20 November 2012

Slow Cooker Veal Marsala - using British Rose Veal at its best

Ever since I discovered British Rose Veal and first became aware of the plight of the male dairy calves, I've wanted to encourage everyone I meet to give a try to British Rose Veal.  Now, if this recipe doesn't do that, I guess there's no hope for you all.

As always, when I receive something new to work with, I have a look across the internet to see what other people are doing with it - and then do something different.  Well, at the very least it shows me which sorts of recipes are used a lot (and so I'll steer clear of those) and more to the point, it demonstrates what are the popular methods of cooking the item.  Sometimes, you see, I haven't a clue what temperature to use or how long for, etc.

With this British Rose Veal, because Farmers Choice Free Range Ltd had kindly sent a number of different cuts, I'd had plenty of opportunity to explore some different recipes and methods, so having got to know the meat a bit better, I was better able to consider doing justice to a classic recipe.  Apart from Wiener Schnitzel, one of the most popular recipes seemed to be Veal Marsala.

Look how lean the veal is!  Just beautiful.
Now, the cut of British Rose Veal I had available for this recipe was some escalopes - and the Wiener Schnitzels had been calling to me from way back down the ages.  I can remember my parents ordering Wiener Schnitzel when I'd been going through my Bockwurst & Kartoffelsalat phase, when we lived in Germany.  However, Veal Marsala had the additional attraction of being new to me.  Plus, we'd been after a bottle of Marsala wine for absolutely ages - and this gave me the perfect opportunity to finally track one down!

So - and I still have a small niggling regret that we didn't get the chance to do Wiener Schnitzels - I settled on Veal Marsala and the hunt for the wine was on.

Mise en place - including the elusive Marsala
Having checked out three local supermarkets and a couple of off licences, we had drawn a blank.  So what do you do, when you can't find what you're looking for in the shops these days?  Why, ask on Twitter, what else?  One of my lovely foodie friends pointed us in the direction of our local Sainsbury's - where we'd been already - but with directions as to what to look for.  There, hiding behind some other bottles, hubby found the elusive Marsala wine.  Success!

I had been giving the recipe some serious contemplation, involving researching so called "classic" versions of Veal Marsala and some rather less than "classic" versions.  I wanted to keep to a fairly classic representation of the recipe, but knew that I'd be cooking it in the slow cooker.  Now when Veal Marsala was first developed and recorded, slow cookers hadn't been invented.  Hence, there aren't very many recipes out there dedicated just to Veal Marsala in the slow cooker.  I knew I'd have to make some adaptations and adjustments to the traditional recipe.

However, as it turned out, the traditional recipe is remarkably simple.  How often does that happen?  Some of the best, classic, traditional recipes often turn out to involve just five or six ingredients.  I can understand this move towards "keeping it simple"!  So converting the recipe to be used with the slow cooker wasn't difficult.

Shallot, carrot, mushroom & tarragon

My recipe involves two large departures from the traditional.  Firstly, is the inclusion of some finely chopped mushroom at the mirepoix (ordinarily, celery, onion & carrots) stage.  I had found that mushroom goes so very well with veal, that I felt it was worth boosting the mushroom flavour from the button mushrooms.  Hence the addition of the finely chopped mushrooms which would ultimately just dissolve into the sauce/gravy and become an intensely mushroom background flavour.

Into the slow cooker - and forget about it for 4 hours

Secondly, is the inclusion of some tarragon herb.  Now, I will admit that this was an afterthought brought on by finding some surplus-to-requirements leftover tarragon in the fridge.  It just struck me that as both chicken and pork use tarragon to such good effect, that I couldn't see how it wouldn't be able to produce the same results with veal.

These two additions to the recipe increased the layers of flavour in the end result - and I thoroughly recommend them to you.

I had quite expected the veal escalopes to fall apart in the slow cooker , but in fact they were quite robust and held together very well.  They were, of course, meltingly tender and the button mushrooms were just a joy.  They had absorbed the flavour of the Marsala wine and were like little juicy flavour bombs - just scrumptious.

As predicted, the finely chopped mushroom had dissolved and wasn't in evidence, but had left a scaffolding of mushroom flavour that held that sauce up beautifully.  The tarragon was there, but not dominant in flavour - which was as I had hoped.  The lovely Marsala wine - which in its natural state tastes not unlike a fine sherry - was very definitely the dominant flavour in the sauce, which is as it should be.  Because of its inherently natural sweetness, the British Rose Veal is the perfect bedfellow for the Marsala wine - with the carrots and shallots adding points of savoury sweetness (if there is such a thing) along the way.  I was glad of the mushrooms and tarragon, as they stopped the dish from becoming too sweet and was pleased with the effect of the additional mushroom in the sauce.

On the whole, I think this was one of my most successful recipes involving British Rose Veal to date.

I served the veal with mashed potatoes, parsnip, carrot, swede, broccoli and brussels sprouts.  I may have got slightly carried away on the vegetable front there - but at least we got our five-a-day in! 


Ingredients :

1 tbsp rapeseed oil
a knob of butter
500g British Rose Veal escalopes
2 banana shallots, quartered and sliced finely
4 chestnut mushrooms, chopped finely
1 large carrot, peeled, quartered and diced finely
a small bunch of parsley, chopped finely
2-3 sprigs of fresh tarragon, chopped finely
150g button mushrooms, cleaned and left whole
150ml Marsala wine
150ml veal stock (I used Essential Cuisine's veal stock - but chicken would do at a pinch)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
a small amount (2 tsp approx) cornflour.

Method :

1.  Heat the butter and rapeseed oil in a frying pan and, once the butter has melted, brown the escalopes on both sides.  Remove to the slow cooker and turn to low.  Replace the lid.

2.  Add a little more rapeseed oil if necessary to the pan and add the shallots and cook on a moderate heat until the shallots are transparent and softened.

3.  Add the chopped mushrooms and carrots and continue to cook until the mushrooms have taken on the butter and oil and appear softened.

4.  Add the parsley and tarragon and stir through.

5.  Decant the whole lot into the slow cooker, add the button mushrooms and replace the lid.

6.  Allow the pan to heat up again and, once hot, add the Marsala wine and allow to frizzle for a moment or two, before adding the stock and a little sea salt and black pepper.

7.  Decant the mixture into the slow cooker and gently stir to combine evenly.  Replace the lid and turn to medium.  Forget about it for the next 4 hours.

8.  Once the time is up, gently remove the escalopes to a plate and add a little water to the cornflour in a small bowl - just enough to get the cornflour moving.

9.  Add half the cornflour to the slow cooker and stir briskly to prevent any lumps forming.  If the sauce requires further thickening, add the other half of the mixture until the sauce is at your preferred consistency.

10.  Re-introduce the escalopes to the sauce and replace the lid for some 5-10 minutes, just to bring the meat back up to temperature.

Serve with mashed potatoes and a selection of steamed vegetables.

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