Sous Chef frequently confuses our kitchen for a restaurant. For example, Saturday was the first pre-season NFL game that he was going to be home to watch and I asked what he wanted for dinner. The answer was something along the lines of a dozen Blue Point Oysters, fish or white meat, an interesting vegetable dish and crème brulee. Okay fine. Whatever happened to pizza and beer for football?
Predictably, when I proffered a selection of recipes for The French Winophiles tour of St. Emilion, he selected “Classic Veal Orloff.” He may have been in one of his nostalgic moods about Los Angeles and confused Orloff with Prince Romanoff, an ersatz Russian Prince who owned an eponymous restaurant in Hollywood and then Beverly Hills that was the playground of the movie stars in the 40’s and 50’s. Most likely he remembers the restaurant for being the place where Jayne Mansfield engaged Sophia Loren in a display of mammary glands easily won by Jayne. Anyway, and for whatever reason, I had my marching orders.
On the surface the task sounded simple enough: not too many ingredients and an alleged 15 minutes prep time. I should have known something was wonky with this scenario. Sous Chef never picks simple and the name alone should have been a clue. In French cooking, “classic” frequently means complicated. After deciphering a recipe that was missing over half the steps, I found that “Classic Veal Orloff” is a labor-intensive recipe requiring about 4 ½ hours of active effort and the reconstitution of a cooked veal roast by stuffing between individual slices a mushroom sauce, comte cheese and bacon, then reheating under a blanket of Mornay Sauce. Unfortunately, I discovered the intricacy of this dish a little too late and had to resort to some shortcuts. This was a good reminder to read and research your recipes before starting cooking.
A little culinary history….
This classic dish dates back to about the 1850s and was created for Prince Orlov, who was an actual Russian Prince and a Russian Ambassador to France, by Chef Urbain Dubois while in the employment of the Prince. The Chef, who apparently was no dummy since he knew how to pay tribute to his employer through his cuisine, was also an author of several popular cookbooks on “French Classics” and was quoted that “The ambition of every good cook must be to make something very good with the fewest possible ingredients.” Note he said nothing about process, but he was a well-known chef and his creation is still quite popular in France and Russia where it is referred to as “French-style-meat.”
After an intensive cooking session, it was time to dine. I had selected a bottle of 2010 Château Petit Gravet Ainé from Everson Royce Wine Shop in Pasadena. (I sort of feel like a Frenchwomen cheating on her husband when I shop there as I’ve been married to K&L Wines since I discovered it a few years ago.) This St. Emilion wine is a blend of 80% Cabernet Franc and 20% Merlot and represents one of the highest percentages of Cabernet Franc you will find in wines from Bordeaux. The wine is fresh, structured and a little stuffy. The first glass reminded me of the uptight, supercilious know-it-all co-worker who needs to learn to relax a bit and could benefit from a little R & R. By the second glass it started to smooth out a bit, the spicy notes started softening and you had more of the fresh berries, plums and floral notes shining through. The tannins mellowed a bit, but you could still taste the minerality. By the third glass I started to sing La Marseillaise, but let’s not get started down that path. This wine is worth purchasing, but would benefit from a little more aging. Use a Vinturi to aerate the wine, give it a little time in the glass, and pair it with something sturdy and you will be pleased with the result. Retail price $33-$40.
In general, St. Emilion produces red wines that are robust, deeply colored, and mature quicker than other red Bordeaux. The 2010 Château Petit Gravet Ainé nicely fits this profile and paired wonderfully with the Veal Orloff. The earthy mushroom sauce that was layered between the thin slices of roast veal brought out some of the floral and spicy notes found in the wine. The rich, velvety Mornay Sauce helped soften the tannins from the Cabernet Franc. This pairing worked well together as both the wine and the entrée had multiple layers of complexity. The wine and the Veal Orloff did not shine when tasted on their own. The wine was too harsh and the Veal Orloff too rich. But together the food and wine created a balanced partnership that made each element better.
Learn more about St. Emilion food and wine pairings by visiting The French Winophiles links below. You’ll learn about the history, geography and wines of St. Emilion:
- Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla tempts the palate with To Saint-Émilion with Plum & Mustard-Glazed Pork Chops
- Jill from L’Occasion brings us Saint Emilion, Message in a Bottle
- Jeff from FoodWineClick shares a classic pairing with Foie Gras & Steak for a Right Bank Bordeaux
- Martin from Enofylz Wine Blog tells the tale of An American in Saint Emilion
- Michelle from Rockin Red Blog explores Diving into Bordeaux #Wine with #Winophiles: Saint-Emilion
Join us for our upcoming tours:
September 17th – Graves and Entre-Deux-Mers
October 15th – Jura
November 19th – Cahor and Beaujolis
- For the Roast:
- 1 – 3 pd veal roast
- 8 ounces shitake mushrooms sliced
- 8 ounces cremini mushrooms sliced
- 5 shallots thinly sliced
- 5 slices of par-cooked bacon cut in half
- 8 slices of comte cheese
- salt and pepper
- For the Mornay Sauce:
- ½ cup butter
- ½ cup flour
- ½ cup milk
- ½ cup grated comte cheese
- salt and pepper
- Preheat oven to 325.
- Salt and Pepper veal roast.
- Heat cast iron pan over high heat with a little oil. When hot, add veal roast and sear all sides. (approximately 2 minutes per side) Place veal roast in double layer of tinfoil and securely wrap. Cook on tray in preheated oven for approximately 1 hour.
- In the interim, cook Mornay sauce. To cook, melt the butter in saucepan, stir in flour and mix with a whisk. Add the cold milk and continue whisking until the sauce has thickened and you have no lumps. Add salt, pepper, and cheese, continue to stir until incorporated and cheese has melted. Grate nutmeg and incorporate into sauce. Add salt, pepper and more nutmeg to taste.
- In a large skillet, saute the mushrooms and shallots until they are cooked (about 10-15 minutes) then add ⅓ of the Mornay sauce.
- When veal is done, remove from oven and cool for 15 minutes. Slice veal roast into 9 equal parts and place a layer of the mushroom sauce, slice of cheese, slice of bacon, and spoonful of Mornay Sauce between each layer. (I found using a meatloaf pan helpful in assembly.) Top the re-assembled roast with any left over mushrooms, cheese and Mornay Sauce and broil for about 15 minutes to melt cheese.