23 March 2015

Veal chops, Marsala and wild garlic

Veal used to be one of those meats that, like foie gras, one was not supposed to eat. It was pretty tasty, but the way it was produced was not very humane. Happily, welfare standards are much better than they used to be for veal calves, at least in the UK. I have to say I am pretty pleased, being partial as I am to a nice bit of veal now and then. English rose veal has grown in popularity in recent years, and in many ways it is an ethical choice for us carnivores who like to know that our meat lived reasonably decent lives before hitting our plates. One of the sad facts of the dairy industry in this country is that on many farms, male dairy calves are of no use and hence destroyed at birth. If more people ate veal, more of these animals would be given some kind of life and a useful role in the food chain.

This recipe uses veal chops, for a meatier, more substantial dish than the more common escalope. I am a big fan of wild garlic, which is in season in spring. Its fresh pungent flavour cuts through the fattiness of the meat. Wild garlic can be found growing in abundance in woodland in spring, and being rather popular these days, can often be bought at farmers’ markets and some greengrocers. If you can’t find any wild garlic, or are making this dish when it’s not in season, you can use sage instead, which gives the dish a classic Italian feel. For those with their hands up at the back about to ask, Marsala is a fortified wine from Sicily, a little like sherry. It adds a pleasant nuttiness and slight sweetness to the sauce. A medium-dry sherry such as an Oloroso could be used in its place.

(serves 2)
2 veal chops
1 small glass Marsala wine
Approx 150ml chicken or veal stock
Approx 40g butter
1 generous handful wild garlic leaves
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to its highest setting.

Take the veal chops out the fridge in plenty of time to allow them to come to room temperature. Season both sides with a little salt and pepper.

Place an oven-proof frying pan (ie one with a metal handle) over a medium flame. Add a little sunflower oil, and place the veal chops in the pan. Give the pan a little shake to make sure the chops don’t stick. Add a small knob of butter.

Fry the chops for about 5 minutes on each side. They should be nice and brown, but not burnt.
After you’ve browned both sides of the chops, place the frying pan in the oven for another 5 minutes.
Take the pan out of the oven. Place the chops on a warm plate, cover loosely with foil and set aside to rest.

Place the pan over a high flame and deglaze with the Marsala and stock. Take care to use an oven glove or dry cloth when handling the pan handle, otherwise you will burn yourself. (If you do manage to burn yourself on the pan handle – and I have done this more than once – grab a handful of ice, and hold it on the burn for as long as you can bear. This should stop a blister from forming).

Meanwhile, roughly chop the wild garlic, setting aside two or three whole leaves per chop.

When you can see that the sauce has thickened a little, turn the heat down under the pan and add the remains of the butter to the pan. Stir this into the sauce to thicken it further. 

Arrange the whole wild garlic leaves over the veal chops and add the chopped leaves to the sauce. Pour the sauce over chops and serve. Wild garlic leaves can be quite pungent when raw, but rapidly lose their flavour when cooked. The trick here is just to wilt them, which takes away any harshness of flavour without losing their flavour completely.

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