To say we have come to appreciate food over the years is an understatement. One glance our way is more than enough evidence this statement is factual. Over those same years
this appreciation of such indulgence has changed our shape somewhat. And as Paul Prudhomme, the American celebrity chef of Cajun fame once noted, "You don't need a silver fork to eat good
More so than our appreciation of food, is the urge (need) to create good food. We somehow have replaced all forms of exercise with any number of expendable hours in the kitchen. Never a problem! And we've grown to accept that not every recipe is a keeper. In fact, some never get past a first helping.
For the most part, our books are chosen carefully, our attempts more carefully, and our side tables and spice racks are abundant with selective products. Oils, salts, peppers, paprikas, herbs, acids, and of course fresh mushrooms and vegetables.
So this past week we found ourselves laboring to produce a veal stock from a recipe in Thomas Keller's "The French Laundry", a cookbook presented us as a gift by a very generous and thoughtful young lady who has attended our home on occasion for dinner.
Our grandmother, a great cook in her day, would never have imagined the patient and time consuming methods Keller employs. Back in the day veal was cheap and abundant. Real veal! Milk fed, slightly pink toned white meat. And a roast of veal was always accompanied with a gravy or sauce. Our grandmother was like a magician in the preparation of a gravy. An art that kind of "runs in the family". Our mother was no slouch at the stove and at least one brother makes a wonderful poultry gravy at Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings every year. A rue, the dripppings from the poultry, additonal liquid, and a few minutes in front of the stove.
The veal broth we attempted requires slightly more. Or maybe a lot more!
This particular veal broth's body and richness is incomparable used in a gravy or sauce. It does not impart it's own flavor. Rather it enhances the flavors of the accompanying meat much more than any other stock base. And it provides an almost silky consistency to a sauce.
So to start we washed the five plus pounds of veal bones, barely brought them to a simmer in a huge stock pot, then washed them again in cold water. After cleaning the pot we added the bones and fresh water, and so as not to encourage impurities in the stock we very gently returned them to a simmer, and watched for hours. We added tomato, bay leaves, parsley, garlic, leeks, carrots, thyme and tomato paste.
We strained and skimmed, then simmered again, then strained again (gently this time with a ladle so as not to disturd the cloudy mixture at the bottom of the pot) through cheese cloth. Another simmer and a straining through paper coffee filters. And there it was. Liquid gold! A remarkable rich flavor.
From the refrigerator we gathered butter, Brussels sprouts, fresh loin chops, broccoli flowerettes, lemons, pecorino cheese and parsley. Some pasta and pecans from the cupboard and a super fine ground sauce flour.
We touched up the chops with pork spices and seared each side in a small iron pan before placing them in a 450º oven for six minutes. For a sauce we brought a portion of the veal stock to a boil, added salt and pepper and the gravy flour, and stirred constantly, bringing it to the desired degree of consistency, adding a touch of white wine. We blanched the Brussels sprouts, drained them and then added the broccoli flourettes and pecans to melted butter in a covered pan for eight minutes, stirring until slightly browned. Linguinni dropped into a pot of boiling water for 8 minutes rounded out stove work.
Final preparation required the draining of the pasta to which butter, pureed garlic, grated lemon skin, a touch of nutmeg, the pecorino cheese and parsley was added and tossed.
Plated as depicted we added the reddish gold sauce to the chops (and of course an extra spoon over the Brussels sprouts). The resulting flavor was wonderful. Worth every minute of the lengthy preparation time.
The actual recipe for veal broth can be found in several of Keller's cooking books. Our favorite has become Bouchon (where you will find several broth recipes), which is available on Amazon for a very reasonable price.
And yes, there was a piece de resistance. A small slice of lemon tarte on an almond infused butter crust and splashed with a Grande Marnier raspberry purée.