Veal, Vanilla Spinach and Sour Cherry Reduction

Veal-Vanilla-Spinach-Cherry-Sauce-3About 15 years ago the entire culinary world, so it seemed, was raving about a shiny oh-so-new and oh-so-trendy kitchen toy – the wok. A couple of weeks into the craze little teenage me went to the bookstore in search of a chinese or thai cookbook – if woks are all the rage all of a sudden, there have to be cookbooks covering any and all types of asian cuisine popping up left, right and center, right? Boy, was I wrong…

Absolutely everything just had to be done in a wok, from your morning coffee to the michellin-star worthy Chateaubriand – if it wasn’t wok’ed it wasn’t worth mentioning – but I found no evidence of any of the countries that have been using the damn thing for centuries. After leafing through a couple of pages, the recipes ranging from hilarious to hideous, I turned tail and saved my pocket money for a nice meal at the Thai place in our neighbourhood. One thing got stuck in the back of my mind though, a combination of veal, red wine and cherries. I had totally forgotten about that one until I dug out an old chinese cookbook from the depths of my bookcase in search of a rice flour dough recipe a while ago. The cover, of course, stereotypically flashed a wok at me and the memories of that depressing (for someone in love with thai/japanese/korean/chinese food, a wok’ed hot dog is seriously depressing…) time came rushing back. I also remembered the veal & cherries combo and got busy thinking up a way to make this work. Sans wok. Here’s what I came up with:

Veal-Vanilla-Spinach-Cherry-Sauce-2

For 4 servings~
The Veal

4x 180g Veal Schnitzel or Medallions
2 Tbsp Plain White Flour
Sea Salt
Freshly cracked Pepper
30g Clarified Butter
Mild Olive Oil

1) Lightly pat the meat with a paper towel to remove excess moisture.
2) Spread out a piece of clingfilm on your work surface. Make sure to straighten out the creases and crinkles. Drizzle a few drops of olive oil on top and spread it out to about the size of your piece of veal. Place the meat on top and lightly brush it with a few drops of oil as well. Place a second layer of clingfilm on top.
3) Use a small pan or a spatula to gently tap and spread the meat out as thinly as possible – without ripping holes into it. You could also place a small cutting board on top of the second layer of clingfilm and knock on that one if you’re unsure about the amount of force the meat can take without tearing.
4) Remove the meat from between the sheets and slice it into bite-sized pieces.
5) Mix flour, salt and pepper on a plate and turn the pieces in it. Lightly press down on them to make the flour mix stick to it in a light layer.
6) Heat the clarified butter in a large pan on medium-high heat.
7) Add the meat strips and fry them until they’re golden brown on both sides. This shouldn’t take longer than 1-2 minutes per side depeding on how thin you got them, take a peek after 30 seconds to judge the remaining time needed on that side.
8) Place 2 paper towels on a warm plate and move the pieces out of the pan onto the plate to drip off excess fat. Cover the plate with aluminum foil and keep it warm – thin strips of veal have a tendency to turn gnarly and chewy once they start to cool off.
9) Give the slices a quick swirl in the sauce just before serving.

The Sour Cherry Sauce
1 Shallot, finely chopped
1-2 Tbsp Dark Muscovado Sugar
250g Sour Cherries, Glass Preserve – preserved in juice, not syrup
150ml Red Port
150ml Dry Red Wine – an intense Tempranillo does an excellent job in this one
100ml Cherry Juice from the preserve
30g Butter
1 Pinch of dried ground Ginger
1-2 Green Cardamom Pods, lightly crushed
1 Pinch of dried Chilliflakes
3 Black Peppercorns
Sea Salt, freshly cracked Pepper

