Saturday, September 12, 2015

Côtelette de veau Lapérouse

     Dijon Mustard Breaded Veal Cutlet Topped with Emmantaler Cheese and Minced Ham!
     This recipe was one that I originally learned from a Swiss chef at a trendy bakery-café in Philadelphia back in the early 1980's.  The chef's Lapérouse recipe was made with a breaded chicken breast filet and Emmantaler Cheese but it was not topped with minced ham.  
     About ten years later I was working for a German chef at a yacht club.  Once per week the yacht club hosted an International Cuisine Night, which involved offering a limited 7 item menu of international entrées.  The menu items changed each week in order to expand upon the culinary knowledge of the guests.
     Often the club manager requested an obscure menu item for International Night and very little information about the food item was provided.  Basically the manager scribbled down the name of a recipe from an old cookbook and nothing else.
     One week the manager requested Veal Lapérouse.  I honestly could not remember how to make this recipe, so I asked the chef how it is made.  The chef told me that he did not have a clue as to what Veal Lapérouse was!  I had two days to find the Veal Lapérouse recipe before it hit the board on International Night, so off the the public library I went.
     I actually found an old French travel guide journal that had a brief description of Veal Lapérouse.  The description also had a photo of the entrée.  All it took was one look and I remembered the Lapérouse recipe that I cooked in Philadelphia about 10 years before.  All I can say is that the recipe version that I cooked earlier in my career was obviously toned down due to the restaurant's mall location.  Chicken was more politically correct in a mall setting than veal.
     The French travel guide recipe description showed that minced ham and a local cheese was placed on the schnitzel before baking.  The travel guide journal mentioned that the recipe came from a restaurant in a French town near the border of Switzerland.  Everything started to make sense about this recipe, because the style of this veal entrée looked like it had some Swiss influence.
     I ended up mimicking the Lapérouse recipe version that I found in the travel guide on International Cuisine Night at the yacht club.  To my surprise the manager exclaimed that the recipe was absolutely correct and the guests like the Veal Lapérouse entrée.

     When I decided to write the Veal Lapérouse for today's article, I figured that I would do some research in order to double check the recipe.  Absolutely no information about Veal Lapérouse could be found on the internet.  This was no surprise, because many old classic fine dining recipes tend to be lost relics that are cast aside in modern times.
     However, the name Lapérouse did set set off many bells and whistles on the internet search engine results.  Researching the name Lapérouse could provide valuable clues about the origins of the veal recipe.
     According to encyclopedias, the name "Lapérouse" in the veal recipe title refers to Jean-François de Galaup, comte de Lapérouse.  As it turned out, Lapérouse was a French naval officer and explorer.  Lapérouse was lost at sea in the year 1788.
     The chef that designed the Veal Lapérouse recipe might have been a galley chef on Naval Officer Lapérouse's sailing ship in the late 1700's.  This might be stretching it a bit, but anything is possible.  The ingredients required for making Veal Lapérouse fit in with food that was prepared for captains back in the age of tall ships, both offshore and at fine restaurants on land.
     The reality is that the Veal Lapérouse recipe more than likely falls into the chef's interpretation category.  In other words, a chef in Lapérouse's home town or somewhere in France decided to honor the lost French Naval Officer by creating a fitting recipe.
     In my opinion, Veal Lapérouse seems like an entrée that would be well liked by a French Naval Officer in the late 1700's.  The flavors are uncomplicated, yet sophisticated enough for an officer's personal taste.  It is evident that whoever the chef was that created Veal Lapérouse way back when, really put some thought into the design of this appealing commemorative entrée.
     Timeless recipes that have a seagoing background, like the lost French Naval Officer explorer theme of Veal Lapérouse, are well received by yacht club guests.  Spinning yarns about naval history often is part of a yacht club dinner conversation and the story of Lapérouse is more than just interesting.

     Côtelette de veau Lapérouse:
     This recipe yields 1 entrée.
     Step 1:  Select a 5 to 6 ounce veal leg cutlet that is sliced thin.
     Place the veal cutlet on a counter top and cover it with a piece of plastic wrap.
     Gently pound the veal leg cutlet with a meat mallet or wine bottle till it is thin.
     Step 2:  Place 1 large egg in a mixing bowl.
     Add 2 tablespoons of dijon mustard.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Add 1 tablespoon of milk.
     Add 3 pinches of rubbed tarragon.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and black pepper.
     Whisk the dijon mustard and tarragon egg wash, till it is well blended.
     Step 3:  Dredge the veal cutlet in flour.
     Dip the floured veal escallop into the mustard egg wash.
     Dredge the veal in plain fine French bread crumbs.
     Step 4:  Heat a sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of vegetable oil, lard or duck fat.
     Place the breaded veal in the hot grease.
     Pan fry both sides of the veal cutlet, till it is a light golden brown color.
     Step 5:  Place the fried veal cutlet on a baking pan.
     Sprinkle 2 to 3 tablespoons of grated Emmentaler Cheese (Swiss Cheese) on the veal cutlet.
     Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of minced roasted ham on the cheese.
     Step 6:  Place the pan in a 300ºF oven.
     Bake till the cheese softens and melts.  (Do not allow the cheese to brown!)
     Place the Veal Lapérouse on a plate.
     Garnish the veal with a few small Italian Parsley leaves.
     Serve with vegetables of your choice.  (Turned oven roasted potato and broccoli accompany the entrée in the photos.)

     A simple French veal recipe that has a nice old time flavor!

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