Vitello Tomato

Fashion in food is a two-edged sword: to be at the cutting edge can be exhilarating but it is all too easy to contrive for the sake of novelty. Some of the more bizarre combinations favour neither the mixture of produce, nor the palate of the restaurant diner being subjected to innovation for its own sake. This combination of meat and fish sounds odd, but the result is proven and has stood the test of time, though Vitello Tomato has rather gone out of favour. All the more reason for resurrecting it.

Here the veal is roasted rather than poached and the sauce is made as one process rather than a two-stage affair where mayonnaise is made first The roast veal could simply be eaten hot with boiled new potatoes and Salsa Verde, as this is the classic Italian way of roasting veal. I remember a particularly delicious example eaten at the Agip service station on the autostrada just south of Florence: a thick slice of roasted rump served absolutely plain with only a wedge of lemon and the juices which ran out of it Not the sort of thing one finds at service stops on a British motorway.

Many people refuse to eat veal because of the way some of it is raised. For those so concerned, turkey breast joints can be cooked, glazed and served with a tuna sauce in just the same way to make Tacchino Tomato, which is also a much cheaper dish. Using butter instead of olive oil, seal a 1 kg/lb turkey joint as described below and then roast in an oven preheated to 190°C/375°F/gas5 with the wine and herbs, for 30-40 minutes until firm. Turn and baste from time to time. If the pan dries out add more wine or a little water. Allow to cool on a plate and reduce the cooking juices in the pan to about a tablespoon of syrupy brown residue. Pour this over the joint to glaze and then slice and proceed as below.

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Ingredients

  • 900g/2 lb piece of veal, boned, rolled and tied neatly (this may sound like rather a lot of meat but having some left over for sandwiches is a nice idea)
  • about 150ml/¼pt dry white wine
  • sprig of rosemary
  • 24-36 capers (salt-packed are best)
  • 100g/ oz canned anchovy filets (those packed in olive oil are nicest - the best anchovies are plain and rose-coloured; poor anchovies are dull, grey-tinged and miserable looking)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper

For the One-Step Tuna Sauce

  • 1 lemon
  • 1 garlic clove
  • sprig of flat leaf parsley
  • 200g/7 oz best dolphin-friendly canned tuna, drained
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 500ml/16 fl oz olive oil (not extra virgin)
  • 250ml/8 fl oz sunflower oil

Utensils

  • 30×20cm / 12×8in oval Le Creuset (or similar) casserole
  • food processor

Method

Mise en Place

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas4 • Rinse the capers and anchovies if salted and pat dry with paper towels. Split the anchovy fillets along the central line to give two thin strips.

Prepare the sauce ingredients: juice the lemon. Peel and finely chop the garlic. Destalk the parsley leaves.

Cooking

To roast the veal: rub the veal with salt and pepper. Put the casserole over a medium-to-high heat, pour in a little olive oil and seal the veal until a lovely golden brown all over - not blackened.

Add the white wine and rosemary, and cook in the oven for about 40 minutes. Check from time to time and if the wine evaporates completely add a little more.

Remove from the oven and finish over a high heat on the hob, rolling the veal around to gloss the outside with the reduced wine and cooking juices. Leave to cool completely.

Meanwhile, make the one-step tuna sauce: put all the ingredients except the oils into the food processor. Leave the eggs whole - there is no need to exclude the whites. Process for 30 seconds or until you have a smooth paste. Now add the sunflower oil followed by the olive oil a little at a time, processing continuously, until thickened. Taste for seasoning and adjust, adding more lemon juice if you find it is too bland.

Serving

Cut the veal into thin slices and arrange, slightly overlapping, to cover a suitably sized serving plate. Spoon over the sauce and arrange the anchovies over the top in a lattice pattern, then dot the capers in the centres of the lattice diamonds.

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