Female. Lives in United States/Illinois/Chicago, speaks English. My interests are Food, Restaurants, Cooking, Baking/Travel, Dining Out, Raising Children.
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United States, Illinois, Chicago, English, Female, Food, Restaurants, Cooking, Baking, Travel, Dining Out, Raising Children.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Veal Chops and Herbed Potatoes from the French Countryside

Win's sister and her family gave me a wonderful book for Christmas called The Cook and The Gardener by Amanda Hesser. The book is subtitled "A Year of Recipes and Writings from the French Countryside" and it is just that. Hesser tells the story of the year she spent as the cook in a 17th century chateau in Burgundy, focusing much of it on her efforts to build a relationship with and learn from the chateau's crusty old gardener. The book discusses the seasonality of food, fruits and vegetables in particular, and shares how the chateau's menus revolved around what food was fresh and best in any given season. The book is part memoir, part travel log, and part cookbook. I love Hesser's writing and am eagerly devouring each page.

While I haven't had a chance to read the entire book yet, I couldn't wait any longer to try some recipes from it. The book's stories and recipes are categorized by season and then by specific month within each season, highlighting the dishes that take best advantage of the garden's offerings that month. For obvious reasons, I decided to start with two hearty winter recipes from January. We made Veal Chops with Sage Cream Sauce and Warm Potatoes with Red Wine Vinegar. Both dishes are outstanding and they really did remind us of the types of meals we had on a trip to France a few years ago.

Veal Chops with Sage Cream Sauce
Based on the recipe found in The Cook and The Gardener by Amanda Hesser
Serves 4

4 veal loin chops, about 3/4 inch thick
coarse salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup of Hesser's winter stock or water (Note: the Winter Stock recipe is in the book or you can use 1/4 cup low sodium beef stock and 1/4 cup water)
1 tablespoon thinly sliced sage leaves (about 3 sprigs)
3 tablespoons heavy cream

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Season veal chops on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil and butter over medium-high heat in large saute pan.
3. When the butter is foaming, add the veal chops and saute 3 to 4 minutes per side, until they turn a deep brown.

4. Transfer the well-browned chops into a roasting pan and finish cooking in the oven, about 5 minutes.
5. While the chops are in the oven, deglaze the pan. Over medium-high heat, add stock to the pan, sprinkle in 2/3 of the sage and scrape the meat juices stuck to the bottom of the pan. Bring the stock to a boil and reduce to 1/4 cup. Add the cream and stir. As soon as the sauce comes to a boil, remove from heat. Taste for seasoning; the sauce should be full flavored.
6. Once veal chops are cooked completely, transfer them to a serving plate. Spoon the sauce over the veal and sprinkle on the remaining sage. Serve.

Warm Potatoes with Red Wine Vinegar
Based on the recipe found in The Cook and The Gardener by Amanda Hesser
Serves 4

8-12 small round red or white potatoes, washed (about 2 pounds)
Sea salt
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 shallot lobe, minced
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped thyme leaves (about 8 sprigs)
freshly ground black pepper
coarse salt

1. Place the potatoes in a large saucepan, season with sea salt, and cover with cold water. Bring the water to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until the potatoes are cooked through and soft in the center (about 15 to 20 minutes). Drain and cut potatoes in thirds.
2. In the same pan, melt the butter and olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the shallot and soften for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the potatoes and the vinegar. Toss them well to coat. Add the thyme and season with pepper. Add salt if you find it necessary. Toss once more and serve.

Here are our potatoes, tossed but still in the pot.

And here is the final, plated presentation:

We paired this meal with a 2002 LillyPilly Red Velvet. This was one of the wines that we received in our Wine Grab Bag a couple months ago. The wine was good, but much sweeter than we were expecting. It worked with the meal though and was actually kind of a pleasant change from the richer reds we usually drink. What surprised us when we went to uncork the wine was that there was no cork---it had a screwtop! I know some wineries are moving to screwtops, but we did find it funny to unscrew the top. Check out the photo of the bottle below, screwcap prominently displayed in front.

This was a really delicious dinner and it was quite straightforward to prepare. Win was in charge of cooking the veal and thanks to his skilled preparation, the veal came out of the oven tender and delicious. The sauce for the veal was flavorful without being overpowering and it had a nice balance between creamy (thanks to the heavy cream) and fresh (thanks to the fresh sage). The potatoes were equally good, with a stronger herb taste. The thyme and red wine vinegar made for an interesting combination that worked well on the warm potatoes.

I'm looking forward to reading more of The Cook and The Gardener and will definitely be cooking more dishes from it. It's a lovely read with the power to transport you to the French countryside, one meal at a time.

Next time: A sweet breakfast for my little sweetie