People ask me all the time what I learned on MasterChef. Here it is in a nutshell: Don’t cry over spilt milk because it really does not matter. It makes you look like a hideous bloated creature and a total wuss. More importantly, Do not EVER (I repeat) EVER apologize for your food.
Yes, you can humbly take criticism and learn from your mistakes but the easiest way to get over your kitchen intimidation is to trust your gut and serve up your dish with pride. As the ever-charming Julia Child once said, “Maybe the cat has fallen into the stew, or the lettuce has frozen, or the cake has collapsed. Usually one’s cooking is better than one thinks it is. And if the food is truly vile, then the cook must simply grit her teeth and bear it with a smile.” Or you could challenge your critics to do better. I find this normally shuts them up.
By the time Julia Dent Grant was in the White House, she was well versed at entertaining and soaked up every minute of the experience like a sponge. This; however, came with years and years of practice. Her veal recipe (you are welcome to use a white meat substitute if you aren’t a fan) was from one of her first evenings of entertaining. The Grants were recently married and Julia was panicking about what to serve her husband’s army friends as she had little experience in the kitchen. Ulysses offered to help, noting he could “run up a savory mess himself, if need be”, a skill he learned at West Point. She insisted on cooking alone and created the recipe below, which became a family favorite.
Julia traveled to be as close to the General during the war as possible, cooking for her family and holding down the proverbial fort. She was thrilled that her husband finally earned the recognition he deserved by becoming President, and that she would get to prove herself to Washington society. She did just that, at exorbitant cost. Her tastes, both in food and ambience, were by no means understated. She dismissed the army chef that President Grant had hired and replaced him with an Italian chef, Melah. Melah created lavish menus for state dinners, many with twenty nine courses, that kings would find filling. With all the historical accounts of opulence, there are also accounts of the more humble family dinners they enjoyed. Their light-hearted dynamic and insistence on eating together really gave the White House the warmth it needed after the war. Julia would set six extra places for visitors in case they popped by and President Grant would occasionally have food fights with his kids, while enjoying a tipple. See if the Julias can do it, you can do it and if it doesn’t turned out as planned; you have another excuse to get together.
Julia Dent Grant’s Veal [Rolls]
In her own words from the Library of Congress
· 6 veal cutlets
· 1 cup [panko] breadcrumbs
· kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
· 2 tbs butter
· 2 eggs, beaten (or 1 Tbsp cream cheese)
· 1 small onion, finely chopped
· Olive oil
· Optional: 2 handfuls fresh spinach
'Slice as large pieces as you can get from a leg of veal; make a stuffing of grated bread, butter, a little onion, minced, salt, pepper, and spread over the slices. Beat an egg and put over the stuffing; roll each slice tightly and tie with a thread; stick a few cloves in them, grate bread thickly over them after they are put in the skillet, with butter and onions chopped fine; when done lay them in a dish. Make their gravy and pour over them. Take the threads off and garnish with eggs, boil[ed] hard, and serve. To be cut in slices.'
· I would suggest pounding veal cutlets with a meal mallet under thin as possible. They will cook fast.
· For the filling, precook it:
o put butter in a skillet,
o add the onions and sweat
o All the spinach until wilted (optional)
o Add salt and pepper
o If you are using cream cheese instead of eggs, add now.
· When cool, add the breadcrumbs.
· Put stuff over the veal and add egg (if not using cream cheese).
· When tying meat there are many options, but I find using toothpicks is the easiest and most efficient. Just remember to take them out!!!!
· Heat 1 glug of olive oil in an ovenproof heavy skillet and brown veal on all sides. Move skillet to oven and bake veal until just cooked through, about 5 minutes. Rest for five minutes before serving.
· I would not suggest the boiled eggs but go for it if you are in need of a protein fix.
· To make a quick pan sauce to top, add some white wine and scrap off the brown bits. When it has reduced for two minutes, add a knob of butter.