Mar-VEAL-ous and ENDIVE-ine

12 Sep

Until last week, I have never in my life cooked veal. Knowing what I know now, I feel like I’ve been missing out because it’s such a delicious meat that, if combined with the right sauce, is quite easy to make. That is of course if you can get over the fact that it was once an adorable baby cow. But let’s just pretend it isn’t for now, OK?

We were introduced to the wonderful world of veal last Friday right before our first exam (eek!). Don’t worry, it’s really not that scary. All she does is put the different foods we learned to cook that week in a hat, and we blindly pick and execute our dish perfectly with nothing but our notes. She literally leaves the students in the kitchen with just the ingredients, and we have an hour to complete our task. Anna pulled the Poulet au Vinaigre de Framboise et Sauce Échelette, and for me, the Tarte Fines Aux Pommes. Naturally we performed with utmost perfection, and I’m glad to say we’re both still enrolled. Although, with instructors as nice as Marie-Blanche and Laurent, we would probably have to burn the entire place down for us not to be welcomed back.

But before the exam there was veal. And cream. And hazelnuts and endives, and oranges and cherries…and this was our menu for the morning lesson:

  1. Escalope à la Sauce Noisette
  2. Endives à L’Orange
  3. Clafoutis

We began by combining ground hazelnuts, butter and dash of salt and pepper in a food processor to make the hazelnut butter. Although we used this for our sauce, you can make a huge batch all at once and later slather the remainder on bread, scones and other such goodies for breakfast or a yummy snack. Amazing.

We then trimmed the veal so that they were “pretty” (although I personally never find a slab of raw carcass very attractive), and then fried them in a pan with olive oil, and a sprinkling of salt and pepper.

Once the veal was cooked, we put it in the oven on low heat to keep warm, and went back to use the same frying pan for our delicious sauce. We poured half a cup of water into the pan and after it boiled, scraped off the leftover veal bits that stuck to the bottom to give the sauce a bit of extra flavor. Once it was reduced, we added our hazelnut mix and whisked constantly until everything was fully combined. For flavor and thickening we added Worcestershire sauce and cream, mixed  it all up until it reached a boil, and then added a bit of salt and pepper to taste. We served the veal in a lovely silver platter, smothered it in our creamy hazelnut sauce, and garnished the dish with Spanish paprika.

The next item on the menu was also a first for me, as I have never before eaten cooked endives. While I’ve used it raw for salads and appetizer dishes, cooking it was not only foreign, but also surprisingly delicious as it offers quite a different flavor and texture than what I’ve previously been accustomed to.

We trimmed, washed, and dried the endives and cooked them in boiling water with salt for a little over 10 minutes. Once softened, we rinsed the now cabbage-like spears in cold water, patted them dry and placed them in a neat little row within a baking dish. Over the endives we poured freshly squeezed orange juice, and dusted on top salt, pepper and a dash of confectioners sugar to help soften the bite of this bitter plant. We cooked the endive in an oven until they were lightly glazed and starting to brown, and served them with the delicious citrus juices that they were baking in.

The combination of textures and flavors of these two dishes were blissful, and although they were seemingly bland to the eye, they were extremely exiting to the tongue.

For dessert we had the bread pudding-like dish of Clafoutis, which is most commonly made with cherries, although there are many different recipes that call for other small fruits like plums and apricots. After de-pitting our cherries, we greased a round baking dish by melting butter in it and then swirling it around until the entire bottom was covered in a thin glaze.

We mixed together eggs and sugar, and then slowly added flour, almond powder and vanilla extract. Of course no dish we ever make would be complete without our beloved cream, so we added this final ingredient, mixed it all up until it was perfectly smooth, and poured it over the pitted cherries that were now delicately placed in the bottom of the buttery baking dish. Unlike many other baked goods, for this you are required to open the oven doors and check constantly to assure its not overcooking. Without the fear of the dessert falling, your big concern is that the centre stays moist and fluffy, which I’m glad to say ours did. It was so delicious in fact that I didn’t just have seconds. No, after a heavy meal of veal and endives this girl went back for thirds! And while the rest of the women in France or having only three bites of everything they eat, I’m having three enormous helpings. Lord help me.

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