Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Veal Throwdown – Who Will Take It? Anne Or Ina? Plus The Intricacies Of Flour, Egg And Crumbing - Part One

Secrets of a Restaurant Chef with Anne Burrell

I didn’t even know that people still COOKED veal, much less ordered it in restaurants, but Ina and Anne duked it out this weekend over the best veal dish. Actually, the smackdown was in my own head, but since they were both doing veal dishes, I decided to pay close attention so I could judge who would become the veal champ.

A short preface, though…I wish they’d been cooking something other than veal, which is particularly difficult to justify eating. There’s really no great way to keep the meat super-tender without restricting the movement of the baby calf. Even if one avoids veal, non-meat eaters have a much easier time explaining the rationale of their diets, of course, than those who eat meat. This whole veal (and meat-eating) thing is a huge subject and I could go on for pages and pages, but for today, let’s just say that I don’t ever buy veal or order it.

But I am interested is seeing Anne and Ina’s different approaches to their dishes, and I have no problem seeing what I can learn and transferring it to something besides veal. (It’s a shame they’re not both doing beet salads, but this is what I have to work with today…)

Anne is up first and she’s making Holstein schnitzel. What does that mean? Veal from a Holstein cow? Nope, it means schnitzel with a fried egg on top. Really?!! I’ll eat a fried egg on top of anything, except maybe a chocolate soufflé.

We see Anne serving the schnitzel with fried egg in her restaurant as “schnitzel with a smile”. She’s also making an amazing sounding German Potato Salad.

For the schnitzel, Anne starts with boneless veal chops, which she butterflies and then pounds out between sheets of plastic wrap.

I’ll be watching to make sure she has a dedicated cutting board for the veal, which I’m sure she will. Oh, yup, she is working on a plastic cutting board placed on top of her wooden cutting board. Good.

Anne flattens the meat in an interesting way. She brings her metal mallet down on the meat and then uses a sweeping motion to carry the mallet forward.

It's good that she actually describes to us what she’s doing. She calls it “Hit and drag”. This is so interesting. She brings the mallet down into the middle of veal chop and then drags it to the outside edge. She turns the chop just a scooch and repeats the same motion all around the veal.

What this does is to flatten out the center and thin out the edges. Anne says she’s trying to get the widest surface area possible. She ends up with a wid-ish rectangle with oval edges.

Anne moves on to breading. Don’t tell me! Flour, egg and crumb. I could do that with one hand tied behind my back. And I mean I LITERALLY do that with one hand behind my back.

I use only my right hand as I’m dipping, egging and crumbing, so if there’s a need to open the fridge, kill an ant or sip a cocktail, I have a free hand.

My other self-discipline in coating protocol is to get my hand ooky only up to my second knuckle. There’s no reason your entire hand should ever be involved. (I also put a spoon in the crumbs, so if I miss a place, I can easily toss some extra crumbs over.)

Back to Anne...I wonder, if because she’s on television, she will be handling the meat with tongs. That would mean no dirty-hand issues. But I do find I get a more even coating by hand.

Oh, and don’t forget (no matter what your recipe says) to add a tablespoon of water to every egg. It makes it less gloppy. I love Anne! She just said that.

I am a bit surprised that she’s using commercial bread crumbs. Isn’t that what leftover heels of bread are for?

Anne explains that the flour makes the egg stick, and the egg makes the bread crumbs stick. And she likes to coat the veal (or anything, I suppose) the day before. It’s okay if you don’t, she says, but do let the veal to hang out in the fridge for at least an hour before frying.

Anne has a slightly different version of my one-hand rule. She uses one hand for the dry stuff – the flour and bread crumbs – and the other hand for the wet stuff – the egg. That’s smart, but I still like my one hand method, because I’m so persnickety about not touching anything, when I’ve had my hands in contact with raw flesh.

This is funny. Anne most assuredly DOES use her entire hand in the process. She pats the bread crumbs on with the palm of her hand. I must say the veal looks perfectly coated.

To cook the veal, Anne adds peanut oil (for its high smoking temperature) and butter (for its flavor and the fact that it colors the food beautifully) to a sauté pan.

She takes the schnitzel from the fridge and, ooh, there is a small contamination issue that’s making me uneasy and it is so unnecessary. After she coated it, Anne laid the breaded veal on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. BUT instead of covering it with a separate piece of parchment paper, she made the first piece double-sized and just folded it over the top to cover the food while it sat in the fridge.

THEN she uncovered it and unfolded the top back under the bottom of the baking sheet and placed it on an unused burner. What that means is that the parchment paper that touched the top of the RAW VEAL is now touching the stovetop.

While that’s less serious than if it were on a cutting board that you were using for lettuce, it still gives me the heebie-jeebies. (Is this a gift or a curse that I have for seeing potential contamination in EVERYTHING?!! If you could see the inside of my house, you’d know I’m nowhere near as painful as I sound, BUT I do take food safety seriously.)

