Sunday, March 13, 2011

A Little Now - a Lot Later

Mentioning that I have a crazy job is becoming a little bit of a theme here - but I do. Even with the crazy hours, I do still cook most nights – there is something satisfying and soothing about cooking dinner at the end of a long work day where nothing is ever finished. Cook a meal, finish a canning project – and there is the result. Even better, the "result" can often be the base for - or a great addition to - a future meal.

So I often look for meals that can be made at leisure on the weekend and recycled during the work week. Leftovers are great but it is a rare instance when the remaining food should be a duplicate of the prior meal - not when the opportunity exists to morph the remains into a whole new meal. 

This week, the wonderful people at Bobolink Dairy had a veal breast and veal leg roast available. The leg roast was a little too big for the two of us, even assuming leftovers. But the veal breast was perfect – for the two of us and at least two more meals to be named later with the help of the freezer. 

I don’t know why I never cooked veal breast until about ten years ago. It is delicious, comforting and amazingly cheap. Time is required but the only labor involved is peeling the icky connective tissue and bones off the cooked piece of meat. However, it takes way less than ten minutes to do and the labor is well worth it.

This meal is easiest cooked over two days, although you can do it in one if you get started early. So get started!

Veal Breast "Confit"

1 5lb. Veal Breast
2 cups Veal Stock (or a mix of chicken and beef stock)
1 2 cups white wine
4 shallots, peeled
1 head garlic, peeled and cloves separated
2 carrots, cut into chunks
1 parsnip, cut into chunks
1 small bunch fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1 2 tsp. black peppercorns

1.  Preheat oven to 500E.

2.  Generously season veal breast with salt and pepper and place in a deep roasting pan.  You see I kind of squished into my Le Creuset braisier - it is better to let it lay flat.  Roast in oven for 20 minutes.

3.  Remove veal from oven and reduce temperature to 300E.  Add the broth, wine, shallots, garlic, carrots, parsnip, thyme, bay leaves and peppercorns.  Cover the pan with a lid or a double thickness of foil and return to the oven. Roast for 3 2 hours. 

4.  Remove meat from the oven and let cool slightly. Using two spatulas, place the meat on a baking sheet, moving it carefully since it may easily fall apart. 

5.  Strain the braising liquid and, when it is room temperature refrigerate it.

6.   While the veal is still warm, removes the bones, cartilage and connective tissue from the meat.  If shards of meat come off, don't worry.  Keep them to the side (or pop them in your mouth).

7.   Cut the veal breast in half (not lengthwise) so that you have two roughly rectangular pieces about the same size.  Place the shards of meat on top of the thicker piece and then place the other half on top.  Remove the stacked meat to a glass pie plate or other baking dish in which it fits.  Cover the meat and pie plate/baking dish with plastic wrap or foil and place a plate on top.  Place a heavy weight on top of the plate. Refrigerate overnight or for at least four hours.

8.   Remove the veal from the refrigerator and unwrap it.  Cut the meat into equal size square or rectangular shapes - usually six good sized pieces, about 2" square.  A serrated knife helps but is not necessary.  The veal is very rich so err on the size of small.  Keep two pieces out and rewrap the remaining pieces individually in plastic wrap and then put two pieces each in two quart size baggies.  Freeze for the future.  Pour about 1/2 of the braising liquid into a leak proof baggie and freeze.

9.   Back to tonight's dinner.  Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  In a cast iron skillet, add a knob of butter to the pan over medium high heat.  Quarter some cremini mushrooms and add to the skillet with 2 minced shallots.  Saute until the shallots are translucent.  Make a well in the center of the skillet and sear the two chunks of veal.  Flip the veal and place it in the oven for 15-20 minutes. 

10. Remove the skillet from the oven and plate the veal and mushrooms.  Add about 3/4 cup of the braising liquid to the skillet and bring to a simmer.  If the liquid is not thick, add a little butter. Ladle over the veal and mushrooms.

Serve the veal with mashed potatoes, maybe with a little marscapone thrown in, or polenta, or risotto and some green peas.  Also would be delicious serves over baby spinach or other greens.  It's almost spring - if asparagus are around, so much the better!  If you find you love this meal, it is not much more work to double the recipe which will give you an additional 6 meals for two in the freezer....

Leftovers:  With the two remaining meals in the freezer, you can treat them the same way.  Before leaving for work, remove 2 chunks of veal from the freezer and place them in the refrigerator.  Or maybe even better, turn the veal into a sauce for pasta.  Simply saute the mushrooms,  add the veal and braising liquid, break up the veal chunks, add 2 tsps. of minced fresh rosemary and serve over pasta (you can toss frozen peas into the cooking pasta about 2 minutes before it is done).  Pass grated Parmesan cheese.  The sauce is delicious so if you have the ability to spring for one of the delicate Cipriani pastas, this is the time to do it.  If there is not enough braising liquid, add 1/3 cup of vermouth (or white wine) and 2/3 cup of stock to the existing braising liquid and enrich the pasta sauce with a little knob of butter.

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