I stand over the 12" pan, sipping a deep and fruit-forward Cab from California, inhaling the aroma of breaded veal sautéing in butter, olive oil, and as much garlic as it can take.
And it is intoxicating.
Cooking is every bit as gratifying as eating. It is the process by which one earns their palatal fulfillment. Ask my wife; for me, half the pleasure in going to (or hosting) a dinner party is the time spent socializing over an ambrosial stove; all the ingredients to be consumed later still melding together and learning to play nice.
The veal is where the forthcoming L'umido di Vitello starts. Lightly breaded and then sautéed, it will soon be joined by red peppers, freshly-cut sage, and pitted Kalamata olives in an oregano-infused tomato base. Yum. Yum. Yum. Accompanied by a Greek salad (of which my ever-faithful Carmen is the master), and a fresh, warm baguette.
I assemble the ingredients together, and set the pan to stewing the concoction for another fifty minutes. Hey, a good stew takes time. But it's okay. It allows me to peruse the used copy of the Culinaria France I acquired earlier in the day for a mere twenty bucks (score!), and imbibe a bit more. This Cabernet, from V. Sattui wineries in St. Helena, California. We discovered this non-distributed winery on our honeymoon, and are finishing off the last of the case we bought. It's all about the blackberry and vanilla with this one; twenty months in French oak barrels will do that to a fella. I love the underscored anise flavor as well. I wonder for a moment if it will pair nicely with the veal stew, and then dismiss the thought. Good ingredients, good wine. That's that.
As the stew nears readiness, I start the egg noodles and once again hover over the pan, inhaling. It never gets old, the aroma of tomatoes and meat and spices working together. I revel in how many memories it brings back for me. I take another sip.
Everything is at last complete. The egg noodles are just a skosh al dente, the veal is falling apart, and the red peppers and olives are tender and sweet.
L'umido di Vitello con Pepe e Olive
1.5 pounds veal, cut into stew cubes
3/4 cup red wine (I used Cabernet, and it worked well)
28oz. crushed tomatoes
2 red bell peppers, cut into thick slices (3/4-inch wide)
1 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
5 garlic cloves, flattened with a knife blade
1 tbsp. sage, chopped
1 tbsp. oregano
Sea salt (to taste)
Tellicherry pepper (coarse-grind, if possible)
2 tbsp. butter
2 cups egg noodles
-Heat olive oil in deep pan. In the meantime, coat the veal in flour, shaking off any excess.
-When the oil is warmed, add the garlic. Sautee for 3-4 minutes and discard the cloves.
-Add the butter and melt.
-Add the veal and sautee until golden brown. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from the pan.
-Add the tomatoes and sage. Mix over medium heat until warmed, then add veal.
-Let simmer over medium heat for 30 minutes.
-Add the peppers and oregano. Let simmer for an additional 50 minutes until the veal and peppers are tender.
-Add the olives.
-Start the egg noodles.
-Simmer mixture for 5 minutes longer (approximately the same length of time the noodles need.)
-Spoon the mixture over the noodles. Sprinkle oregano or chopped parsely over top as desired.