Anyhoo, Anne continues by telling us that you never want to crowd the pan, because soggy schnitzel would be so sad after all that work.

One note about the German potato salad. Anne is quite forthright in her opinion on how to test a potato for doneness and whether you should use a fork or a paring knife. She says to definitely use a fork, which gives you a much more accurate result. Uh-oh, I usually use a skewer, which would be even worse. Does it count that it’s from Dehillerin?

Anne tells us that anytime she fries, she gets her “drying situation” all set up. (I love her.) She gets paper towels on a baking sheet ready. WAIT, I have a better idea! I use ONE paper towel on top of newspaper.

Anne says (rightly) that frying food properly is not easy. You want it crispy, without being greasy. You know your pan is at the right temperature when you add the food and there is just a little sizzle – “not too crazy”.

She fries up her first two schnitzel, then she changes the oil and butter for her second batch, so the breadcrumbs in the pan don’t get all burned. When it’s browned on both sides, she puts it on the paper towel and sprinkles over a little salt on both sides. She keeps them warm on a rack in a 200°F oven.

Anne moves on to a little sauce for the schnitzel and fried egg. She smashes a few garlic cloves and cooks them in oil. She adds a few anchovy fillets and tells us she uses that trick in the restaurant a lot to add a rich flavor to dishes. When people ask what that wonderful flavor is she tells them and they say, “Ick, anchovies!” I admit I’m guilty of sneaking in anchovies too. Only vegetarians are free from my sneaking. Anne also adds chopped capers to her sauce. (Interesting. I’ve NEVER chopped a caper.)

When we come back, Anne is frying 4 eggs in one pan. She’s brave. She’s cooking them very gently and will be serving them sunny side up. I admit I always over-easy my eggs, because of egg white-mucus concerns.

Anne adds a bit of butter to the anchovy sauce. She tastes it for seasoning. It doesn’t need salt, of course.

She serves up her German potato salad, adds a schnitzel to her plate. Then she manages to scrap out a perfect egg from that crowded pan and place it on top of the veal. (That REALLY is all about the perfect utensil. She uses a FLAT, thin, flexible spatula that can bend and get under the egg without breaking it.)

Anne tops the egg with just a bit of her caper anchovy sauce. (She also added a bit of chopped parsley at the end.)

“Warm and crispy,” she proclaims, as she takes a big taste after breaking the yolk. Anne practically snorts with delight. Her Grüner Veltliner makes her even happier. Can Ina beat this dish? Let’s see…in Part Two.


The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

I know I haven't eaten veal since high school and I know many people who still won't eat it, but I noticed that FN personalities won't go near the controversy. They cook veal on just about every show. I have friends who eat it and say, "I don't care. It's still delicious," or will simply say, "La la la I can't hear you if you remind them how veal is made because they know, but still want to eat it. I find that if it passes my lips, I don't even like it that much. It sort of tastes processed to me. It is processed - on the hoof!

I'm with the anchovies-ick crowd. I HATE it when people try to sneak them on me. Yes, I can taste them, Anne. They're gross. Even if I ate veal, I now know not to eat it in your restaurant. Take that!

Sue said...

You were nice not to include me in the sneaky anchovy crowd. I PROMISE YOU you would not be able to taste them in the special secret place I put them in a certain dish. I'm not saying where it is, so one day I can fool you. (And forget I said that...)

I know you're a food lover and that you’ve probably given anchovies a reasonable chance before you decided you hated them, BUT I don’t understand something. I just searched your blog to be sure (yes, it was kind of like stalking) and I found mentions of FISH SAUCE. I have tried to use fish sauce a hundred times and just before I pour it in, I can’t bring myself to do it. Especially when you read how it’s made (sometimes with ANCHOVIES), it becomes particularly unappealing. So how can anchovies bother you and you remain unaffected by fish sauce?

Sue said...

PS Rach,
Good points about veal.

Anonymous said...

I haven't eaten veal in about 20 years. I've been tempted when I'm in France, though, since I know you can get humanely-raised veal there. But I haven't tried it. My father loves veal chops and used to order them a lot in restaurants. About five years ago I gave him a book about food production and now he just gives me guilty looks when he sees it on a menu -- I'm sure he orders it when I'm not around, though.

Put me in the pro-anchovy camp, and I use them a lot in cooking. It would never occur to me to ask people about it, though -- even my friends who wouldn't have anchovies on pizza were happy with meals I made that had anchovies in the sauce!

Sue said...

Hi Tom,
I bet a lot of folks used to eat veal. Luckily, there’s enough other stuff in the world to eat without having to go through the agita of eating that.

You’re very smart not to ask people about anchovies, because a lot of them would SAY they don’t like them (sorry Rachel), even if they couldn’t tell they were in the dish…SO silence is definitely the best policy.