Eating meat. ~ Ham Pie Sandwiches

18 April 2008

Eating meat.

When I was at the store trying to decide what to have for dinner, I realized that I haven't bought actual beef in something like a year. Every time I want red meat, I go for veal. Veal! The dead baby of meat! Or sometimes lamb. It's very strange. I probably grew up without ever eating veal, or lamb for that matter (except one particular case, sometime around age five, of paschal lamb with bright freaking green mint jelly. Why not use actual mint? Why not make an actual savory lamb preparation instead of roasting all the juice out of it? Come on.). Maybe that has something to do with me wanting it now.

My meat-eating habits are uncommon for omnivores anyway. I mean, even though I have ham in the title of this, I can't remember the last time I ate it. I do remember the last time I had bacon: last October, on my birthday. I might also have had one batch of pork meatballs between now and then, but that's it for pork in the last 6 months. Oh, and won ton soup. I almost never buy raw chicken, since it makes me ill to cook it, and never buy beef. Instead I cook occasional (read: once a month) fish and even more occasional (every 3-4 months) veal/lamb. Most of the meat I eat comes from restaurants.

We have plenty of beans, rice, tempeh, and tofu, though.

It's interesting. I don't exactly feel a need to go vegetarian; most of the time, I kind of AM vegetarian. I probably eat meat once a week. I just don't feel like I have to set my diet in stone. Like, some vegetarians eat mostly vegan food, but have cheese every once in a while; my eating habits are more of a lifestyle trend than a rigid rule.

That said, here's some veal.

I ran out to get some terrible pinot grigio while John cooked. When I got back from the two block round trip, everything was practically done. There's one virtue of a thin meat cut: instant dinner.

Veal with mushroom and shallot

a veal cutlet 1/2 inch thick
brown mushrooms
a shallot
dry vermouth
salt, pepper
parsley if you have it/think of it
a green salad with vinaigrette

Throw a chunk of butter into a medium hot frying pan. You can use olive oil instead, but nothing else.

Peel and finely chop a shallot. Throw it into the butter and soften it.

Chunk a bunch of brown mushrooms. Add them to the pan and soften them too. Add a big glug of vermouth, stir it up, and let everything get saucy together.

Get out your meat. If it's not as thin as you'd like it, pound it with a meat mallet. Thinness is key here. Pounding also encourages tenderness, but this is veal we're talking about; how tender does it have to be?

When shallots are soft and mushrooms are about 3/4 done (i.e. still barely white on the cut sides), pull everything to one side of the pan. There should be a good gloss of butter and vermouth left in the rest of the pan. Increase the heat a bit, then throw your veal (or other thinly pounded meat; whatever will work) into the empty side of the pan. Season the top side with salt and pepper, and let it cook for about three minutes. Turn, salt and pepper the other side, and sear another three minutes.

The searing time depends on thickness. You can either trust the redness of the meat juices (ours were still pink when we took things off) or the softness of the meat. I hear that rare meats should feel like your chin, medium like the tip of your nose, and well done like your forehead. Feel it with your finger. It's fine!

When everything is done, flip the meat onto a plate and the mushrooms and shallots on top of it (to keep it hot). Deglaze: immediately pour another glug of vermouth into the pan. As it sizzles, use a spatula/whatever to scrape all the delicious business off the bottom of the pan. After a minute, throw the sauce over the mushroom and veal. Add some chopped parsley if you feel like it.

Now eat it instantly. Meat is only good hot. Have a green salad with vinaigrette. This can be romaine (which I had) or spinach or mesclun mix or whatever. The important thing is having some raw green vinegary thing to balance out the rich meat and mushrooms. If you alternate bites, you get some palate-cleansing effect. Then, when you've come to the end of the cooked food but still have lots of delicious buttery business all over your plate, you can dump what's left of your bowl of salad onto it, swish it around to pick up as much sauce as possible, and eat it.

Bread also works, but salad! Salad!

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