Vitello Tonnato

Fish and Meat

Who came up with the idea to combine veal, tuna, anchovy, mayonnaise and capers?
The story goes that in the 19th century veal was prepared as if it was tuna. Sounds a bit far fetched, but tuna wasn’t eaten raw (at least not in Europe) but cooked in water with various herbs and then stored in brine or oil. Tha approach to prepare veal as if it is tuna was described in 1836 by the French Monsieur Burnet in his recipe Manière de donner au veau l’apparence et le goût du thon mariné.
In 1862 (according to Luca Cesari) a medical doctor from Milan was the first to combine tuna and veal.

Anchovy

Not a remarkable ingredient at all!
(Salted) anchovy has been used as a flavour booster in meat dishes and sauces for many centuries. For instance in the combination of leg of lamb with anchovy and garlic it will bring depths, umami and saltiness. When making a remoulade sauce you should not forget to add anchovy. And why not prepare a wonderful French Anchoiade? Or dip your vegetables in Bagna Cauda? And let’s not forget the joy of crusted bread with Tapénade (black olives, capers, garlic, anchovy and olive oil). What would a classic Caesar salad or a salade Niçoise taste like without the anchovies in the dressing? Such a useful fish!

Wine Pairing

The obvious choice is to drink a glass of Italian white or rosé wine with the vitello tonnato. A fresh wine, with a touch of acidity and not too complex, for instance a Bardolino Chiaretto or a Soave.

What You Do (Classic approach)

Given the origin of Vitello Tonnato the meat should be cooked in water with carrots, onion, leek, clove, bay leaf, thyme and pepper. The trick is not to cook it too long; you want a touch of pink in the meat when it is served. Keep some of the cooking juices to add to the sauce later on.
Create the mayonnaise by mixing egg yolks, lemon and a neutral oil (peanut or grape seed oil).

What You Need

  • 150 gram of Veal (top side or silver side)
  • Butter
  • Olive Oil
  • Mayonnaise
  • 75 gram of canned Tuna (in brine)
  • 1 Anchovy fillet (or 2 depending on your preference)
  • Lemon
  • Capers (in brine)

What You Do

We prefer to fry the meat, even if it’s historically and culinary incorrect. We think frying is quicker and gives you more control over the cuisson. Plus we feel that cooking the meat means losing flavours.
Fry the meat in a heavy iron skillet in some butter and olive oil. Not too hot! Sear the meat, lower the temperature and fry the meat until nicely rosé. Transfer the meat to a sheet of aluminium foil and let rest until lukewarm or cool. Wrap the foil around the meat, let cool and transfer to the refrigerator.
Just before serving, blender the tuna, the anchovy, a few capers, the juices from the meat (in the foil) and some lemon juice until completely smooth. Add some mayonnaise to a bowl, add a spoonful of the mixture and taste. Continue until you have the right balance. Thinly slice the veal, serve on a plate and top with the sauce. Make sure some of the meat is still visible. Decorate with the capers.

Vitello Tonnato © cadwu
Vitello Tonnato © cadwu

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s