A majestic roast emerges from this recipe. The breast is the vessel that holds the aromatic stuffing. There is not that much meat on a breast—just a few flaps with 7 or so rib bones. The bones add flavor and can be eaten like spareribs. The stuffing perfumes the meat and keeps it moist while roasting. The veal is really a full-flavored meal in itself, but you can serve it with small potatoes roasted in olive oil with sea salt and black pepper or a simple unadorned soft polenta.
Maria Helm Sinskey likes to grind her own meat with a hand grinder. She places the assembled grinder in the freezer for a few hours before using so they'll stay cool while grinding. She also freezes the bacon and the veal for an hour so the stuffing will stay well chilled while grinding. It is important that your hands and all surfaces are impeccably clean and that all meat stays chilled. Chill the stuffing in the refrigerator before filling the breast. Your butcher might also grind your veal and bacon together for you if you ask him nicely.
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 pounds spinach, stemmed and washed
Sea salt and black pepper, freshly ground
1 pound morel mushrooms or a mix of wild and cultivated mushrooms
1 cup chicken stock
2 1/2 to 3 pound breast of veal, well trimmed
1 1/2 pounds veal, coarsely ground
1 pound applewood or lightly smoked bacon, chopped or coarsely ground
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 large shallot, minced
1 tablespoon thyme leaves, chopped
2 teaspoons rosemary, chopped
1/4 cup Italian parsley, chopped
How to Make It
Place 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large sauté pan and brown lightly over medium-high heat. Add the spinach and cook until all its liquid evaporates. Season with salt and pepper. Drain in a strainer and squeeze dry. Chop finely and chill.
Trim the stems from the morels with a pair of sharp scissors. Check the cavities for pebbles or dirt. To quickly wash the morels, fill a large bowl with cold water, dip the mushrooms into the water and swish vigorously. Lift them from the water and drain. Repeat if there is a lot of dirt that has settled in the bottom of the bowl. Usually one time is sufficient. Cut large mushrooms into bite-sized pieces. Leave smaller ones whole.
Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. After the butter has browned, add the morels. Sauté for a few minutes, until their liquid is exuded. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Add the chicken stock and cover. Braise the morels over low heat for 30 minutes. Uncover and continue to cook until all of the stock has been absorbed, 5 to 10 minutes. Cool the mushrooms before using.
Cut a pocket in the veal breast or have your butcher do it. At either end of the breast, there are boneless flaps of meat. These are your starting points and the technique is the same for both ends. Push your knife through the center of the flap and cut a slit 3 inches long across the width of the breast, the width being from the top to the bottom of the bone. Head towards the first rib with the tip of your knife and when you hit the rib, run the edge of the blade along the length of the bone from top to bottom, loosening the meat on top of the bones to form a pocket. Take care not to make a hole in the edge of the top or bottom of the breast. Make the pocket as deep into the length of the breast as you can, using the rib bones as a guide. Then repeat on the other end so that the pocket meets in the center. The pocket will expand as it is stuffed.
Mix together the ground veal, bacon, spinach, morels, garlic, shallot and herbs. Season the stuffing well with 2 teaspoons of salt and some black pepper. Test the seasoning by making a small patty and sautéing it in olive oil until it is well cooked.
Preheat the oven to 475°. Stuff the pocket with your hands, pack the stuffing in well. Secure the slits with toothpicks; it's fine if some of the stuffing spills out while the meat is roasting. Season the breast well with salt and pepper and place it in a large roasting pan. Roast in the preheated oven for 20 minutes.
7. Add 1/2 cup of water to the pan. Reduce the heat to 325° and roast for 1 1/2 to 2 hours longer, until a meat thermometer registers 130°. Let the breast rest covered with foil for 15 to 20 minutes so that the juices have a chance to settle. Remove the breast to a serving plate and drizzle the pan juices over the top. Slice along the bones and serve.
The breast can be stuffed a day ahead of time to allow the flavors to marry.
Store in the refrigerator well wrapped.
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