Veal Orloff: The French Classic Fit for a Russian Prince
The dinner party staple that waits for no man...or woman.
Veal Orloff — It’s Complicated.
Say “Veal Orloff” to Americans and you get a range of reactions. Obviously, there is the recoil by those who think it’s cruel to kill a cute calf. With these people, I just move the conversation in another, safer direction, such as the best cheeseburger they’ve had that month. Much safer.
Other Americans will do that palm to sternum gesture and sigh, “Julia.” And this is spot on. Julia Child, that famous expatriate played a major role in bringing this rich saddle of veal stuffed with mushrooms and cream across the Atlantic to America, where it became a showy party piece in the 1960s. And dinner parties in the 1960s are where you get the most common response: a smile, perhaps a chuckle and the words, “The Dinner Party.”
Betty White and The Dinner Party
The Dinner Party refers to a hilarious episode of the Mary Tyler Moore Show. Mary is forced to organize a dinner party on very short notice for a visiting Congresswoman. Mary is not a natural entertainer, nor a dab hand in the kitchen, as her best friend Rhoda reminds her. So Mary persuades Sue Ann Nivens, the annoying but accomplished “Happy Homemaker” from her newsroom to do the cooking. Betty White steals the scene below, as she forces everyone to sit down as soon as the Congresswoman arrives.
“Mary, do you know what happens when Veal Prince Orlov stays too long in the oven?” Sue Ann coos.
“No, what?” asks the somewhat frazzled Mary.
“He dies,” says Sue Ann.
I’m firmly with Sue Ann on this one. I find it super hard to “create urgency” with Velvet and HRH when I’m bringing something to the table, especially if it is time-sensitive like fried eggs, which wait for no man, not even a Russian alpha male. I’m still not speaking to one of my in-laws because she chose to ignore an invitation to luncheon where I was doing individual cheese souffles.
If you are going to spend the hours it takes to construct Veal Orloff, you’d better get everyone to the table promptly
Veal Orloff is the Flashy Recipe in Your Back Pocket
Every cook needs a flashy recipe in their back pocket: something located at the tricky intersection of reliable and impressive: something to produce when meeting the in-laws for the first time, or entertaining the boss — or, indeed, a Congresswoman at home. Veal Orlov, or “French veal” as the Russians call it, is an excellent choice, featuring the dynamic duo of veal and mushrooms and so much butter and cream that it’s hard to go wrong.
Who was Prince Orloff?
Veal Orlov is not Russian, though Russians have enthusiastically embraced it as their own. It is an entirely French dish, popularized by Chef Urbain Dubois in the Russian embassy in Paris. Chef Dubois appears to be as diplomatic as his master, after whom he named the dish: Prince Nikolai Alexeievich Orlov (1827-1885), the Russian Ambassador to France
This much-decorated military commander, writer, thinker, and diplomat was one of the leading minds of his generation. Though very much part of the innermost Imperial circles, Orlov was a passionate advocate for reform. He welcomed the Abolition of Serfdom in 1861 but immediately began petitioning to end corporal punishment. He served the Tsar as ambassador in Germany, Belgium, and France, where he died and is buried.
Interestingly, an Orlov currently serves as The Russian Federation’s ambassador to France, and I feel sure that this rich and indulgent dish makes a frequent appearance at his table, as it did the Prince’s, and can on yours!
The recipe below has been modified to cut down on the fussy, time-consuming bits. Although the recipe has several stages and multiple ingredients, the soubise, the duxelles and the Mornay sauce can be prepared ahead of time, which I highly recommend. I’ve also added the step soaking the veal in a brine to begin with. Veal is very lean and therefore can dry out quickly. Brining prevents this, as well as infusing the meat with more flavor. Serve Veal Orlov with new peas, haricot vert, new potatoes, or rice.
And get everyone to the table just before serving!
- 1 gallon of brining solution (water one lemon, cloves, brown sugar and salt)
- 5 lbs boneless veal roast trimmed and tied
- 3 Tbls butter
- 2 Tbls Tbls olive oil
- 2 tsps of salt
- 1 tsp of pepper
- 2 celery ribs roughly chopped
- 2 carrots peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 large yellow onion chopped
- 1 in bouquet garni (bay leaf rosemary sprig, thyme, and Italian flat parsley) tiedcheesecloth
- 2 cup dry white wine and 1of water
- 1/3 cup long-grain white rice
- 2 Tbls butter
- 1 lb onions halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise (3 cups)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 3 Tbls butter
- 1/4 cup shallots very finely minced
- 2 cup Tbls truffles or 1/3(75 ml) of dried mushrooms
- 1 lb of white button mushrooms stems removed and finely minced.
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 tsp salt
- Black pepper to taste
- 3/4 cup Madeira
- 1 cup whole milk combined with the braising juices
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 4 Tbls butter
- 6 Tbls all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup hard Swiss cheese such as Gruyere
- 1 pinch of nutmeg
- 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Whipping cream
- 2-3 grinds of cracked black pepper
Prepare the Veal
- Tie the veal roast into a roll and soak in the brining solution for at least 1 hour. Pat dry and allow the meat to come to room temperature. Salt and pepper generously.
- Pre-heat the oven to 325ºF (165ºC). Melt 2 Tbl (30 ml)of the butter and the olive oil in an oval-shaped Dutch oven. Brown the roast on all sides for 3-4 minutes. Remove veal to a platter. Drain off all but 2 Tbl (30 ml) of the fat, reduce the heat and melt the remaining butter in the Dutch oven.
- Add the onion, carrots, and celery and toss until they are coated. Nestle the veal roast among the vegetables and bouquet garni and pour the wine/water around it. Bring to a gentle simmer, then cover and braise for approximately 75 minutes in the oven until a meat thermometer reads 145º-150ºF (62ºC - 65ºC).
- Transfer the veal to platter and tent with aluminum foil and rest for 30 minutes. Strain the braising juices and reserve.
- Cook the rice for 5 minutes, then drain and set aside. Heat the butter in a sauté pan and slowly sweat the onions until they are very soft. Add the stock and rice, cover, and cook for one hour on very low heat or in the oven with the veal.
- When the soubise is fully cooked and most of the liquid has been absorbed, puree it in a food processor fitted with a steel blade.
- Submerge the dried mushrooms in the Madeira and 1/3-cup (75 ml) of hot water and let stand for 25 minutes. Remove the mushrooms with a slotted spoon and strain the liquid through cheesecloth and set aside.
- Melt the butter in a sauté pan, add the shallots and sweat then gently cook the mushrooms until they leach, then re-absorb their moisture. Stir in cream and simmer gently until the mushrooms absorb the cream. Adjust seasoning by adding salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Combine the reserved braising liquid and Madeira, and top up with enough milk for 3 cups (710 ml) of boiling liquid. Melt the butter, and then add the nutmeg and cayenne pepper. Use a metal whisk to combine and brown slightly for 2 minutes. Add the liquid in a slow but steady steam, whisking vigorously to ensure that the mixture is free of lumps. Add the grated cheese, combining thoroughly. Dilute with cream if necessary.
- Preheat the oven to 375ºF (190ºC).
- Slice the roast into ¾-inch pieces and lay them out on a cutting board to facilitate re-assembly.
- Add the soubise to the duxelles. Spoon or pipe the mixture in between the veal slices leaving some of the stuffing exposed. Use a wooden skewer to hold the slices together on a buttered roasting pan.
- Heat half of the Mornay sauce and carefully coat the veal and stuffing. Bake for approximately 25 minutes.
- Serve with the remaining Mornay sauce.