Monday, March 15, 2010

Hold the Belly and Give Me a Breast

Pork belly may be all the rage these days, but it's time that everyone give veal breast a chance.  It's impossible not to compare the two cuts of meat: both are extremely fatty, economical cuts of meat best suited to braising.  Thanks to the David Changs and Mario Batalis of the world-- not too mention those whose idea of Sunday brunch is dim sum-- pork belly is the sexier of the two; people are probably more apt to have memories of their grandmothers cooking veal breast than they are of seeing it on a restaurant menu.  I urge you to give veal breast a try for a few reasons, not the least of which being that it's darn tasty. 

For one, it's a good bit less expensive than pork belly.  Thanks to pork belly's rising popularity, it has become a pricier cut.  The lowly veal breast, on the other hand, can be found in New York City for less than $2 a pound. 

Second, I have found veal breast much easier to find at stores than pork belly.  Pork belly may be trendy among professional and amateur cooks, but the rest of America doesn't seem to be up for cooking it.  In New York, a recipe with pork belly usually requires a trip to Chinatown or a very good butcher.  Veal breast, while ignored by the food-obsessed, must be popular enough among the rest of the population, for I have found it to be stocked at most grocery stores.  

Best of all, veal breast is a cinch to cook.  Veal breast has so much melt-in-your-mouth fat, that there's really not much you need to do with it other than season it and pop it in the oven.  The other night, I sauteed a bone-in veal breast on both sides until it was a very deep brown, then rubbed it all over with a mixture of parsley, lemon zest, salt, pepper, and lots of crushed garlic.  I put the veal breast in a Dutch oven, surrounded it with a mixture of reduced white wine and stock, then covered the pan and put it in the oven at 300F for about two and a half hours.  Served with plenty of creamy polenta, the total price of the meal came out to be about $2 per serving and only a small amount of my time.  No pork belly can beat that!

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