Veal Tenderloin (almost) Leaves Me Speechless
Thursday, 26 May 2011

At Eli’s Market yesterday, I saw something that I’m pretty sure I’d never seen before: veal tenderloin. I have no idea why I haven’t seen it; presumably, every animal that has yielded up the ingredients for saltimbocca and jarrets de veau bore a tenderloin cut as well, but even though I shop at some pretty grand provisioners, I’ve never seen it. Nor have I seen it on a menu, to the best of my knowledge. But there it was, yesterday; or, rather, there they were, slices of veal just as fat-free as beef tenderloin, but smaller and — veal-toned. They were also, each slice, wrapped in prosciutto. I asked butcher about cooking times, and something in the enthusiasm of his reply suggested that veal tenderloin was new to him as well. Then again, selling anything at $44.95 per pound would make anyone enthusiastic. My two slices weighed in at very slightly more than half a pound.

I had already picked up a packet of morels. The prices at Agata & Valentina are much lower, but it cannot be denied that Eli’s treats the morels better. The plastic box contained a clutch of perfectly firm mushrooms. I bought a nice fat shallot and a tub of veal broth. And a packet of snap peas as well.

At home, I simmered the chopped and butter-wilted shallot in the veal stock. I sliced the morels and sautéed them in a bit of butter. When it was time to eat, I browned the veal slices in clarified butter for about ninety seconds on each side; then I slid the meat into a 350º oven while I cooked everything else. The strained veal stock went into the sauté pan with a dollop of cream and the mushrooms, and when this sauce reached the right thickness, I placed the veal slices on the dinner plates, together with a handful of boiled tortellini and some snap peas. Then I spooned the sauce over the veal, dribbling it onto some of the pasta as well.

I can think of a few improvements. I might have flavored the stock with mirepoix instead of shallot. I might have gotten the sauce reduction going before cooking the veal. And I never gave a thought to herbs. But as it was, I have only two or three times in my life surprised myself with a more complexly delicious dish, and I haven’t eaten a dozen like it anywhere. Veal tenderloin isn’t by any means gamy, but it sends up a bundle of notes rather than the robust unison of beef. The morels add parts to the harmony. The result is a dish that tastes magnificent and, what’s more, lodges an extraordinary aftertaste that, last night, seemed to deepen with the passing hours. The sense of having just now eaten well lasted for hours. 

Where has veal tenderloin been all my life?