1) Melt the butter in a small pot set on medium heat.
2) Add the shallot cubes, a pinch each of sugar and salt and let them glaze over and soften for about 2 mins.
3) Deglaze the pan with the wines and the cherry juice, then slowly stir in the sugar and spices. Keep stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved.
4) Add the cherries to the sauce, about ¾ of them – hold on to a few for decorative measures later on.
5) Gently simmer the sauce for 30 mins, then take out the cardamom pods.
6) Move the sauce into the jar of a blender – or use a stick blender to blend the sauce. Whizz away until the cherries and the liquids blend into a smooth and evenly textured sauce. Strain it through a sieve back into the pot and check the sauce for it’s consistency.
7) If the sauce turns out to be a little too runny, reduce it down further. If it’s too thick for your liking, add a little more cherry juice.
8) Once you’re satisfied with its consistency, have a taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
9) Give the remaining cherries a quick swirl in the sauce before plating up.

Veal-Vanilla-Spinach-Cherry-Sauce-1


The Spinach

1/4 Orange
1/4 Lemon
1 Clove of Garlic, finely sliced
300g Baby Spinach Leaves
1 Shallot, finely cubed
1 Tsp Butter
3 Tbsp Vegetable Stock
1 Tbsp Cream
½ scraped out Vanilla Pod – alt: vanilla salt to sprinkle the dish for a finishing flourish
1 Pinch of ground Cinnamon or ½ small Stick of Cinnamon
2 Slices of Ginger, about 1/2 cm each
1 Tbsp browned Butter
5-6 large fresh Mint Leaves, sliced into thin ribbons
Nutmeg
Salt, Pepper

1) Shave a slice of peel, about 1cm wide, off of the orange and the lemon with a sharp knife or veggie peeler.
2) Melt the butter in a heavy-based pot – large enough to hold all of the the spinach leaves and preferably one with a fitting lid – on medium heat. Add the shallot cubes and give them a stir to lightly coat them with the butter.
3) Once the shallots start turning translucent, after about 2-3 mins, add the stock, cream, peel strips, and the vanilla pod, then stir in the cinnamon, garlic and ginger. The vanilla pod idea was one of those accidental discoveries. I had half a pod tucked away in a vial filled with coarse sea salt to scent it – a far more sane way to get your hands on vanilla salt compared to paying up to 15€ for 100g just because some random TV chef has his face printed on the packaging. Since the pod evidently had been on the moist side when I stuffed it in, the salt grains stuck together inside the vial and refused to loosen at a gentle tap. In a hurry to get the spinach going, I gave the vial a somewhat annoyed/violent shake and of course, the lid popped off, spilling the pod and luckily only a few grains of salt into the broth. Since using vanilla in savory dishes was something I’d seen around and wanted to try anyways, I decided the pod deserved it’s fate in the spinach for escaping and left it in there. While I’ve leaned my lesson not to loose my temper with salt vials, I haven’t stopped using vanilla for things like this ever since. Just make sure you remove the seeds first (just save the pods when you’re making a nice dessert the next time). Like cinnamon it’s supposed to hint at the source of the flavor in the end, add an unexpected layer of aroma and not be an in-your-face overpowering element.
4) Leave the broth to simmer for about 4-5 mins, then fish out the whole spices. Double check in case any bits or pieces managed to escape.
5) Add the spinach leaves to the pot, feel free to use a little force if you need to, and close the lid. The spinach leaves will wilt and shrink into themselves within a minute or so. Use a wooden spoon to gently stir the leaves into the broth. Check if the spinach is done by having a taste.
6) Adjust the seasoning with salt, pepper and nutmeg.
7) Fold in the mint and top it all off with a drizzle of brown butter.

Time management can be a bit iffy with this one due to the veal insisting on being eaten right away, so heres another quick timeline~
1) Start with the sauce. Once it’s simmering away…
2) Prep the veal up to the point of it going into the pan.
3) You should be 20 mins into reducing the sauce about now, get the spinach going.
4) Blitz and check the sauce for consistency. If it’s almost there, fire up the pan and get the veal going.
5) Plate up the spinach while the veal is dripping off.
6) Give the cherries and the meat a nice and gentle swirl in the sauce, plate up and enjoy!

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