I've decided that when the BBC series MasterChef comes knocking on my door, this is the dish I'm going to cook to impress the judges. (Never mind the fact that I need to be resident in the UK and actually apply to go on the show. I'm just saying.) I've been watching a fair amount of MasterChef Goes Large 2006 lately. It's kind of like a cross between a cooking show (which I love) and Big Brother (which I loathe, but can't resist if it involves cooking). The traditional MasterChef series was much more subdued. Serious soft voiced professional chefs toured England, filming heats of earnest pleasant amateur cooks sweating in their red, blue or yellow kitchen stations. The MC Goes Large series is a different story. The panel of two judges are ruthless in their criticisms. The participants sound a bit whiny and sycophantic as they all recite the same mantra "cooking is my passion, always wanted to be a chef, my big chance, motivated to succeed, blah, blah". But it's like waiting for a train wreck, watching them founder on the shoals of cuisine. Ooh! Too many flavors! Ooh! Ruined that sauce! Ooh! Too simple! It's fascinating.
I reckon I'd do pretty good on the show. I can handle pressure, so I think I'd learn quickly in a professional kitchen, as they have to do in one of the tests. I am reasonably creative with a set group of ingredients. And, getting back to my opening statement, I have a Dish.
Veal, grilled leek and Stilton sauce. The Critic loved it. And I'm pretty sure those two tossers on the BBC would love it too. "You can tell she really RESPECTS her vegetables," I can hear the bald one saying. (No, actually, I insult them in private: YOU! Leek! Stop slouching and make something of yourself you limp piece of vegetable!)
Actually, I think I probably could learn something from the other participants of MasterChef when it comes to the plating and presentation. But the flavors and texture worked beautifully together and I'm truly happy with this little creation. I was afraid that baking the veal would dry out the meat too much, but in fact it came out just fine and more tender than I expected. The sauce nevertheless added a nice moist covering and brought the leek and veal flavors together with its salt and sharp cheese tang.
Veal and Leek Bundles with Stilton Sauce Serves two
2 veal scallopines, pounded thin
2 small leeks, topped and tailed and washed
3-4 Tbs olive oil
1 tsp dried tarragon
1/2 glass cream sherry wine
75 grams Stilton or other mild blue cheese, crumbled
Brush the leeks with olive oil and place them on a heated grill pan. Quickly grill them on all sides until they are a little tender on the outside; they do not need to be cooked through as they will be cooked with the veal. Wrap the veal pieces around each of the leeks and secure them with string or with a skewer. Put the olive oil in the bottom of an oven-safe frying pan and place on a high flame. Brown the veal quickly on all sides. In the meantime, heat the oven to 200c. Place the pan in the oven for about 15 minutes, or until the meat is cooked through. (Alternatively, you could continue cooking on the stove top, but because I was working on the home-made pasta next to it for IMBB as a side dish I needed to get the meat out of my way.) Once it is done, remove the veal and leek bundles to a warm plate and put the frying pan back on the stove. Turn up the flame under it and add the wine. Deglaze with the wine, scraping up the bits of meat that may have stuck to the bottom of the pan. Add the tarragon and crumbled cheese and stir until you have a smooth, dark sauce.
Pour the sauce over each of the bundles before serving with a pile of soft fresh pasta or some dark leafy green vegetables. As you cut through the layers of leek and veal, be sure to dip each bite into the extra sauce before eating the bite. Your tastebuds will thank you.