30 January 2007

Benito vs. the Meat Counter: Veal Chops

Based off a pleasant impression at a wine tasting, I sauntered next door and purchased a bottle of the 2004 Maison Rivière Menuts from Saint-Emilion, Bordeaux. 75% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc. A really great wine that doesn't taste like it's mostly Merlot--in fact, I picked up on the Cabernet Franc right away, so if you like those herbal tones you'll love this. Some notes of leather and cherry on the nose, with a firm structure, medium tannins, and a short finish. Around $15, and it's a decent Bordeaux for the price. (I photographed a Bordeaux against my burgundy curtains. Ho ho, what japery!)

I had it with some veal chops, which I picked up on sale. One of those we're-about-to-throw-this-away-so-how-about-five-bucks kind of things, so I thought, why not? I don't normally eat veal, not out of ethical concerns but simply out of the price/taste ratio. In the past, when I've had veal (with the exception of osso buco), I just haven't found the flavor worth the price or the occasional condemnations from fellow diners. It's also not something I've ever cooked before, mostly for the reasons stated above. Veal was never a part of my family cooking tradition, nor do I think it's that popular here in the Memphis area. But with my current commitments to classic Italian and bistro French cooking, I'm going to have to get used to preparing vitello and veau.

I was housesitting over the weekend, and in such instances you need to pick up some food for yourself, but if you're only there a couple of days it tends to force odd choices. Such is how I came to have a dinner of braised veal chops with sides of broccoli, a rye roll, and sliced bosc pears.

While I have no pictures, the veal was incredible. (Each loin chop was half a pound, and I had two of them.) I marinated them for about half an hour in Worcestershire sauce, Dijon mustard, a little fresh lime juice, olive oil, and a splash of the Bordeaux. Then they were browned in butter and sage in a hot skillet (five minutes each side), followed by a deglazing with more red wine and then covered and simmered for ten minutes. Plate the chops, reduce the sauce, cover, and enjoy.

Surprisingly, the flavor and texture are a good substitute for what I've been looking for in pork chops for so long. Pork chops these days are so lean and flavorless that I stopped cooking them years ago. I've tried various brining and stuffing and smoking and grilling and braising methods with little success. And when I go to a decent restaurant and order the $25 pork chop in hopes that it will capture that elusive joy, I'm often disappointed (tough, burned, or raw). But here I found success on a first try, and while veal is distinct from pork in flavor, it's still close enough to make a good substitute when I get that particular craving. My next batch will be grilled with a slight glaze and a side of applesauce.

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