Veal chops are a wonderful cut of meat, tender, satisfying and luxurious. Unfortunately, many of us have only tasted them prepared in ways that mask their good qualities--coated in heavy, greasy breading or hiding under a thick blanket of cheese.
I prefer to cook veal chops by a technique I learned in Paris: brief braising. As in pan-frying, the chops are first browned. They finish cooking with a small amount of liquid, which helps keep the veal moist and makes a quick pan sauce from the meat juices in the skillet.
The liquid can be white or red wine, fortified wine like Madeira or Sherry, beer, cider, veal or chicken broth, lemon or orange juice, or a touch of Cognac. You add just a little liquid, and it cooks almost to a glaze and coats the veal. You can then serve the veal as is, or, for more sauce, you can add prepared tomato sauce, cream or butter, or thicken the cooking liquid with potato starch. If you cook chopped tomatoes with the veal, they turn into a savory tomato sauce.
Cooking veal chops this way is popular in European and Mediterranean home cooking. Braising is convenient because the chops do not have to be served immediately. They can even be cooked ahead and reheated gently in their sauce.
Veal chops are one of the quickest cuts to braise, taking a total of less than 20 minutes. Quick-cooking vegetables, such as sliced mushrooms, chopped shallots, diced zucchini or strips of sweet red peppers, can be added to the pan when the veal is partly done.
At many markets veal chops seem to be of more dependable quality than the thin veal slices called scaloppine, which sometimes give off a lot of water as they cook. With veal chops, unlike scaloppine, you don't have to worry about the meat curling in the pan.
In Europe, cooks in different regions developed various flavoring formulas for veal. Hungarian cooks often serve veal chops in a sour-cream sauce seasoned with paprika, garlic and parsley. The French like veal chops moistened with white or red wine and sprinkled with fresh herbs, especially chives, tarragon and parsley. The preference is for tomato sauces, flavored with sage, rosemary or basil in southern France and Italy, and with sweet peppers in Spain. Mushrooms, both wild and cultivated, are the favorite accompaniment for veal chops throughout Europe, whether they cook in the sauce or are served on the side.
Veal chops are an ideal choice when you would like to have an elegant meal ready in a short time. Do remember, however, to use loin or rib for fast braising. To save money and still enjoy the flavor of veal, serve shoulder chops in the following recipes, but simmer them for 30 to 45 minutes.
\o7 This is one of the dishes I love best--it is delicious, quick and easy and has few ingredients. I first tasted it in the French province of Normandy, where cider is used in cooking much like wine is in other regions. Use dry or alcoholic cider; regular apple cider will be too sweet. Potato puree is a traditional accompaniment in the region, but I like to serve the veal with broccoli, spinach or asparagus.\f7
VEAL CHOPS WITH CIDER AND PEARL ONIONS
20 pearl onions
4 (8-ounce) veal loin chops, 3/4- to 1-inch thick
Freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup hard cider or dry white wine
2/3 cup whipping cream
2 teaspoons snipped chives
Cover onions with water in saucepan and boil 1 minute. Rinse with cold water. Peel with paring knife.
Trim excess fat from veal chops. Sprinkle chops on both sides with salt and pepper. Melt butter in heavy, large saute pan or skillet over medium-high heat. Add veal and brown chops, in batches if necessary, taking about 2 minutes per side. Transfer veal to plate.
Add onions to pan and saute about 3 minutes or until they begin to brown. Push onions to side of pan.
Return veal to skillet with any juices on plate. Add cider and bring to simmer. Cover and cook over low heat 4 or 5 minutes per side or until veal is tender and cooked to taste. Meat should be light pink or white. Remove veal from pan. Cook onions about 10 minutes more or until tender. Remove with slotted spoon.
Boil cooking juices until reduced to 1/2 cup. Add whipping cream and cook until sauce is thick enough to coat spoon, about 4 minutes. Adjust seasonings to taste. Return veal and onions to sauce and heat gently, uncovered. Turn veal over to coat with sauce. Serve veal with onions. Spoon sauce over chops and sprinkle with chives. Makes 4 servings.