Vitello TonnatoHow could food be so delicious? Vitello tonnato once blew the young Epicurean away.
I remember discovering this dish in a magazine when I was a young teenager. Cold meat? A liquefied sauce made from tuna and eggs? It was unlike anything I’d heard of at the time and I was instantly hooked. How could food be so different and delicious (I grew up a long time ago in a small Greek town far, far away, so some allowances should be made for my teenage mind)?
Vitello tonnato, an appetiser of cold veal slices smothered in a creamy tuna sauce, is a traditional recipe from the Piedmont area in the north-west of Italy. Its central valley is engulfed by the Alps and provides the ground for rich agricultural production, the lion’s share of which is devoted to raising cattle. It should come as no surprise then that beef and veal feature heavily in the region’s cuisine.
Start by cooking the meat
We start by cooking the meat. Ideally, you should find a nice piece of veal eye round (a muscle running along the upper part of the leg), but if that proves difficult to source, you could try a piece of turkey breast of similar weight. The cooking time should be a little bit shorter and the flavour will be a little milder, but the sauce will make up for that.
Place the meat in a pan that fits it snuggly and add the onion, celery, carrot, garlic, bay leaves, a sprig of rosemary, a few black peppercorns and a teaspoon of salt. Add the wine and as much water as is necessary to cover the meat. Place the pan over a medium/high heat and when the liquid comes to the boil, turn down the heat to the lowest setting, cover the pan and simmer for about an hour. Allow the meat to cool down in the broth and then remove it. Wrap it tightly in cling film and place it in the fridge until you are ready to serve.
Prepare the tuna sauce
Strain the broth to remove all the vegetables and set it to one side while you prepare the tuna sauce. Place the hard-boiled eggs, anchovies, tuna, 1 tablespoon of capers, a few drops of balsamic vinegar and a few drops of lemon juice in a blender. Blend the mixture for a few seconds and slowly add the oil and some of the cooking broth until you have a rich, creamy sauce, thin enough to pour, but thick enough to sit on top of the sliced meat.
When you are ready to serve, cut the meat across the grain in 4mm slices and arrange on a large platter. Spoon the sauce onto each slice and garnish with the remaining capers, a few slices of lemon and some more anchovies. Serve as an appetizer accompanied by a crisp white wine.
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