375 degree oven. (I TOLD you to preheat it!!) Depending on thickness, they could take 5 to 10 minutes. It’s a weird whitish meat, mostly like pork, that gets that pale red liquid if you poke it and let it sit. That’s always grossed me out.
In the meantime…you didn’t turn off the burner with the cast iron skillet, did you?
Add about a cup of white wine and half a cup of chicken stock. Scrape the brown bits off the bottom of the skillet and simmer until reduced by about 1/2. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon in there at some point. It may need salt. You can handle the seasoning part – I believe in you!! 🙂
Take the veal chops out of the oven at some point and hope they’re cooked properly. The fat isn’t like beef or lamb fat (yummmm!); it’s more like pork fat (ewwww!) so trim it off. Spoon the pan sauce over the chops on the plate and serve with…
We’ve (okay, I’ve) made these a few times before, based loosely on the amalgamation of several recipes I found online. The difference tonight is that all of the Mexican cheese in the house (a combination of Asadero, Cotija, and Panera) has been shredded (during the prep for last night’s shrimp enchiladas), and previously I have only used little domino-sized chunks of cheese to stuff my incredibly fragile, tenuously fibrous chile peppers.
If you’re not familiar with Hatch green chiles…they are a New Mexico pepper and are only widely available fresh for about a month in August. Major grocery stores and Tex-Mex chains in Houston will have a Hatch Chile Festival and it’s awesome. They’re like the love child of a jalapeno and a poblano and they’re sold as Mild and Hot varieties, though within those classifications is a pretty wide range of heat.
The hubster and I adore Hatch chiles and we always stock up when they’re in town. For the first time, this year we went ahead and got a case each of Hot and Mild peppers, already roasted. That’s almost 60 pounds of roasted peppers. We portioned them into freezer bags and wrote the number and variety on the outside with a Sharpie (for example, 4M2H is, of course, 4 Mild and 2 Hot peppers). Our freezer is a land filled with stacks and rows and mounds of pepper-baggies. There’s one small shelf left at the bottom for the emergency pasta bag, pizza rolls, and pound of ground pork.
Weren’t we talking about Chiles Rellenos? You keep letting me get distracted! Chiles Rellenos are the most wonderful invention since…well…tortillas. The basic idea can be (and has been) dressed up a million different ways; you take a pepper, you put something in it, you cook it, you top it with sauce and eat it. The classic way, of course, is very simple: cheese inside, egg batter, fry, red sauce, yum. Of course, left to my own devices I would be getting creative…’I wonder how many different things I can dice and mix with the cheese filling? Let’s see, shallots and mushrooms and crab meat and cilantro and roasted piquillo peppers and definitely some bacon and…’
But (perhaps fortunately) when it comes to certain dishes, the hub is a purist. Anything called a chile relleno that has anything except cheese inside is blasphemy. So it’s given me a chance to actually cook the same thing, pretty much the same way, multiple times, tweaking a bit but not getting too creative.
Start with your peppers: roast them (or be lazy like me and buy ’em roasted). Let them cool and rinse the skin off. The peppers are pretty fragile and will tear easily, so be careful; you want them whole. You’ll need to make a slit from the stem about 1/3 of the way down to take out the seeds.
This is a good time to start your oil: heat a large pan with about 1.5″ of your fav cooking oil (I use Canola) to medium-high heat. You can test it by dropping in a bit of the egg batter; if it floats to the top and sizzles your oil is ready; if it sinks it’s not hot enough.
Stuffing is much easier with cheese that's not shredded.
Stuff ’em: get a good Mexican melting cheese (Chihuahua, Asadero, Oaxaca) and cut into sticks. The size & shape depends on your particular peppers; you want it to fit inside, with a little space to melt but still going most of the way to the top & bottom of the pepper. Get it inside with a minimum of additional pepper ripping. Close the opening as much as possible (you can use toothpicks to hold them closed).
Since you rinsed the skins off the peppers, they’re a little damp. Good. Sprinkle them lightly with some all-purpose flour, all over. Not too much, don’t want it cakey. Just a dusting.
For the egg batter, separate your eggs, 1 egg for every 2 peppers, into separate bowls. Beat the whites until they firm up, then fold in the yolks slowly with a little salt & pepper.
One at a time, dip the peppers in the egg mixture, then drop them into your hot oil. Fry until they’re golden brown and floating, turning them over once. Drain on paper towels.
For the sauce, I use canned Hatch Green Chile Enchilada Sauce (the red kind, not the green kind) – you can see the yellow label in the pic with the hubby. I doctor it up different every time (this is where I CAN be a little creative!) – this time I added 3 tomatillos, 3 cloves of garlic, 1 large shallot, 1 large jalapeno, and a bunch of fresh cilantro. Whip it all up in the blender, then simmer until the chiles are ready to be topped.
Put your fried, drained chiles in a baking dish, spoon your sauce over the top, sprinkle some shredded cheese on top, and put them in the oven for just a couple of minutes.
The chiles, on this particular evening, are counting as our green veggie. Shut up. They’re green. We’re eating them with the leftover potato salad from the lamb burgers…and the veal chops, of course.
Chiles rellenos just aren't photogenic...
I don’t think I like veal. The hub does, though not as much as lamb, he says. To me it’s like pork, only bland and a little mushy (‘they’ may call it tender, but I like some chew to my meat). I eat a couple bites of the veal and start thinking about baby animals.
Apparently age doesn’t have as much to do with deliciousness as I thought. I like grown-up cows much better than baby ones. I wonder what a grown-up sheep would taste like? I hear it’s called mutton…I wonder if there are any mutton recipes on foodnetwork.com – and if Central Market carries it.
So the score is…baby cow – 0, lamb – 1. The lamb in my mind is standing with his little foot (hoof? do lambs have hooves?) on the conquered veal’s neck, head thrown back, bleating because now it’s not sure what do with its prey and it really wants some nice clover or something.
And I’m thinking ice cream. Yum.