Sunday, January 02, 2011

Veal Stew in the Microwave, Interrupted

The way this dish turned out, it took about 15 minutes prep time and 20 minutes cooking time. You may be faster than I am, but a half hour ought to do even for a slow poke.

Most people add sour cream just before serving over noodles. I omitted the cream from my finished dish for the reasons below. And we don't eat noodles anymore. Saves further accumulations of "wheat belly" around our waistlines.

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So I bought these chunks of veal because they were on sale. "On sale" as in they were way cheaper than hamburger. I bought them even as my rational self nudged them away.

“You’re never going to cook those. You’re going to let them die of freezer burn. You know how tough that meat is.” Telling Rationality to shut up, I walked over to the produce section…lemons are a dollar each??

Oy vey! Well, lemon or green pepper, which will it be?

Lemon! I can freeze the skins for zest afterwards. Kiss the green pepper goodbye.

Lemon goes well with veal. So do lots of things, besides paprika. Capers, sherry, root veggies, sweet peppers…

Veal is versatile as long as the tough parts are never cooked at more than a simmer. Osso bucco is to die for, the very best of the tough veal dishes. But you’d have to sell an organ to be able to afford them anymore. So this is just one variation on a theme:

A pound or so of stewing veal. More, if you want.
Flour for dredging meat (I use rice flour. Wheat tastes better but it’s not for me)
Salt and pepper for flour (go easy on the salt)
Half a yellow onion, sliced
A couple of carrots, chunked up
A splash of sherry
Some chicken broth - maybe a cup?
Mushrooms, if you have them, cut up
Garlic, a few cloves
Lemon juice - use half the lemon
Herbs (a bay leaf? Some thyme? Basically anything that suits chicken suits veal)
Capers (you could toss in some finely chopped calamata olives if you don’t have capers on hand. You're looking to add some umami 'depth' here)
Peas, a half cup or so.

Cut the veal into the size chunks you like. Dredge with flour and let sit on cutting board while you heat the butter (or you could use lard or olive oil).

Melt butter on medium until it bubbles. Put in half the meat, shaking off extra flour, and brown. Remove to the ceramic pot you’ll be using in the microwave and repeat with the rest of the meat.

Add a little more butter or oil and turn burner to medium low. Add the onion slices, chunked up carrots, and the garlic cloves. You don’t want the onions to burn, you’re just trying to render them to bring out the flavor. Putting the carrots in gives them a kind of pan roasted flavor, too, and improves the dish. Tossing in the garlic cloves allows you to roast those without any effort.

Stir all this around every few minutes.

When the onions look translucent and golden (maybe ~ ten minutes?), take out the garlic. Add sherry, herbs, capers, and lemon. Turn up the heat briefly to boil off the alcohol. Add chicken broth. How much? Enough to cover the meat. A cup or so should do. Add lemon juice at this point, and squeeze out the softened cloves into the pot (if they're not quite soft, just chop them). Stir up the browned bits of flour from the bottom of the pan.

I remembered some dried shitake mushrooms so I put a handful in the pressure cooker for about 4 minutes and then chopped them and strained the broth. Added both to the saute pan...though you could say that maybe shitakes have too strong a flavor for veal with lemon and capers. I wouldn’t argue with you.

When this is bubbling, pour into the microwaveable pot over the meat and cover tightly.

Cook on HIGH in the microwave for about 2 minutes or so (remember veal is cranky; it doesn’t like high heat for long). Then turn it down to MEDIUM LOW (for my ‘wave, that’s 40%) and cook for ten minutes or so.

These times are all approximate. Your goal is to braise the meat till it’s tender. It helps to know what your microwave thinks “simmer” means.

After ten minutes, take out the dish and stir. See if the meat is tender yet. Mine wasn’t. Poke at the carrots. Still a bit too ‘crisp’ for stew.

I spied a past-due-date vine tomato sitting on the counter. Why not? Just one wouldn’t hurt. So I quartered it and put in the pot before covering and cooking again on forty percent for another ten minutes. During the last two minutes I added a handful of peas.

I haven’t checked it yet, except to see that the meat was done and very tender adn the broth had reduced. Exactly the way you want tough veal to end up.

As it turns out, however, the veal stew is destined for tomorrow. While the dish was cooking, a neighbor came to the door with a present: a plastic bag containing hunks of venison and some ribs.

After debating this sudden abundance of meat, the veal stew, now finished, was put away for tomorrow. Instead, we will have baked vension ribs with the leftover Hoppin’ John from yesterday.

I’m glad I had that extra lemon half handy for the ribs' sauce. So now they're baking at 300 degrees. The boned haunch is in a covered dutch oven out in the cold shed (it’s going to be 25 F tonight. That meat is nice and safe out there).

Next time, a recipe for barbecued venison ribs. Hey, when life hands you venison on a rainy January evening, go for it.

NOTE: Most of my recipes serve four people, even though there are only two of us left now. But Ned "works" at home (and boy! does he ever work). He stays busy so if there is no "jump in the mouth" leftovers for heat 'n' eat, he'll make do with cheese. Or peanut butter. Thus, I usually cook extras.

By the way, "osso bucco" means "bones in the mouth" -- or colloquially, "bones jump in my mouth" (at least that's what my Italian neighbor claimed it meant). Which osso bucco certainly does want to do. Or rather, that's what your mouth wants it to do.


At 12:21 AM, Blogger LifeoftheMind said...

Very happy to see you are back to blogging. A feast for both the body and spirit. May you enjoy a million more.


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