Saturday, October 18, 2014

Stuffed Breast of Veal for the Crockpot with Potato Gratin

This is kind of dish that Jewish mothers from Brooklyn prepared back in the middle of the last century.  Veal was always a treat, and our taste ran to chops and the the breast, stuffed with potato or bread.  Back then, you could find a nice big piece, 5 or more rib bones, a full half-breast, with a pocket already cut into it.  Veal is eaten a lot less these days.  It is now prohibitively priced, and for some people, there is the ethical issue of how the calves are raised and slaughtered.  Maybe once or twice a year, I see a small package of veal stew or a nice piece of veal breast on sale, and I allow myself to indulge.

2 pieces of breast of veal, 2 rib bones each piece
Cajun-style seasoning blend*
olive oil

1 1/2 cups crumbled saltine-type crackers
1/2 cup chopped leftover cooked vegetables - I had some cooked mushrooms and onions
1 extra large egg
1 generous teaspoon each dried thyme and rosemary
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon oil

1 jar of Gia Russa Marsala Simmer Sauce
1/2 cup marsala or dry sherry

Potato Gratin:
1 large russet baking potato, sliced very thin
Kosher salt, ground black pepper, and sweet paprika (preferably Hungarian)
5 oz. bag shredded Swiss cheese
up to a cup of French's French Fried Onions

Prepare the veal: Cut a pocket by sliding a sharp boning knife between the meat and the bone.  Slide the knife upwards from the bottom of the breast (you will see the bones protruding) without cutting open either side.  Rub the veal breast all over with a little olive oil, and sprinkle generously with Cajun seasoning.  Set aside.

Prepare the stuffing:  Combine all of the ingredients, adding just enough water to hold the stuffing together.

Using a wooden spoon, divide the stuffing in half and slide into each pocket.  Pat gently with your hand to evenly distribute the stuffing in each pocket, stopping about an inch before the opening.  It will look like a skimpy layer of stuffing, but will puff up nicely while cooking.

Heat a large deep skillet over medium high, add about 3 tablespoons of the oil, and brown each piece of veal on all sides, including the back of the bones.

Use about a half tablespoon of butter to grease the bottom of a 6 quart crockpot.  Place a single layer of the sliced potatoes to cover the bottom.  Lightly season with salt, pepper, and paprika, and dot with a little more butter.  Repeat with the remaining potatoes. Put the stuffed, browned breast pieces on top of the potatoes, placing the curved sides against the sides of the crockpot.  Pour the sauce and marsala or sherry over the meat, cover and cook on Low for 4 to 6 hours until the veal is tender and the potatoes can be easily pierced with the tip of a knife.  If you are around the house, turn the veal about halfway through the cooking time.

Remove the veal and let cool slightly.  Cut between the bones to serve.  If you have any difficulty (I did, even with an electric knife) do the best you can and don't fret.  Now the celebrity chefs tell us you eat first with your eyes, but I think you eat first with your nose, and this smells so good no one will care if your ribs are uneven.  Also, my mother always said it all ends up in your stomach anyway, and she never steered me wrong when it came to eating.  

Finishing the gratin: using a little more of the butter, grease an 8 inch square tin.  Carefully move the cooked potatoes from the crockpot to the buttered tin.  First place a single layer of potatoes, then drizzle a little of the sauce, then sprinkle some of the Swiss cheese.  Repeat until the potatoes are used up, and finish with more Swiss cheese.  Cover with foil, and bake for 30 minutes in a preheated 350 degree oven.  Remove the foil, and add the crispy fried onions to the top.  Return the pan to the oven for another 5 minutes or until the cheese bubbles and the onions are browned.  Let the gratin cool slightly before cutting into squares for serving. 

Spoon any remaining sauce over the veal and serve with the gratin.  

*For this I used Lowcountry Gourmet Seasoning from the Lowcountry shop in Savannah, Georgia.  Emeril's Essence is an ideal substitute.

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