This is the time of year when my cookbook obsession sends me into overdrive. A ton of great cookbooks came out in the past 12 months celebrating seasonal ingredients that aren't common grocery-store fare. The availability of foraged foods increases exponentially in the spring, but the limited window forces me to squeeze in all the recipes I've bookmarked to cook. The Wild Table, by Connie Green and Sarah Scott, is THAT kind of book.
Living in Seattle, we are lucky to have some kick-ass foragers and farmers at the farmers' markets who sell their hard-earned loot. You can make this dish with dried morels anytime. But with morels in season now, I've been on a binge. What the hell--you only get them for a couple months of the year so you may as well enjoy them, right?
Let me just say that unless you have a butcher nearby or a (harder and harder to find) grocery store that actually breaks down meat in-house instead of having it delivered pre-cut, it can be a bitch to find uncommon cuts, including veal. Veal is typically one of those bad-karma ingredients, because they torture the baby cows. So if you do make this according to the recipe, you WILL go to hell. Just so you know.
I had a hard time initially finding veal, let along happy, untortured veal for this dish. Most of the local, organic, rainbows-and-butterflies-kumbyah-circle butchers don't carry veal because it *is* so hard to find a reputable source. My friend Becky (who is an amazing chef) suggested venison chops as a substitute. Yeah, because venison is so much easier to find. I figured if we're doing that, why not just serve it on unicorn chops? (Becky, bite me). I think this would also rock on lamb or a big-assed, double-cut pork chop.
Regardless of the protein on which you choose to serve it, this recipe will be in my "Try Again" file for sure. It was fantastic.
Roasted Veal Chop with Morel and Cacao Sauce
Adapted from The Wild Table, by Connie Green and Sarah Scott
Four 10- to 12-ounce veal rib chops
1 Tbsp cocoa nibs
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 shallot, finely minced
½ lb. fresh morels, cleaned, stems trimmed to ¼ inch
2 Tbsp Madeira
3 oz veal demi-glace
3 tbsp beef broth
1 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp finely grated high-quality unsweetened chocolate
1 tbsp finely grated high-quality 70% bittersweet chocolate
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of ground cloves
2 tbsp pure olive oil
Fleur de sel
- Position a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Farenheit and place the veal chops on a baking sheet.
- Place the cocoa nibs on a cutting board and, using a sharp knife, chop through them until they are the texture of coarse-ground pepper. (Note from Marc: Or, if you’re a lazyass like I am, whiz them a couple of times through a spice grinder so you don’t have cocoa nibs flying all over your damned kitchen) Reserve ½ teaspoon of the chopped nibs. Sprinkle the remaining nibs evenly over the surface of the veal chops. If you will be cooking the chops within an hour, leave them at room temperature. If not, refrigerate them and bring them out 1 hour before cooking.
- Place the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. When the butter is just starting to turn golden brown, add the shallot. Cook, stirring frequently until the shallot is slightly caramelized and tender, 3 to 4 minutes.
- Add the morels to the pan and stir to coat them evenly with the butter and shallot. Continue cooking until the morels are tender and starting to caramelize, 4 to 5 more minutes. (If you are using fresh morels, remove them from the pan at this point and set aside. If using dried morels, leave them in the pan and continue.) Add the Madeira and cook, stirring, until it has almost evaporated. Add the demi-glace and beef broth to the pan. Turn up the heat and bring to a boil. Cook for 1-2 minutes, or until the veal stock has reduced a bit, then stir in the cream. Bring back to a boil , then turn down the heat to a vigorous simmer.
- Stir in the unsweetened chocolate, the 70 percent chocolate, the cinnamon and the cloves. Stir briskly until the chocolates are melted into the cream. Stir in the reserved cocoa nibs. (Add the fresh morels back to the sauce at this point.) Cook until the sauce is thick and evenly colored, 3 to 4 more minutes. Remove the sauce from the heat and hold in a warm place while you cook the rib chops. (Note from Marc: we found the sauce to have amazing depth, but the nibs combined with the unsweetened chocolate made it a little too bitter and flat from our perspective. We did the typical sauce-doctor correction of adding salt and acid to round out the flavors (in this case, we used Sherry Vinegar for the acid) as well as a Tablespoon or so of honey to round out the bitter note.)
- Place oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Have a large baking sheet or shallow roasting pan lined with a rack nearby. When the oil is hot, add the veal chops to the sauté pan, being careful not to crowd the pan. You may have to cook them in batches. Brown on each side, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Remove to the baking sheet or roasting pan until they are browned.
- Place the chops in the oven and roast until the internal temperature is 125 degrees Farenheit for rare, about 15 minutes, or 135 degrees for medium rare, 5 to 6 more minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes before serving. (Note from Marc: Let them rest. Seriously. If you don’t let the meat rest it will be dry and have WAY less flavor. I know you’re hungry, but just wait. You’re so impatient!)