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Quarantine Cuisine: Veal chop

Some nights call for a simple, classic meal. Mom and I have been working diligently on transforming our kitchen, and things are slowly but surely coming together, and we are quickly approaching a beautiful, farmhouse-style kitchen renovation. A "meat and potatoes" sort of meal seemed to fit right in to mark the progress we'd made.

All painted (except drawer faces)! Countertops next.

What resulted is the next in the "controversial proteins" subseries of Quarantine Cuisine––I present veal chop, or what I might call "How I learned to stop worrying and love the veal."

As with foie gras, about which I wrote a couple of weeks ago, so much of the ethics of your food comes from the vetting of the food's producers. Veal has a pretty awful history, but the veal that D'Artagnan sells (the veal I cooked for this post) is perhaps the most humanely-raised veal in the world––it is not a by-product of the dairy industry, the calves are not separated from their mothers, and the farms are free-range, without tethering or penning. You can read more about D'Artagnan's veal sourcing on their website.

By-and-large, our collective consciousness about ethical farming practices has led to a much greater emphasis on and market for producers who transform the practices behind traditionally-problematic proteins. Veal is no exception.

A veal chop is a delicious and tender choice for a protein, and this is probably the best veal you can buy (and the most humanely-produced!). Veal has many traditional preparations, particularly in Italian cooking, which guided my choice of accoutrements for the meal.

I started with a dry brine (sea salt and pepper) of the veal about an hour before I started cooking it. I have found the best times to season meat are either immediately before cooking or an hour-plus before––if you season beforehand, the salt will draw moisture out of the meat, and it needs some time to re-absorb.

Next step is to prepare the literal "potatoes" part of this meat-and-potatoes meal. We had several little Yukon golds left from the quail last week, so I quartered those and drizzled them with olive oil, adding salt, pepper, and a little bit of cayenne pepper (careful!). Rosemary is a natural (and traditional) accompaniment to veal, so I added some rosemary leaves to the potatoes. You lose some of the herb's flavor in the cooking, however, so consider adding some fresh rosemary once the potatoes have been roasted. Pop in the oven at 400 degrees for an hour to produce perfectly crispy potatoes.

Gremolata is a traditional condiment from Lombardia in northern Italy that is a regular addition to Milanese veal chops; I didn't want to do Milanese-style chops, but gremolata sounded perfect. In a food processor, I combined the zest of a small lemon, about a half cup of parsley leaves, three small garlic cloves, several tablespoons of good Tuscan olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice, and some sea salt flakes. Fresh, snappy, and delightful, like an Italian chimichurri.

You'll definitely want a veggie, and nothing seemed more appropriate with a simple, traditional meal than some scrumptious, buttery and garlicky green beans. I blanched the trimmed beans in boiling water for a couple of minutes, then drained and melted some butter in the pan with fresh minced garlic, cooking until translucent and fragrant. Mix well over medium heat to coat with the butter and garlic. Some lemon juice is the X-factor and provides some delightful acidity to the beans.

Sorry for the blur!

To prepare the veal, heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a cast iron skillet until it just begins to smoke. Add the seasoned veal, cooking for two minutes on each side, and then transfer to the oven with the potatoes. You'll want to cook the veal until an instant-read thermometer reads about 125–130 degrees. I like to flip any meat I'm pan-roasting in the oven about halfway through so that one side doesn't get more heat than the other. Once you reach 125, remove the veal from the oven and let it rest under foil for about ten minutes. Veal is a very lean protein, so it's not very forgiving if overcooked––be careful (and if you don't have an instant-read thermometer by now, you definitely need one!).

Family-style was the choice this evening, so I carved the veal chop and put the potatoes and beans in bowls. Dressed with the gremolata, the veal was incredibly tender, fresh, and flavorful. The potatoes were crispy with a melty interior, and the beans toothsome and delightfully garlicky.

Wine to cook by: Demetria "Halcyon Days" pinot noir from Santa Maria Valley. Demetria is a family winery specializing in Rhône varietals in Santa Barbara County, and they have a lovely estate right in the heart of the Santa Maria Valley. I had the chance to visit them in summer of 2016 on a long weekend in SB wine country between debate camp sessions, and thoroughly enjoyed sitting outside at their beautiful property and sipping on some wonderful Santa Barbara wine.

Demetria, like many wineries, is offering some compelling "stay home" specials, so I bought one of their three-bottle library packages, which included two Rhône-style blends and one 2012 pinot noir. Santa Barbara is some of the best pinot noir country in the world, and while Demetria is a Rhône-focused house, they also produce some delicious pinot. Interestingly, this reserve pinot had a lot that I might expect from a Rhône blend, with a concentrated red fruit palate and stony minerality. The age of the 2012 almost made this taste like a nebbiolo, and the wine had a mature, concentrated palate of cola and cherry.

The wine worked well with the veal, which is a meat that demands a more delicate red (or even a white!) and spoke particularly well with the vegetal gremolata. You definitely have to exercise caution pairing veal so that you don't overpower the delicate, tender flesh, and even this more concentrated pinot could push a bit too far. Wine pairing is quite an art!

Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend! Have another Quarantini profile soon, as well as the last of our D'Artagnan proteins. Cheers from the Maestro!

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