Friday, 22 April 2011

Veal rib: Less is More.

 Picking up on a theme I touched on briefly a post or two back, on the subject of ham hocks, it makes nothing but good sense to make a little meat go a long way, for all kinds of reasons.  For most of us it’s probably healthier to eat less meat than we do.  It’s certainly cheaper, which is always a good thing, even without the compulsory ‘in these recessionary times’ qualifier.  Environmentally, the arguments for reducing meat consumption are compelling, if not enough to convince me to give up meat entirely.  And ethically I believe it to be an obligation on all of us who do eat meat to at least try to make as much of each animal that dies on our behalf as we can.  In this last regard we are compelled, I believe, somewhat paradoxically, to eat both less and more meat.  That is to eat less of more of the animal.  Hence my regular returns to the theme of ‘forgotten’ cuts on this blog. 

Today though it’s not so much a forgotten cut I’m thinking about - although it is an unusual one, for me, and I would imagine most people – as a different approach to as familiar an idea as a Sunday roast.  In this I am very much following on from the ham hock post in which one of the ways I used a hock was to treat it as a mini roast ham, first boiled, then glazed in honey and mustard, which served two of us very well for a midweek supper.  In this case it was a single veal rib, reduced to clear on the meat counter at the John Lewis Food Hall that I saw and thought of Sunday lunch.

In addition to all the reasons given above for eating less meat, when you’re cooking for two, and it comes to a traditional Sunday roast, you generally don’t bother.  It just seems too much work, too much oven time.  Just too much meat.  Although given how very good cold roast meat, particularly cold roast beef, can be (did I say very? How about very, very...?) then that’s not actually a good reason not to roast up a big slab of a joint on Sunday and let the leftovers feed you the rest of the week.  Nevertheless, you tend not too.  Partly I think, because you know that a traditional Sunday roast more or less takes up your whole Sunday.  Not just the cooking time, but the fact that it’s a big meal, one you don’t want to rush, and when you are done with it, you tend to have eaten so much that you really are done for the day.  Which can be a wonderful feeling, but isn’t always what you want to do with the whole of one of your precious day’s off. 

A single roast rib though, between two, gives all the whole joint satisfaction of a proper Sunday roast, in the form of a relatively light lunch.  It’s also very economical – particularly if you pick up your rib when it’s reduced to clear.  It may not be quite ham hock economical, but at around three quid for what looks, tastes and feels like a proper special occasion treat, I think that’s pretty good value. 

A veal rib also has the advantage over beef here, not just because it’s smaller, but it feels more special, and as I’ve mentioned before, because of it’s richness, you can allow smaller portions (the veal rib I picked up weighed in at about 350g,including the bone, so just about bang on the 150g per person that Rose Prince recommends in her book The New English Kitchen).  Also, because we really should be eating more veal, as I’ve argued before, it’s a treat that fits within the eat less of more meat ethos and you can feel doubly good about doing so.  So everyone’s a winner (even the veal calf, as long as you’ve bought well sourced, British, pink veal – which I presume you have).

To cook the rib, start off treating it just as you would a steak – which is essentially what it is.  Season it generously with salt and pepper and rub it with oil (preferably sunflower or rapeseed, rather than olive, for their higher burning temperatures), then fry in a smoking hot pan for just two minutes on one side then one on the other before transferring the pan to a hot oven (around 200) to roast for no more than fifteen minutes (even as little as ten, depending on how juicily pink you like it).  Take it out and let it rest for a good ten minutes before slicing it in two horizontally, leaving the bone attached to one slice.

While it was resting, you’ll have had time to make a gravy by deglazing the pan with sherry or wine (I used red on this occasion), adding a splash of appropriate stock* if you have some to hand (but just wine and meat juices work fine if not).  Make sure to add to the gravy any juices that run out of the meat while resting.

Serve with roast potatoes – may as well as you had the oven on anyway.  I think roasted new potatoes (halved or left whole depending on size, par boiled then tossed in olive oil with salt, pepper, thyme or rosemary and maybe the zest and a squeeze of the juice of half a lemon, along with a handful of peeled shallots and a few cloves of garlic, roasted at 200 for about 20-25 minutes, till golden) rather than big old roasties, all crispy on the outside and fluffy in the middle that are perfect with a trad Sunday Dinner, but not so much for the light lunch version I was aiming for here.  In keeping with that aim, some lightly steamed purple sprouting broccoli on the side is ideal, and something to be made the most of in its brief season.

* Fill an ice cube tray when you’ve made excess stock, and keep it in the freezer.  A couple of ice cubes of good beef, chicken or lamb stock are ideal for stirring in with the meat juices and wine whenever you’re making gravy.  I’m not sure quite what the official standard unit of a “splash” is, but about two ice cubes worth seems pretty much right.

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