Stuffed Veal Pocket (Breast)

A veal pocket is what you have left after you perform the arduous task of trimming the veal breast. That’s an active muscle at the top of a veal calf’s foreleg, and is known to butchers as a veal breast. Almost every recipe you see for this says to get the butcher to trim it out for you. This is understandable: doing it yourself may result in a singularly unattractive, scrappy mess. The problem is that even if you can find a butcher in a supermarket anymore, the job of trimming a veal breast is not one he relishes. Especially considering that this is a very inexpensive cut of meat.

Nevertheless, every year at holiday time I get a lot of calls and e-mail from readers who want to know how their grandmothers made a stuffed veal pocket. Of the few who actually do it, most cooks say it was delicious and tender, but so much work they’ll never do it again. Because this is a strong muscle, it needs long, slow, moist cooking. The stuffing helps, if you have enough vegetables in there. Good luck!

Stuffed veal pocket

Stuffed veal pocket

  • 1 veal breast, 4-6 lbs.
  • Stuffing:
  • 1 medium fennel bulb, chopped (about 1/2 cup
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 20 sprigs flat-leaf parsley, leaves only, chopped
  • 1/4 lb. capicola or prosciutto, sliced thin and chopped
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 Tbs. lemon juice
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 cups finely grated bread crumbs

1. Unless you are very lucky and you’ve bought a fully-trimmed veal pocket from the butcher, trim the veal breast of the excess fat and connective tissue. Keep in mind that you want to make a pocket in there, so as you cut away the gristly parts, be gentle with the lean, meaty parts. Take your time and you’ll get it. Season the pocket with salt and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a skillet over medium heat, cook the fennel and onions until the fennel is tender. Remove the pan from the heat and add all the other ingredients, stirring to blend completely. Remove from the pan.

3. Return the pan to the burner and add a tablespoon of olive oil. When it shimmers, put the veal breast in and brown it on each side. Remove from the pan to a cutting board.

4. When the veal has cooled enough to handle, stuff the stuffing into the pocket, as much as will fit. It’s a good think to really pack it in there. Close the pocket to the extent possible with toothpicks or string.

5. Put the veal pocket on a broiler rack above a pan of water, and into the oven at 350 degrees. Roast until a meat thermometer inserted into the center reads 175 degrees–about an hour and fifteen minutes.

6. Move the veal pocket to a clean cutting board and allow to rest for ten minutes. Slice and serve.

Serves four to six.

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