Now, this is what happens when I set my mind to cooking up a storm on one of those days – when I can’t put a finger on what I actually want to eat, feeling like having seafood, hot chocolate and everything in between, and all that at the same time, if you please! Sometimes that kind of mood results in me shutting down the kitchen for the day in protest, sometimes it makes me pull out all sorts of ideas and go wild in the kitchen in an attempt to satisfy all cravings at once.
This dish was the result of the latter, turning some ingredients I had bought without much of an idea of what I was going to do with them, some odds and ends in my fridge and an impromptu impulse-buy bag of roasted chestnuts into an absolutely delicious and satisfying dinner. Well, main dish, I should say, since I incorporated stuff I had bought for 3 courses into one… one more reason for the satisfied sigh at the end of it! Sometimes, impatience pays off after all~
These amounts will net you 4 servings
Veal chops have given me a lot of grief over the years. I’ve long accepted the fact that, for some reason, veal costs around 3-4 times the price of the grown-ups of their family. But as soon as there’s a bone attached to it, the meaty bits shrink down to miniature versions, the bones seemingly grow larger than they could possibly be inside a living animal and prices really explode. I’m rarely able to spot chops with a meat-bone ratio that doesn’t seem like a blatant insult to my intellect, so when I do, I grab it first and ask questions about what to do with it later. The glaze is, in some form or another, my standard „not much“, going just one step past „salt and pepper“, I do to meats when I skip sauces for the sake of keeping the pieces themselves at the center of attention.
4 Veal Chops
1 Tbsp melted Butter
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
3 Tbsp Maple Syrup
1 Tsp Rosemary Needles, finely chopped
5 Black Peppercorns
1 Clove of Garlic, bashed
1) Set a small pot or pan on medium heat and add the oil, syrup, rosemary, peppercorns and garlic.
2) Once the contents of your pan reach a gentle simmer, give them about 3-4 mins to develop their aromas, then set the pot aside.
3) Pat the chops dry with a paper towel.
4) Generously dust them with salt on all sides – if you have a thin layer of fat around the rims, give it some extra salty attention, that way it’ll come off easier later.
5) Set a heavy-based pan or griddle onto high heat, pop on the lid and wait for around 4-5 mins until it’s at its maximum heat.
6) Brush the chops with the melted butter and carefully place them in the pan – use 2 pans or go in batches to make sure the temperature inside doesn’t drop too far for a sizzling sear.
7) Let them sizzle away on the first side for 2 mins, then give them a good crack of pepper before flipping them over for another 2 mins.
8) Now, there’s 2 different paths to deliciousness:
Oven-Option: Pop the chops into your preheated oven for 10 mins at 180°C or 12 mins at 160°C.
Or go with the no-oven option: keep flipping the chops in 1 min intervals – pop on the lid in between flips – until experience, meat probe or pressure-test tells you you’ve hit the sweet spot. I can’t give you an exact timeframe for the different core-temperatures for these after the 2-min-on-each-side part since it all depends on quality and thickness of the cuts as well as the size of the bone. I’d recommend going with the oven-option since it’s a safer way to maintain a yummy level of moisture inside the meat – without excessive on-and-off workouts with the lid.
9) Once the chops are just a little under your desired core temperature, pick up your glaze and a pastry brush in order to gently paint them a yummy golden brown with it on both sides.
10) Place the glazed chops on a warmed plate, drizzle over the remaining glaze and tuck them in under aluminum foil to rest for 5-8 mins.
11) By the way, if you’d prefer a „real“ sauce for these rather than a glaze, deglaze the pan you’re fried the chops in with a good glug, about 100 ml, of white port, add 1-2 tbsp of the peach poaching liquid, stir in the glaze and reduce it down to a syrupy sauce. Ta~dah!
Early autum in our corner of the world translates to stone fruit season. Apricots, plums, nectarines and all their colorful friends are swarming the food displays all over town, calling out to people like me to turn them into something delicious… or just eat ginormic amounts of them just as they are. After doing exactly that, devouring a seriously freaky amount of deliciously ripe and juicy shinies that is, during the first week of their season, I took the time to plan ahead in the go-past-washing-the-fruit department. One of the first things on my to-do list was a dessert involving poached peaches and crêpes – which was what I had in mind before I had my brain activity come to a screeching halt at the everything-at-once-and-now point. Skipping over the sugar and the high voltage hooch I switched to one of my favorite fruity side dishes, savory poached fruit, in this case – peaches.
3-4 large, ripe but firm Peaches
1 Tbsp Light Muscovado Sugar
2 Sprigs of Rosemary
1 Sprig of Thyme
1 Bay Leaf
200ml dry White Wine – Chardonnay or Chenin Blanc work deliciously well
200ml Chicken Stock
1 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Black Peppercorns
1) Pour the liquids into a pot just large enough to snugly hold the peaches.
2) Set it onto medium heat and add the herbs and spices.
3) Use the tip of a sharp knife to score the skins of the peaches – going crosswise with the point where the stem used to be, or the opposite end, sitting in the middle works best.
4) Once the liquids had about 5 mins of quality time at a low and gentle simmer, add the peaches, cover them up with a droplid or a sheet of cooking parchment and leave them to simmer away for 5-8 mins, depending on their size and grade of ripeness.
5) The skins will start peeling back from the cuts you’ve made after about the time you’re looking for. If they come off easily at a light tug, phase one of the poaching bit is complete!
