It may be politically incorrect, but I love veal. It is my favorite meat. If there is a veal dish on the menu (apart from sweetbreads), I will order it. I have eaten a great veal swath across the globe. On a family vacation in Eastern Europe, I ate wiener schnitzel in Vienna every day, then moved on to veal paprikas at Gundel in Budapest. I ate saltimbocca in Italy meal after meal, at a courtyard trattoria in Rome, at the restaurant at the Hasler Hotel overlooking the Spanish Steps, gazing out over the ocean at Le Sireneuse in Positano. I ordered osso bucco in the fine European restaurant at the Taj Hotel in Bombay, scooping out the marrow with a tiny silver spoon. I thank my brother for attending Tulane so I could relish grillades and grits at Commander’s Palace in New Orleans. In Boston, I fondly remember braised veal cheeks at Chez Henri. My first vitello tonnato was served at Lupo in Cape Town. A there is a restaurant here in Memphis serves some veal selections, but I will always remember (and apparently I am the only one who does) a special of veal in a brie and calvados sauce. I ordered veal bitterballen from room service in Amsterdam, then again at Schipol airport. I buy beautiful rosé veal escalopes in London at Borough Market to sauté in the tiny, ill-equipped kitchen of the rented flat.
Veal in Memphis is not always easy to track down, particularly anything beyond veal scallopine, as the thin slices are labeled. Generally, I take a few of these home, lightly dust them with flour and quickly sauté them in butter with lemons, capers and some chopped herbs and eat them – all by myself – maybe with a little garlic fettuccine on the side.
But once, I truly had a late night, awake in bed epiphany about how to combine veal and chestnuts, a favorite combination. I grabbed a pen and paper and jotted down my ideas and the next day, it still made sense, and a very good meal. See, I even dream in veal…
Crispy Chestnut Veal with Chestnut Wine Sauce
1 (7.4 – ounce) jar whole peeled chestnuts
1 cup flour
4 sprigs thyme
3 sprigs marjoram
3/4 cup panko bread crumbs (or very coarse breadcrumbs)
6 veal scallops
4 Tablespoons butter
1/4 cup olive oil
Place 1/4 cup of the flour in a zip top bag. Put half of the jar of chestnuts in the bag and shake to coat (use the remaining chestnuts for the sauce, below). Drop the coated chestnuts into the bowl of a food processor (I like the mini-sized here). Add the thyme leaves stripped from the stalk, the marjoram leaves, salt and pepper and the bread crumbs. Pulse several times in quick bursts just until you have a coarse crumb mixture. Don’t over mix or it will get pasty. Turn the crumbs out onto a flat dish.
In another flat dish, beat the egg. Add the rest of the flour to the zip top bag, drop in the veal and shake well to coat. Remove the veal one piece at a time, making sure the whole scallop is coated, but shaking off excess. Dip each piece in the egg, coating well but sweeping any thick parts off with your fingers. Dip the veal in the breadcrumb mixture and press into both sides, coating well. Place coated piece on a plate and continue with the remaining veal. Place the veal in the fridge for at least half an hour, but you can leave for several hours.
Line a baking sheet with foil, then with a few layers of paper towel and set aside. When ready to cook the veal, heat 4 Tablespoons butter and 1/4 olive oil in a large skillet and heat over medium until hot but not smoking. Sauté the veal a few pieces at a time, being sure not to overcrowd the pan. Turn each piece at least once until brown and crispy on both sides. Remove the prepared baking sheet. When all the veal is cooked, place the pan in a 200 degree oven to keep warm for up to 20 minutes.
Serve with chestnut – wine sauce and sprinkled with chopped chestnuts
1 half of a (7.4 – ounce) jar of chestnuts
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon butter
3-4 sprigs thyme
3 sprigs marjoram
2 Tablespoons Madeira wine or white vermouth
1/2 cup white wine
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
Reserve 4 -5 chestnuts to chop and sprinkle over the cooked veal. Place the rest in the food processor and puree, dribbling in a little water, until you have a smooth paste – sort of like baby food. Set aside.
Chop the shallot and add to butter and oil in a saucepan. Sauté over medium heat until soft and translucent, but not browning. Remove from the heat and add the Madeira, scraping up the bits from the bottom of the pan. Return to the heat and cook until reduced and almost evaporated, making the shallots glazed and syrupy. Add the wine, thyme and marjoram and reduce until just a few Tablespoons are left, stirring frequently. Whisk in the cream and the chestnut puree. Simmer until the mixture is reduced by one-third. Strain the sauce into a dish, then wipe out the pan with a wad of paper towels to remove any solids. Pour the strained sauce back into the pan and whisk in the butter, a Tablespoon at a time, making sure each bit is thoroughly melted before adding another.
The sauce can be made up to an hour ahead and gently reheated over low, whisking to incorporate.
Serves 4- 6, depending on the size of the veal
Crispy Chestnut Veal is delicious served with Champagne Risotto