In honor of the 60th Anniversary of the Cannes film festival I've created a decadent dinner to enjoy at home. Think of it like an Oscar party but French! Pour a glass of champagne and enjoy watching all the televised glitz and glamour while eating grilled veal finished with herb-orange butter and white asparagus topped with sauce maltaise (an orange flavored hollandaise sauce). This recipe is straightforward and elegant. Don't be afraid of the sauce, it's really not difficult...
Before moving to Paris I had never tasted fresh white asparagus. I had only tried it once from a can and it was stringy, wet, limp, and disgusting. Although I had seen it before in markets, I never attempted to try it because of my previous experience. When I arrived in Paris some friends invited me over for a dinner of filet mignon and white asparagus served with hollandaise sauce. I couldn't believe how sweet the asparagus was and how well it pared with with the creaminess of the sauce. (of course, what doesn't hollandaise sauce taste good on?). This recipe is inspired from that first meal – Thanks Jenny & Stuart!!!
White asparagus has a very short season from April to May. Although the stalks appear white, it is really green asparagus that has been covered with at least 8 inches of mulch to keep sunlight away from the ripening spears. The spears are harvested before their tips grow through the top of the mulch. The base of the stalks tend to be woodier than green asparagus and need to be peeled with a vegetable peeler. If this step is left out, the eating experience will be not-so-nice as fibrous strings will prove difficult to cut and chew.
Sauce maltaise is just a gussied up hollandaise sauce. I prefer to make this the traditional way over the stove, but it can be made in a blender as well. Instead of thinning the egg yolks with water add reduced orange juice with some finely chopped orange zest (1 Tablespoon per egg yolk). The egg yolk and juice is then whisked over an open bainmarie of water until it has tripled in size, lightened in color, and thickened enough to see the bottom of the bowl. Next, remove from heat and slowly drizzle warm (not hot!!!) clarified butter. Reserve in a warm place (it cannot be reheated!) for up to an hour, but preferably just minutes from serving it.
Veal tends to be a sensitive subject in the U.S. because of the way it is raised. I only buy veal that has been allowed to live life outside in the open as opposed to in a crate inhibiting ability to move or stand. I once viewed a baby calf that was raised this way at a dairy farm in Holland and that memory will forever haunt me when I shop for veal at the supermarket. Veal doesn't have to be raised inhumanely to taste tender. The herb-orange butter melts over the top of the veal fillets after grilling to give it a beautiful glaze and delicate flavor.
For recipe press continue reading at bottom of the page...
Veau Grillée et Asperges Sauce Maltaise
serves 4 persons
4 fillets of veal about 150g each, bound with string
16 stalks of white asparagus
2 oranges juiced plus zest of one whole orange chopped (half of zest for herb butter, half for sauce)
325 grams of sweet butter (75g for herb butter, 150g for sauce)
2 egg yolks
Herbs: few sprigs of thyme, chives, and sage leaves
Fleur de sel
Freshly ground pepper
1. Prepare white asparagus first. Snap off ends and peel stalks with vegetable peeler. Blanch in boiling water for 6-7 minutes until tender-crisp. Cool in an ice bath to stop cooking. Reserve for barbecue in an aluminum packet with 2 Tablespoons of water to keep moist while grilling.
2. Prepare herb-orange butter. In a mixing bowl add 75g of softened sweet butter plus finely chopped herbs and zest of one half orange. Mix thoroughly with spatula. Add three to four big pinches of fleur to sel and freshly ground pepper. Butter should be salty. Place on a sheet of Saranwrap and roll up into a sausage about 1" in diameter. Freeze until ready to barbecue veal.
3. For sauce maltaise: reduce juice of two oranges to 1/2 and add the rest of the finely chopped orange zest. Cool. In another small pot melt the rest of the butter on low heat until just melted. To clarify butter pour gently into a paper towel lined strainer into another pot. Place butter back on stove to keep warm (Not hot!!! Very important!!)
4. Prepare an open bainmaire or double boiler by filling a skillet with water and setting it to simmer (not boil!). In a mixing bowl that is safe for placing in the bainmarie, whisk two egg yolks and two Tablespoons of orange juice with zest until frothy. Place egg-juice mixture over simmering bainmarie and whisk constantly. If the bowl feels too hot lift it out of the water and continue whisking. The eggs will triple in volume and lighten in color. When it is finished you will be able to see the bottom of the bowl after each whisk stroke.
5. Remove bowl and set on a dish towel to keep it from rocking. Gently pour in warm clarified butter while stiring the mixture with your whisk. Add fleur de sel to taste. Cover with Saranwrap and keep in a warm place. This sauce cannot be reheated and it is best when made moments before serving. The reduced juice and clarified butter can be made ahead of time so the sauce can be whipped up at the last minute. It should only take a minute or two to make. Keep by the barbecue so it stays warm.
6. To cook veal make a hot barbecue. Place asparagus packet off to a cool part of the grill to re-heat. Season veal generously with fleur de sel and pepper. Cover with olive oil to keep from sticking to the grill. Sear all sides of the veal quickly to lock in juices and create a nice crust. Then cook veal on a cooler part of barbecue for about 2-3 minutes each side for rosé. The accurate cooking time will depend on how long it has taken to the veal to sear. Place a thin slice of herb butter over veal right before removing from grill so it can melt.
7. Serve veal fillets with four asparagus stalks each topped with sauce maltaise. Garnish with extra blanched orange zest and herbs of your choice!