Veal chop topped with caramelized apple wedges, served with a celeriac purée and Calvados gastrique sauce

Fruits in general, and apples in particular, are very often associated with meats like pork, duck, or even game, but very rarely with beef or veal… I presume that there are good reasons for that, although I am not sure to clearly see them. Is it a question of meat color? Not really as veal is a white meat like pork and beef a red meat like duck (at least the breasts). Is it a question of fat content? But there are cuts of beef that are abundantly marbled and veal could be relatively fat too… Honestly, I don’t have the answer.

That said, I had veal chops and I had apples, and I wanted to associate them… Those two are iconic products from Normandy. I also had crème fraîche, Calvados and hard cider. If you add a couple of cheeses like Camembert, Pont l’Évêque or Livarot, you would obtain one of those gift basket gathering all the goodies of a given region, here Normandy. I ignored the cheeses, but I kept the rest, the chops, the apples, the crème, the Calva and the cider… I also should admit that this venturous proposal was commanded by a rather empty fridge!!!

As often when I feel like tempting some unusual associations, I check on Internet if this is something that has already been made. The research “veal” + “apple” doesn’t come with a tremendous outcome, but there were some examples of this association, including one that get rid of all my possible doubts or uncertainties, a recipe by the chef of the century, by the 32 Michelin star owner, by the Jedi master of the divine purée de pomme de terre, RIP Joël Robuchon himself. If one of the greatest chef ever says that you can associate veal and apples – and in this particular case, he did more than saying it since this was the theme of one recipe of his iconic TV program Bon Appétit Bien Sûr* – I will without an hesitation make a veal chop with apples.

Robuchon’s recipe was named Côte de veau aux pommes comme une tarte (veal chop with apples, like a pie). I loved this idea of treating the veal chop as a pie crust and I kept it, although I included my personal twist: my pie will be a tarte Tatin! I also associated with a celeriac root purée, prepared in a similar way as… Robuchon’s potato purée, the earthiness of which will balance the sweetness of the Tatin type apples.

* An anecdote that Joël Robuchon himself shared with me when he participated in my first Gourmet Voice festival as its “guest of honor”. As I was telling him that I was having problems with Condé Nast (their judicial officer even showed up during the festival) with the name Gourmet Voice, too similar in their view to their magazine Gourmet (to be honest, the cursive font was also quite similar), he reassured me by telling me that he had the same problem with his program, initially named Bon Appétit, which he had to rename because Condé Nast thought this was competing with their eponymous magazine… As if Condé Nast had registered all the food-related French words!!!

Levels of difficulty
15 minutes

60 minutes

Ingredients 2 servings

§  2 small veal chops, of around 0.6 lb. each
§  2 apples (Gala here, or other apples firm enough to resist the cooking)
§  1/4 celeriac root
§  2 tbsp. of crystallized sugar
§  1 tbsp. of vinegar cider
§  3 tbsp. of crème fraiche for the celeriac purée
§  2 tbsp. of crème fraiche for the sauce
§  1 shot of Calvados
§  Butter, a lot (this a Normandy’s recipe!)
§  Salt and pepper
§  Chilled hard cider

§  First thing to do is to french the chops. This is optional, but it improves the look and the veal trims make a fabulous ingredient for stuffed tomatoes for instance. Then rub the chops with salt and thyme, and reserve.
§  Start a caramel with butter and the sugar in a large pan. Meanwhile, cut each apple in 8 wedges, with their skin, keeping an eye on the caramel. When the caramel is ready (you can smell it), add the cider vinegar and let it reduce slightly. Add the apple wedges, and let them simmer in this gastrique, returning them regularly so that each side takes a nice golden brown color, while remaining firm. Remove and reserve the wedges, while keeping preciously the gastrique base.
§  While the apples are gently turning golden, chop the celeriac in dices and cook it in salted boiling water till it softens. Strain it and mix it in the ultra-speed blender with crème fraiche. Then, strain it in a tamis mesh sifter to recuperate a silky pulp, adjust the seasoning and add some crème fraiche if need. Reserve warm.
§  In another pan, sear the veal chops in a little bit of hot oil for around 90/120 seconds on each side. Put the pan out of the burner and add the equivalent of 2 or 3 tbsp. of butter, let it melt in the hot pan, and baste constantly the chops with the butter. Reserve the chops on a grill for at least 5 minutes.
§  Put back the veal chop on the burner, on medium (5/6), to heat up the butter without burning it (it should have an “hazelnut” color, and this is its name in French, “beurre noisette”). Then add the shot of Calvados to deglaze the pan, and flambé it. When the flame is off, pour this sauce, combining meat juice, noisette butter and calvados, in the apple gastrique, heat up the whole and adjust the seasoning. If necessary (it is likely that it will be), add the necessary quantity of cider vinegar to go through the sweetness of this sauce. Strain it and pour it in a little pan, heat it up if need be, then, out of the burner, add the crème fraiche and mix it in the sauce.
§  Plate the whole, spreading the celeriac purée on the bottom of the plate. Place the veal chop on top of it and dispose all the apple wedges like you would do on a pie crust. Serve the sauce in a separate sauce pot… The last step is to enjoy this dish with the last unused ingredient, a chilled hard cider…