Updated: Oct 10
Nothing kick-starts the appetite like the first
nose-tingling whiff of Autumn. Here's this year's
first feast of my favorite season.
During the past year we've been chronicling various iterations of Prime Rib. (See HERE.) For an interesting and delicious variant, we recently tackled Prime Rib of Veal, a.k.a. Rack of Veal. (In the interests of uniform and clear terminology, we'll go with Rack of Veal.)
Prime Rib of Veal, a.k.a. Rack of Veal...
typically sold in 6-rib sections.
Rack of Veal belongs to the family of 4-legged rib roasts that includes, from smallest to largest, Rack of Lamb, Pork Loin Roast, Rack of Veal, and Beef Prime Rib. During my recent experiments with all of the above and my related recipe research, I arrived at the following generalization: The smaller the roast, the higher the optimal roasting temperature. This is because we meat mavens ask two main things of our roasts-- a dark and flavorful exterior crust, and a uniformly cooked (but never over-cooked) interior. For the relatively tiny Rack of Lamb, we give it a short blast in a 450-475ºF oven (convection, if available) in order to quickly bless the exterior with a crispy crust before the interior is overcooked. If we attempted to achieve the same result in, say, a 225ºF oven, we'd wind up with an interior akin to dried-out shoe leather by the time the outer crust attains a sufficiently dark and delicious hue. But at the other end of the spectrum, Beef Prime Rib slow-roasted at 200-225ºF requires several hours in the oven to attain a proper internal temperature, more than enough time to nicely brown its exterior. Furthermore, Beef Prime Rib is more "forgiving" than smaller roasts in that we can safely give such a large cut a crust-enhancing final finishing blast at 450-475ºF for few minutes without risk of overcooking the interior.
In my experience, Rack of Veal comfortably occupies a nice little sweet spot among the family of roasts. It is nearly as forgiving as Prime Rib... indeed, practically foolproof if cooked to the correct temperature; and, like Pork Loin and Rack of Lamb, it benefits greatly from a flavorful slathering of garlic, mustard, and/or herbs. And perhaps more than any other roast, Rack of Veal provides an showcase for some of one's fanciest sauce-making due to its relatively neutral flavor profile.
* * * * * * *
So-- let's look at our First Feast of Autumn 2023 in detail:
Roasted Rack of Veal
French Green Beans
The above-pictured Rack of Veal has been "Frenched," that is, the thin layer of meat and fat has been scraped from the ribs, resulting in a prettier presentation at the expense of some delicious gnawing. (I omitted this step.) MAJOR Pro-tip: Depending on the size of the roast, slicing the finished masterpiece between the ribs to allow one rib per person will likely result in portions too generous for the average diner. We instead recommend roasting on the bones and then carefully slicing the bones away, and then slicing the boneless loin into elegant portions. By doing so, this would extend the roast shown above from six to eight or even nine servings. That being said, leaving the ribs in place and slicing between them is perfectly okay when feeding a table-ful of hungry manly-man guests.
I gave the roast some high heat up front, 475ºF for about 15 minutes to get it a little brown. I then lowered the temperature to 225ºF and monitored the internal temperature as it rose up to 120ºF, knowing that I would be finishing it to the target interior temperature of 132ºF in my mother-in-law's oven. A final resting took it up to 140-145ºF, at which point the center was deliciously moist... and also perfectly light-pink, like rose quartz--
Rose Quartz is a gemstone, not the name of a Jewish housewife.
This is how the very center of your Rack of Veal needs to look.
The mushroom-Madeira sauce takes work, but it's well worth it. I slowly and thoroughly browned some sliced onions, then added sliced portobello mushrooms, gently stirring as needed. I then added a splash of cognac, burned off some of the alcohol (see HERE for advice on cooking with booze) and then added a splash of Madeira and did the same. (I could have doubled the Madeira and eliminated the cognac, but I didn't want the sweet and nutty Madeira flavors to overpower the complex and delicious wine I was serving.) I added a pinch of thyme, stirred a little more, and then added beef stock, reduced it, and finally a judicious amount of heavy cream and then carefully reduced it some more. If it tastes a bit bitter at this stage, stirring in a swirl of unsalted butter helps. (Yes, this sauce is unabashedly rich.)
The potato dish was predictably fabulous. (See article and recipe HERE.) And French Green Beans are simply a skinnier variant of regular old green beans and similarly difficult to screw up. I quickly blanched them and then simply simmered them in clarified butter.
Veal pairs well with a wide variety of wines. For an August grilled veal chop with garlic and fresh herbs, I would have poured a big and brassy Chardonnay. But with autumn comes a renewed thirst for reds, so on this occasion I opted for an opulently rich Californian Merlot. Truth be told, you ought to feel free serving whatever wine you like with this dish; the "wine police," insofar as they actually exist, are especially lenient with veal dinners.
* * * * * * *
One rarely finds Rack of Veal is the meat case at the local supermarket, but large, quality-oriented stores should be able to order it for you. It is also available from numerous online meat purveyors.
The term "veal" often activates alarm bells among animal lovers; indeed, some veal is raised more humanely than others. Information on how, exactly, your veal is raised should be readily available. On a related note--
PRO-TIP: Whole Foods Market sells veal, and I have confidence in their claims regarding their ethical sourcing.