Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Veal Leg Breakdown

It seems a bit strange to use the words nostalgia and butchery in the same sentence. But cutting up veal legs released a flood of serotonin as I recalled the early eighties when I broke down my first primal leg of veal. Back then, I was working as a line cook in a now long defunct nouvelle cuisine style Franco-American restaurant in suburban Connecticut. Le Coq Hardi had three-stars from the NY Times for every year of it's eight year run. (The Times has not given stars to suburban restaurants since I don't know when. Anyone who knows, please chime it.)

The chef of Le Coq Hardi was Carl Wright, a CIA grad and, most importantly, a natural born cook who seemed to care nothing for fame and everything about the craft. Carl taught me most of what is today the base of my knowledge of butchery, and for that and much else, he has my fealty.

At Le Coq Hardi we always used the meat from the leg for escallopes de veau which, because of their lower cost, we served only at lunch, while loin chops, tenderloins and loin medallions went to the dinner table. As you will see in the accompanying slide, only a portion of the meat was broken down for cutting into scallops (aka scallopini, escallopes and cutlets). The remainder became roasts, osso bucco(i) and stew meat to satisfy the needs of our retail trade. The bones, of course, were turned into stock and the trim that would otherwise have gone into the trash or to a rendering plant was fed to our hogs.

A note on the nomenclature used in the slides

The names used to describe the different cuts on the leg are pretty subjective and the process of applying names to them can be confusing. One groups sirloin is another's outside round while others don't name the cuts at all.

Me, I used terminology from my old copy of The Meat Buyers Guide to label the cuts I made on the leg. If you have a different idea of what something should be called, I'd love to read it.

Double click the slide show to enlarge it.


redredsteve said...

Awesome post, Bob. I love me those veal knuckles. So great for stock, with all that collagen. And to think, a local meat market sells them for $1.00/# as doggy treats. I buy 'em up like candy to boost up my stock. I'm not quite brave enough to buy myself a bulk piece of meat like you're working on there, but maybe someday soon after I get through a meat fab class (and a larger fridge/freezer).

One question... what about your osso bucco cut makes it a "wannabe." It's just veal shank after all, isn't it?

redman said...

great job on that leg, Bob. very nice work cutting and cleaning it.

total non sequitor: do any other readers of this blog use bloglines? It keeps telling me it is unable to forward posts from this blog even though I have been using it since I started coming here. Not sure why. I've deleted hunger artist and restarted it several times, but keeps having same problem.

It says there are like 25 subscribers to hunger artist through bloglines, so was wondering if anyone else is having same problem.

blondee47 said...

I have been busy watching the F Word on my pc and I was shocked to learn that in England, Veal is not a popular meat to eat (F Word Series 4)....(btw this is the best and most inspiring cooking show I have ever watched)...the British film the F Word (and Nigella) in ways we don't but that's a whole other area....

Jennie/Tikka said...

Good stuff, BdG!

Lol, I think this is one of the reasons I avoid actually being employed in a kitchen...I live in fear that someone is going to say, "Hey YOU, yeah - the short chick...get in the back with the band saw and break down the lambs and the sides of beef a.s.a.p.!" :D

Anonymous said...

Another non sequitor: Seeing this post about an early mentor reminded me of another mentor you mentioned in a post earlier this Summer, Dorian Leigh. Your words inspired me to track down her autobiography. WOW! Can't say I always agreed with her POV, but her story and attitude towards life made for a great read. I only wish she talked more about her restaurant/catering careers. Thanks for the introduction.

Bob del Grosso said...


I was just playing. In Italian veal shank is stinco di vitello and it does not become osso bucco util it is cooked (as in osso bucco alla Milanese). In other words, osso bucco is a dish not a shank of veal.

So those shanks in the photo can only aspire to be a plate of osso bucco -until then they must remain stinci :-)

Bob del Grosso said...

Thanks Redman, I value your opinion.

Dorian was a pretty neat lady. She was a great help to me, that's for darn sure.

Jennie, it's just meat -and it's dead so you don't have to worry about harming it.

nhallfreelance said...

I'm sure you've heard plenty of gushing praise, but I just wanted to mention that I think this whole thing you're doing here is amazing. I have spent the last week trolling through the archives, developing what might be a somewhat unhealthy obsession, and I particularly enjoy these demos, as well as the video demos from Mr. Pardus. Thanks for putting me through psuedo CIA for free.

Tags said...

It's great to see that you're not just sitting on your haunches.

Bob del Grosso said...

Our pleasure nhallfreelance: we love this stuff.

ntsc said...

Got to get a meat saw, the kitchen hacksaw gives me inferiority complexes now.

The biggest I've ever worked with is a whole pork loin, halved to fit in the cooler.