I really hope you guys had a fabulous, delicious, long and relaxing weekend like we did! Whether you actually celebrated the holidays or not, if you found yourself in our part of the world, you would have been able to enjoy Mother Natures’ grand entrance to the party that we can now officially call “Spring”. She really put on her Sunday dress this year and rocked our world for the last couple of days, making everybody sigh contentedly, close their eyes and tilt their faces towards the sun for four days straight~
Of course a perfect Spring day, early morning walk in the city gardens and a visit to the baby goats and wooly piglets calling the gardens their home included, needs a fitting dinner and, since this one has “Best of Spring” stamped all across every ingredient – at least in my book – this is what I picked for the occasion~
The amounts listed will net you 4 servings of a Happy Spring dinner~
The Thyme-Poached Veal
160g Shallots, roughly chopped
250ml Dry Rosé Wine – I used a full-bodied Tempranillo Rosado this time around and it worked out marvelously… the same one that works wonderfully well with the “Pour 1 glass of wine into the cook and the rest into the sauce” kind of strategy!
250ml Beef Stock
10 Sprigs of Thyme
4 Sprigs of Flatleaf Parsley
1 Bay Leaf
800g Fillet of Veal
1 Tbsp Butter
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Clove of Garlic, bashed
2 Sprigs of Thyme – in addition to the 10 above, these two will join the veal in the pan during the second phase of the proceedings
Salt and freshly cracked Pepper
Just a word in advance for those of you not familiar with poaching a piece of meat: I’ve described an easy-peasy way to go about it that doesn’t need any kind of special tools in my Veal Fillets, stuffed Zucchini Blossoms and Lemony Zucchini Sauce Recipe over here.
Assuming you’ve tied your fillet up and to a wooden spoon or hammock, here’s how to proceed from there~
1) Pour the liquids into a wide pot or deep pan – one wide or deep enough to accommodate the length and width of your fillet.
2) Set the heat to high and bring the current contents to a boil for just a couple of blinks.
3) Once the lot is bubbling away, send the shallots and herbs swimming and immediately turn the heat beneath down to medium and pop in an thermometer.
4) As soon as your liquids reach the magic 70°C mark, submerge the veal, make extra sure it’s completely covered with the herby stock and allow it to gently poach for 20-25 mins.
5) Have an eye on your setup from time to time and adjust the temperature or stock levels if necessary.
6) Once the time’s up, gently release the fillet from it’s confinement and pat it dry with a couple of paper towels.
Unless you’re going about this dish in separate stages, this would be the perfect time to strain the poaching liquids through a fine sieve to remove the herbs and use the now-clear stock to get the risotto going~! If everything goes according to plan, both components will be yumtastic and ready to eat at the same time.
7) Fire up a large, heavy-based pan on high heat.
8) Add the oil, butter, a bashed clove of garlic and a sprig of fresh thyme and close the lid for 2-3 mins to allow the butter/oil mixture to soak up some of the yummy aromas.
9) Slide the garlic and thyme to the side and place the veal in the center of the pan.
10) Sear the veal from all sides, constantly turning it and basting the surface facing up with the fragrant juices in the pan. Keep in mind that this process is just for color on the meat and a finishing touch on the core temperature, not in any way a “real” cooking process, so keep the heat high and the time in the pan short~
11) Wrap the veal in a thick blanket of aluminum foil and allow it to rest for 10 mins.
The Pea & Wild Garlic Risotto
150g Garden Peas, shelled
30g Wild Garlic – if you find yourself and your shopping list outside of its very short season, 5-10g basil will do as a replacement
½ Lemon, Zest only
50ml Mild Olive Oil
50g Shallots, very finely diced
1 Clove of Garlic
75g Pecorino de Pepe
Alt: Regular Pecorino, Parmesan or, if you managed to snooze past the cheese section of your supermarket during two separate shopping trips <cough>, a hearty mountain cave cheese!
700ml Veal Stock or your poaching liquids
250g Arborio or any other Risotto Rice you know and love
120ml Dry White Wine – a mellow Chardonnay works nicely here, or simply use more of the same Rosé you’ve used for the veal above
25g Cold Butter
Salt and Pepper to taste
1) Pour the olive oil into a medium-sized pot, set it onto medium heat, close the lid and allow it to warm up for a couple of minutes.
2) Add the onions and garlic and, while gently stirring the lot, sweat them for 4-5 mins until they turn tender and slightly translucent. Make sure none of the fragrant dice get the chance to stick to the bottom of the pot and take on color.
3) Sprinkle in your rice and keep on stirring gently until all of the grains are glossed over with the oil.
4) Deglaze the pot with the wine, add a pinch each of salt and pepper and wait until the sputter of the wine having hit a hot environment starts to calm down.
5) Now for the cheaty part that allows you to finish off the veal in the pan at the same time~! 20-25 minutes until Dinner’o’Clock, go~!
6) Instead of doing the usual ladle-by-ladle routine, simply add half of the stock to the pot in one go, close the lid and wait for the contents to work up a gentle simmer.
7) Remove the lid and go about the remaining kitchen-works while keeping half an eye on the risotto to ensure it keeps up the gentle bubble. Adjust the heat if the risotto takes off in either direction.
8) Gently stir it from time to time to keep it from sticking and to check up on the liquid levels – as it cooks, the rice will swell up as it absorbs the stock, so stir in the remaining stock gradually to keep up with the rice’s absorption rate.
9) With the last swig of stock, introduce the lemon zest along with another little pinch of salt and pepper.
10) Have a taste of the risotto – consistency-wise should be tender and just the way you like it. Taste-wise it should be just a little on the lower side of all things salt – a cheesy addition will take care of that issue in the very near future.
11) Now, you could go ahead and blitz any percentage of your peas and wild garlic leaves into a smooth purée before blending it into the risotto. Personally, I’d prefer the pop of a fresh pea in a risotto over having a bowlful of really bright green grains, but I’ve heard that particular pop is something undesirable for Risotto purists. <insert shrug here> Good thing this is happening in your kitchen where you can do as you please, right~?
12) So, when you’re happy with the risotto so far, take the pot off the heat and stir in the cold butter, cheese, wild garlic and peas.
13) Have another taste-bite and, if absolutely necessary, adjust the flavors with salt, pepper and/or lemon juice.
Assembling the Dish
The Thyme-Poached Veal
The Pea and Wild Garlic Risotto
4 Tbsp of Pine Nuts, freshly toasted
2-3 Sprigs of Tarragon, leaves picked and finely chopped
Alt: Fresh Thyme Leaves – since tarragon isn’t everyones cup of tea, you might be on the safer side picking up the thyme theme of the dish again~
12 Large Strawberries, stemmed and quartered
Opt: a bit of Pecorino de Pepe, freshly grated
1) Divide the risotto onto 4 plates or shallow bowls.
2) Dot the servings with the strawberry quarters.
3) Unwrap the fillet and slice it into 8 evenly thick slices and arrange them on top of the risotto.
4) Grate a bit of pecorino on top of each serving and sprinkle the piles with pine nuts and thyme leaves just before picking up a fork~!