Friday, March 19, 2010

Crumbed milk-fed pink veal, white wine sauce and the ethical debate

Let me state upfront: veal comes from baby cows.

Lamb comes from baby sheep.* Most pork comes from baby pigs. Most chicken for sale is nine weeks old.

Those of us who choose to eat meat (and those who eat it without any thought at all) clearly choose to eat it young. The taste of veal is not at all like its older incarnation of beef, but lighter and more subtle. Veal is a unique flavour, sweet and slightly sour from being milk-fed. Soft, with hardly any fat. In short: delicious, but it comes with a seriously bad public image.

Horror stories abound. Calves deprived of sunlight, denied iron in their diets, kept in fully enclosed ‘veal crates’, unable to even turn around or even stand up**. All this to render ‘beautiful’ white muscle.

If there is an ethical dilemma beyond ‘should we eat meat’, it is not in the youthfulness of the calf, but in its treatment.

I firmly believe that if we make the extraordinary decision to take life, we must not be indifferent to that decision. To take away life is one thing. To cause unnecessary suffering as we do so, a step too far. It leaves far too nasty a taste in one’s mouth.

Veal crates are now unlawful in the United Kingdom, the European Union and several States in the USA.

In Australia we do not eat veal deprived of iron and sunlight, reared in tiny unlit boxes and partially starved. White veal is not available in Australia. Veal produced in Australia is pink, reared on whole milk and a small amount of grain. Pink veal (or ros̩ veal, as it is known is the UK) is sweet and soft and has a delicate flavour. Cooked well, not medium (unlike the beef it will become, it tends to be a little tough if under cooked), crumbed or in sauce, to protect it from the heat, it marries beautifully with acidity Рa squeeze of lemon, tarragon vinegar, white wine sauce.***

* depending on your definition, usually less than a year old.
*** Try with a sauce made of white wine and capers-in-vinegar

Crumbed veal with white wine sauce

2 veal escalopes
¼ cup milk
Plain flour
1 egg
2 cups stale breadcrumbs, seasoned with a little salt and pepper
4 tbsp butter, and 1 extra tbsp
12 sage leaves
6-12 thyme sprigs
250 mls dry white wine (I used sauvignon blanc)
1 tsp corn flour
1 heaped tsp grain or Dijon mustard

Flatten the veal with a mallet (or ask your butcher to do this). Dip into milk, then dust with flour. Whisk the egg into the remaining milk, dip the escalopes into the egg mixture and then press firmly into the breadcrumbs to coat both sides.

In a large fry pan, melt two tablespoons of butter with the herbs. When the butter starts to foam, add the escalopes. If the sage leaves start to get crispy, remove and set aside.

When the escalopes are golden on one side, add two more tablespoon of butter and turn the veal over. When the veal is crispy and golden on that side, it is cooked. Remove and set aside.

Turn the heat to high, add the wine and mustard. Mix the corn flour with a little water to form a paste, and add to the pan. Cook until the alcohol is burnt off, and the flour is cooked (one to two minutes) – the sauce should have just started to thicken. Strain (it will probably have little bread crumbs and bits of thyme stalk in it!). Wipe the pan and return strained sauce, whisk in the remaining butter, strain again.

Spoon some sauce onto a plate, and serve the veal on top of steamed vegetables. Scatter over some crispy sage leaves. Eat with a contemplative conscience.

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