12 April 2011

Vitello Tonnato

Some days are just perfect. Yesterday was a fine spring day, but more importantly, I chanced upon a lovely piece of veal. A delightful exercise, toying with this recipe and that! In the end, it had to be vitello tonnato, slices of tender meat marinated in a tuna-caper sauce. Arguably not amongst the top ten of the world's prettiest dishes, yet one of the most intensely satisfying flavours you could imagine. 

While it takes a little time, there's almost no effort involved, and furthermore, you are repaid with the makings of more than one meal. However, preparations need to start well in advance. I generally simmer the meat the evening before I want to eat my vitello, thus cutting short the cooking time on the actual day.

Vitello Tonnato
Reckon on  c. 200g/person; topside is traditional, I used shoulder with very good results. Depending on the cut, you may need to tie it together with a bit of string.

Firstly, your meat needs to be gently simmered for two hours on a very low heat, in a large pot of salted water. Add a few vegetables (carrots, celery, onion; bay and parsley are good, too), and you'll be rewarded with a great stock. Leave the meat to cool in its stock.

Several hours before you want to eat, trim all visible fat off the meat and cut into slices.

Reserve any left-over shreds that don't classify as proper slices. To prepare the sauce, blitz the ingredients in a mixer until well blended; bind with stock and lemon juice to taste.

Sauce ingredients:
200 g canned tuna (best quality!)
2 tbsp capers
3 sardines in oil
2 egg yolks (hardboiled - reserve the whites)

Arrange the meat in a tupperware container, topping each layer with tuna sauce.

Leave to marinate in the fridge for several hours. Remove carefully and arrange on a platter, adding more sauce if needed. Sprinkle generously with chopped parsley, if you like. (I apologise for the picture, I have no idea why it came out all yellow. Some extra sunshine to make up for a long winter??)

Lovely, lovely vitello tonnato!
Welcome, spring time!!

Sandwich Spread
Ideally, you should have a little sauce left over, which you could either use to adorn your platter of vitello tonnato - or how about making a sandwich spread? Finely chop the egg whites, pull apart any  meat left-overs with a fork, and mix with the remaining sauce, possibly adding freshly chopped herbs. If there's no sauce left, use mayonnaise instead. Keep in the fridge until ready to use.

Veal Broth
Discard the vegetables and refrigerate the cold stock, then strain to skim off the fat. Season to taste and serve in your favourite way. With thin strips of pancakes like the Austrian "Frittaten"? With tiny cubed vegetables? As a superlative stew? Or you could always freeze it for later use.

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