6) Carefully take them out and remove the skins. Kitchen tongs and gloves might help with the heat issue – it usually takes a couple of seconds of frantically juggling around poached goods before I remember that…
7) The tongs also help with the following step: carefully slice the peaches in halves, give them a gentle twist-apart and remove the stones before popping them back into the poaching liquids. Have an eye on their consistency at this point to determine how long they should be in the hot tub to turn out soft and juicy without reaching the point of falling apart. Bite-test them if you’re not entirely sure – they should end up at a point just before you could easily slice off a bit with a fork. I say „almost“ because they’re going to be cooling down in the still hot poaching liquids, so the cooking process will still go on for a little while.
8) Once all of the peaches are back inside the pot, give them another 2-4 mins on the stove if needed, before letting them cool off inside the pot. If they’re done already, take the pot off the heat, close the lid and set it aside to cool down to room temperature.
9) Take the peaches out of the liquid just before you’re ready to plate up and cut them into pretty segments. Place the segments in a sieve for about 5 mins to get rid of excess liquids still clinging to them.
Every time I make a chestnut purée I try to combine it with something citrus’y or otherwise fruity to lighten up the, for lack of a better expression, nutty heavyness. My first time using apricots in one of these was inspired by a yuletide snack I had a couple of years back, roasted chestnuts coated in some sort of thick and sticky apricot syrup. They were delicious, but, faced with another batch of chestnut purée, I remembered thinking they could be even better if they had a sprinkle of salt or a chilli flake or two under their fruity coat. Of course, I went ahead and had a go at the idea of turning that snack into a savory side dish! After a couple of tweaks here and there, this is what I made of it:
400g precooked Chestnuts, coarsely chopped
100g Dried Apricots, finely chopped
2 precooked Baby Potatoes, skinned and coarsely chopped – have one more at the ready, just in case the purée turns too thick for your taste
200ml Chicken Stock
½ Vanilla Pod, seeds only
1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tbsp White Port
1 Tbsp Crème Légère
1 Tsp dried Hot Chilli Flakes
Sea Salt and Nutmeg to taste
Opt: 1 Tbsp of Butter
First off, a word on the chestnuts. The first time word of chestnut purées in general reached me, I ran off to one of the little stalls selling freshly roasted chestnuts that dot the town during the winter months. The only thing… well, things that keep me from sticking to the roasted nuts for yummies like this one are the outrageous prices those vendors tag their goods with and the oven-less state of my kitchen. Sure, it’s possible to roast chestnuts in a pan, but it takes aaaaaaages! Downright torture for someoe who gets restless at a mere hint of the delicious roasting-chestnuts-aroma in the air! Using roasted ones instead of conveniently pre-cooked and sealed chestnuts does make quite the difference though, so give it a go if you have the means to roast them yourself… or a vendor with reasonable prices nearby. Just make sure you have a batch of 400g once you’ve removed the shells and some more of the stock stashed nearby in case they turn out a little bit on the dry side of things. Cooked chestnuts are, at least over here, a year-round guest somewhere in the produce section of most supermarkets, near precooked beets and other sealed goods. Check the package for additives, seasoning or whatever else could have been done to preserve them – I had one batch preserved in some sort of vinegary liquid ruin my day once… why anyone would do that to a bunch of innocent chestnuts is a mystery. Oh, and steer clear of the canned, asian water chestnuts, that one didn’t end well either.
1) Place the apricots in a small bowl and sprinkle them with the chilli flakes.
2) Add the olive oil and stir the lot until everything is well combined.
3) Set the bowl aside and leave the apricots to marinade for at least 1 hour.
4) Pour the chicken stock into a large pot set on medium heat and send the chestnuts swimming. Even though they’re precooked they still need about 20 mins of quality time in the simmering stock to soften up enough to be turned into a creamy purée.
5) Add the potatoes at the 15 min mark along with the vanilla seeds and the port.
6) Take the pot off the heat and let it cool down for around 5 mins to minimize potential flying-droplets-burns when you’re going to town with a stick blender next.
7) Fish out a piece of chestnut and check for it’s consistency. If they’re nicely soft and non-grainy, you’re golden. If they still have that dry’ish crumbly thing going, leave them to simmer for a while longer.
8) Which brings me to… get your stick blender ready and have a go at the contents of your pot. Keep at it until only a few blobs of chestnuts remain, then add a generous pinch of salt, the crème légère and, if you’re going with it, the butter for some extra creamyness.
9) Resume whizzing the purée until its silky and smooth. If it resists your efforts, gooping up and around your stick blender, add another baby potato to lighten it up a bit – before you go adding some stock or more butter in case it’s too thick for your liking, remember the apricots and their marinade, they’ll add more moisture at the end. At this point it has to be just a little too thick for comfort.
10) Speaking of the apricots… once the purée is thoroughly whizzed and no solid bits remain, fold in the marinated apricot bits until they’re well incorporated into the mix.
11) Now’s the time to re-check the consistency and adjust it with stock or melted butter or, very carefully because it really puts a dampener on the chestnut aromas, maybe a little bit more crème légère. Chestnut purées are a bit thicker than your average potato purée by nature, so keep that in mind before sacrificing all the yumtastic flavors to an attempt at a light and fluffy purée.
Assembling The Dish
1) Divide the purée onto four warmed plates.
2) Cozy up the chops to it and drizzle them with the liquids remaining on the plate you had them resting on.
3) Arrange the peach slices on top or around the chops.
4) Garnish the servings with some lamb’s lettuce if you want to add a pleasing-to-the-eye dot of green.
5) Dig in!
As usual with „bigger“ dishes, time management is an issue, so here’s a quick timeline you could follow.
1) Take care of the apricots destined for the purée.
2) 1 hr later, get the chestnut purée going.
3) After adding the potato, vanilla and port at the 15-min-mark of the purée, take care of the peaches while the purée is simmering for 5 more mins before cooling down.
4) Finish the purée while the skinned and halved peaches are resting and keep it warm.
5) Get the chops into the pan and finish the peaches while the chops are resting.