By early August most people have had their fill of hamburgers, hot dogs, spare ribs and chicken -- even steak -- as summer fare, whether cooked outdoors or indoors. Our culinary imaginations seem to give way to convenience and ease of preparation during the heat of the summer months. Well, I think most of us are ready for a different kind of summer party -- something cold, easy to prepare and elegant.
Many stores now offer veal breast ready for stuffing -- if not every day, at least occasionally. Veal breast is relatively inexpensive but succulent. Though the preparation takes some time, it doesn't require much skill, and the results are excellent.
Veal always has so much natural gelatin in it that the addition of 2 envelopes of unflavored gelatin to the cooking liquid will turn the pan juices into a magnificent natural aspic that looks beautiful around a deboned, sliced, stuffed veal breast, which you can make a day ahead.
You can garnish the dish with hardcooked eggs cut in halves or wedges. And instead of using them as is, you can remove the yolks, add a bit of mustard and some cream cheese or butter, blend well and spoon the mixture back into the firm whites.
Cherry tomatoes, radish roses, thick cucumber slices with scored skin and fresh tiny raw mushrooms all make beautiful edible decorations for a large platter.
Veal breast goes beautifully with a mayonnaise-type potato salad or macaroni salad, but a large fresh green salad is just as good.
Because this is a party recipe, I use 2 whole veal breasts. But you can easily halve the recipe. COLD STUFFED VEAL BREAST (12 servings) 2 loaves (1 pound each) Vienna bread, 2 to 3 days old, toasted and cubed 8 eggs 2 cups milk or hald-and-half 2 whole veal breasts, 2 to 3 pounds each, trimmed 8 ounces ground veal from trimmings 6 tablespoons shortening 1 cup finely minced onion 1 teaspoon finely crushed marjoram 2 teaspoons salt 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt 4 hard-cooked eggs, cut into wedges then cross cut 1 1/2 teaspoons chef's salt (see below) 1 cup coarsely chopped onion 1 cup coarsely chopped carrots 1 cup coarsely chopped celery 2 garlic cloves, sliced thin 8 to 10 peppercorns, bruised 2 sprigs parsley 1 can (10 3/4 ounces) chicken broth diluted with 1 can water 2 envelopes (2 tablespoons) unflavored gelatin 1 cup cold water Chef's Salt 1 cup salt 1 tablespoon paprika 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 1/4 teaspoon white pepper 1/4 teaspoon celery salt 1/4 teaspoon garlic salt (not garlic powder)
(Mix all chef's salt ingredients well and keep in a covered jar.)
Soak cubed bread, including crumbs, in mixture of eggs beaten with milk.
Trim veal breasts and be careful not to cut into pocket. Cut trimmings into very small cubes and grind. Ground veal should total about 8 ounces from both breasts -- a little either way won't affect the recipe.
In a skillet, melt 3 tablespoons shortening. Add 1 cup finely minced onion and saute until onions turn translucent. Add ground veal, marjoram, salt, garlic salt and hard-cooked eggs. Mix well by hand.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Stuff veal breasts with bread mixture, then rub breasts with chef's salt. Sew opening with white thread or secure with poultry skewers. Place in roasting pan. Heat 2 to 3 tablespoons shortening until very hot, then spoon over breasts. Scatter coarsely chopped onion, chopped carrots, chopped celery, sliced garlic, peppercorns and parsley in pan around meat. Add chicken broth diluted with water.
Cover and roast 1 hour 15 minutes to 1 hour 25 minutes. Baste once after 1 hour. Increase heat to 450 degrees, remove cover from pan and finish roasting at high temperature, basting every 5 minutes for 15 to 20 minutes, depending on size. Remove from oven and place veal breasts on cookie sheet to cool.
Meanwhile, strain pan juices and gently press vegetables through a sieve, then discard. Skim fat from juices and add gelatin dissolved in cold water. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Add cold water if necessary to make 1 quart. Strain, press gently through a fine sieve, then through a wet cloth into a glass container,and chill. This will make a lovely aspic.
Wrap cooled veal breasts in foil and press flat between two surfaces such trays, cookie sheets or chopping boards. Refrigerate.
To serve, slice cold and arrange on platter with plenty of green parsley and stuffed or plain hard-boiled eggs and assorted pickles. Dice aspic and arrange around meat on platter.