Hauntingly Tender

I don’t eat (much) veal. That hauntingly tender texture has a way of reminding me that what I’m eating was a baby animal—one who wasn’t allowed to move much throughout it’s too-short life so that I could have a tender dinner. But, like all guilty pleasures, I make exceptions. I love to have veal once or twice in the spring, when the meat is at it’s best and veal is in season (yes, veal has a season.)

Veal doesn’t have much taste because low movement in an animal’s life makes for tender flesh with little flavor, while older animals produce tougher, more flavorful meat—another reason I feel bad for eating veal, like come, on, all that just so the flesh is firm but soft, smooth, and yields to the bite, creamy not chewy. Well, actually, yes all that. What’s life without guilty pleasures?

To compensate for the loss in taste, you must make bold accompaniments for the veal. For last weekend’s veal, Jim and I made a relish of grape tomatoes, shallots, balsamic vinegar, and capers—very bold indeed. The veal and the relish sat atop a bed of arugula—what I consider the perfect veal green, as it’s bitterness pairs sublimely with the creamy veal—and alongside some soft polenta.

Truth be told, I didn’t even need the polenta. The veal, relish, and arugula was a meal in itself, though the polenta made good work of soaking up the flavors. The relish, as it should be, is very bold, and I wouldn’t really enjoy it with anything other than veal, or possibly, a filet mignon. Make sure you get a great balsamic vinegar, because I imagine that could make or break everything.

I don’t think I’ll be eating veal too often now, but it was delicious.

Veal Chops with Roasted Shallot-Relish, Arugula, and Soft Polenta

from Bon Apetite, Feb 05//serves 4

1 cup olive oil, divided
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon coarse kosher salt
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
4 1 3/4-inch-thick veal rib chops (each about 12 ounces), frenched

18 small shallots, peeled, halved
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 12-ounce package grape tomatoes
1/3 cup drained capers plus 1 tablespoon caper brine reserved from jar

Soft Polenta
4 cups arugula
Whisk 3/4 cup oil and lemon juice in small bowl to blend. Mix thyme, salt, and pepper in another small bowl. Rub thyme mixture all over veal chops; place in glass baking dish. Pour oil-lemon marinade over; let stand 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 450°F. Combine shallots, vinegar, and remaining 1/4 cup oil in medium roasting pan; toss to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast until shallots are browned and tender, about 15 minutes. Add tomatoes to shallots and roast until tomatoes are soft and browned, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes longer. Remove pan from oven. Add capers and 1 tablespoon reserved brine and stir to blend.

Meanwhile, heat large ovenproof skillet over high heat. Drain veal chops and transfer marinade to heavy small saucepan. Add veal to skillet and cook until browned, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer skillet to oven and roast veal to desired doneness, about 10 minutes for medium.

Bring reserved oil-lemon marinade to boil; boil 2 minutes. Place 1 veal chop on each of 4 plates. Divide shallot-tomato mixture among plates. Spoon Soft Polenta alongside. Drizzle with oil-lemon marinade. Garnish with arugula and serve.

Soft Polenta

6 cups water
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups quick-cooking polenta (precooked maize meal)
Bring 6 cups water, 1/4 cup butter, and 1 teaspoon salt to boil in heavy large saucepan. Gradually whisk in polenta. Reduce heat to medium-low. Stir constantly until polenta thickens, about 5 minutes.

21 thoughts on “Hauntingly Tender”

  1. Oh, mmm. This looks absolutely amazing. Definitely going to try this one out. A very nice use of your guilty pleasure 🙂

  2. To be honest, veal kind of scares me! I know, how silly, but it’s true. Maybe one day I will venture out into the Veal world (sorry, pun totally intended there) but even if I don’t, your dish looks very robust and hearty.

  3. You not only went all out with the meal, you went all out with the title! I recipe fell in love with polenta and I found ground veal at the store recently that I need to try. It was extremely low in fat but I’ll keep the lack of flavor in mind. Maybe I’ll make it into my favorite spinach cheddar burgers!

    The Peanut Butter Boy

  4. Great dish, great title!

    I’ve only had veal a handful of times in my life – I love it… it is one of those guilty pleasures. I didn’t know veal had a season… and now I really want some!

  5. I won’t eat veal for the reasons that you described but the dish looks truly amazing. I love the relich that you made and will have to try that!

  6. Oh I do love veal… And yes, it does make me feel guilty… But I’ve found a few farmers that sell mother-suckled veal, slightly less guilt-inducing, but seriously, only slightly. Same goes with rabbit… *sigh*

  7. Food quote, apropos of nothing:

    “He looked sceptically at the cut of cheese. He turned it over on his back to see was the other side any better. The other side was worse. They had laid it better side up, they had practised that little deception. Who shall blame them? He rubbed it. It was sweating. That was something. He stooped and smelt it. A faint fragrance of corruption. What good was that? He didn’t want fragrance, he wasn’t a bloody gourmet, he wanted a good stench. What he wanted was a good green stenching rotten lump of Gorgonzola cheese, alive, and by God he would have it!”

    From “Dante and the Lobster” by Samuel Beckett

  8. Thanks for all your comments, guys!

    Nick- Definitely use bold flavors with the ground veal… or mix it with ground pork and beef to make traditional meatloaf.

    Judy- You are too sweet. THANK YOU! 🙂

    Ann- Rabbit? Oh, jeez, I didn’t even know I should feel bad about rabbit. Damn, this meat-guilt never ends!

    Jim- I love you. And I love that quote.

  9. I was watching another tv show and a show came on about animals and about how crule they are to the poor veals.

    They showed the poor baby veals in there caves where they are not allowed to be free or live there life or be with their mamas. They stay small and sad til they are killed for there white meat.

    Please do not eat veals.

  10. Robin, you can have your veal and eat it too – Union Market has a few vendors that offer humanely raised veal. I.e. the veal gets to hang out with mom and get nursed by her and eats grass – no dark boxes… I’m not exactly saying killing baby cows is a good thing, but I think that any animal that is treated humanely, is a better trade. That said, I can’t eat veal — I’ve gone 18 years without it, so I’m pretty much okay with giving it up. For the life of me, I can’t give up meat all together, though I eat it rather rarely… But i hear you on the weakness 🙂

  11. In our area, veal is raised very humanely – nice pens under the trees with the calves relaxing in the sun…

    And chicken is killed earlier in its life span than veal.

  12. I just recently fell in love with veal, when I made some osso buco alla milanese. good, good stuff. I don’t feel meat-guilt though… about that or anything else. and I am a huge HUGE animal lover. I just look at it differently in terms of natural sustenance. or something like that.

    in any case, I’d love to do chops. this recipe looks wonderful robin, very nice.

  13. Girl I can’t remember the last time I had veal. You’ve just reminded me of how good it is… Your dish looks excellent, not to mention the polenta. I love polenta… Have a had a good serving of that either in a while.

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