Foodie In Training

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Mario Batali was our Valentine

Cute shoes, right? Alright, I wore them to Law Prom last weekend but I thought the red shoes were Valentine's Day Post appropriate. :)
Instead of getting all dressed up and going out for a fancy Valentine's dinner, we decided to choose a few recipes and make a great dinner. And that we did. We didn't start cooking until late in the evening but it was so worth it. We weren't sure where to get a good cut of veal, I wasn't sure if Kroger or Bigg's would carry it, so we decided to go to Fresh Market. Fresh Market is a very upscale grocery store, that I happen to love. It is not a place where we do our regular grocery shopping, we tried to do that once and ended up spending $6 on Kraft Grated Parmesan Cheese. Anyway, I like it because it is a true departure from your normal supermarket, they play classical music, they have really high quality ingredients, an awesome meat and seafood selection and interesting things like making your own peanut or almond butter. We were lucky to get the last few cuts of veal and the rest of our ingredients for our fabulous dinner.

Here is the menu:
-Saltimbocca alla Romana (Roman-Style Veal Cutlets with Sage)
- Braised Baby Fennel
- Carmelized Onion Toasts
It was absolutely delicious. Just as good as any restaurant meal we could have had. Ryan was in charge of the veal so I will let him explain.

Veal Saltimbocca. The First time I remember having the dish was when I was 19 years old in St. Louis. I was visiting some friends during my first year of college and we went out to a nice Italian restaurant--- I can't remember the name. It was a nice piece of veal with a light sauce, but then there was the kicker- it was stuffed with prosciutto and cheese. It might have been the single most delicious bite I ever had up to that time. Since, I've had veal saltimbocca at many restaurants. Sometimes the prosciutto was on the outside, sometimes the veal was stuffed, sometimes there was cheese, sometimes not, but it was always a great dish.

This was the first time I tried to make veal saltimbocca. We bought some veal scallopini, and added some sage leaves. I think the sage was one of the keys to the dish, that and of course, the prosciutto. Prosciutto di Parma is a dried, cured ham, with a salty and spiced flavor. It is sliced razor, razor thin and is makes for the most incredible sandwiches ever made- and by sandwich, I don't mean the crap I have for lunch everyday- tasteless American honey ham, american processed to hell cheese and mustard on flimsy white bread- I mean real a real sandwich with prosciutto on some hard ciabatta or french bread, a little provolone cheese, maybe a roasted red pepper, and some salt and pepper. Really, prosciutto is one of my absolute favorite foods in the world.

Anyways, I ended up wrapping the veal, pounded pretty thin, and the sage in freshly sliced prosciutto. I lightly dredged them in seasoned flour and cooked them in a butter olive oil mixture for less than 5 minutes. I removed the veal and added some white wine to de-glaze, seasoning and some more oil to create a light sauce, in which I finished cooking the veal. The result was a salty veal dish packed with more flavor than one could think possible by the few ingredients used. Really, it was just sage, prosciutto, white wine, and veal plus some butter, oil, salt and pepper. The light wine sauce was just enough to cut the intense flavor of the meat. In all of Mario's brilliance, he suggested serving with lemon wedges. The lemon added a freshness and brightness that truly completed the dish. This was probably the best, most restaurant worthy meat course I have ever made. Mario Batali is awesome.

I (Erin) was in charge of the braised fennel and the carmelized onion toasts. Fennel is a very new ingredient for me to cook with so I had to do some research on how to cut and prepare it. This recipe called for just using the bulbs, so I chopped and julienned the fennel bulb and boiled it until fork tender in a large pot of water. In the mean time I started the carmelized onion toasts. I chopped 3 onions and sauteed them with 2 tablespoons of butter, salt and pepper and basil. The onions didn't carmelize very well because we did not use the recommended amount of butter (in an attempt to try and make it healthier). So the toasts were not as sweet as they could have been. To remedy that, we drizzled some balsamic vinegar over the finished toasts and it really added a lot of flavor.
To finish the fennel, I put 1/4 cup of olive oil in a saute pan and heated on low/medium heat. I added garlic, chopped anchovies and red pepper to the heated olive oil. Once the garlic was slowly cooking and the anchovies were starting to disolve, I added the fennel and let it saute for 5 minutes. When it was done, I added some fresh orange zest, salt and pepper and it was ready to serve.

The dinner was absolutely fabulous and the aromas in our small apartment were intoxicating. The fennel had a really great flavor, the natural anise (black licorice) taste of the fennel mixed with the orange and garlic flavor was a great combination. Everything was great and it turned out to be a great Valentine's Day Dinner!


Anonymous said...

1st off.... Love the shoes! How come no pic of Ryan's shoes? :)
The meal looks and sounds wonderful. I am also a fennel fan, I'll have to try your recipe. How nice for you to spend Valentines day together, at home with such a great meal. And you don't have to worry about how many glasses of wine you have! gotta love that.... mom :)XOXO

Jules C. said...

Hot Shoes Erin!!!!

365 days... said...

The restaurant was Lombardos in St. Louis!! Good times and I love this blog... it makes me soo hungry! :-P

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