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have you cooked vitello tonnato?

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Has anyone made Vitello Tonnato (cold veal with a tuna, anchovy sauce)? I'm planning to make my boyfriend a special celebration meal this weekend and he once told me that this was his absolute favorite dish. The only problem is that I have never eaten it before. I found a recipe online, but does anyone have any advice?
Also, what would you serve with it?
I'm living in Paris, so I don't have access to Italian veggies like kale (sob!). I'm sure I could get some good quality Italian cheeses or pasta, though.
I'd like to make the meal ahead of time and not spend all night in the kitchen, so something like risotto is out.
Since it is pretty darn cold out, a soup would be nice....
suggestions?

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  1. Sounds like there should be a level of comfort food attached to your menu. I would suggest a soup such a Pastina and Peas in chicken broth as a option. It may also resonate with your BF's childhood. As for vegetable, broccoli rabe would be my choice, but you may want to make a salad from dandelions or arugula(rocket).

    As for the veal tonnato, I have ever made it with veal from the leg, only the loin. Traditional recipes call for it to be braised or poached in water and the sauce is spread on top, so the meat can absorb the flavors, but I have only ever seen it made by roasting a veal loin or rack of veal.....the meat is then slice thinly and fanned out on a plate. The sauce is served on the side.

    http://www.vealrecipes.com/vitello-to...

    http://www.justfoodnow.com/2009/10/15...

    1. I've never had it out either, but wanted to try making it. Both times it came out really fishy tasting, doubt that is"authentic". First time because I added the oil from the can of tuna as some recommend, and second time I think I used too many anchovies, next time no more than 2 I think. So err on the side of caution with the fishy things. The second time I used pork loin instead of veal and glad I didn't waste the more expensive meat. I will monitor this and maybe give it another try in the near future, it sounds fascinating but I must be doing something wrong.

      1 Reply
      1. re: coll

        Pork loin is good; I usually use turkey breast, as we have humane issues with American veal. The sauce is also very good for dressing sliced boiled eggs (or eggs as an addition to the meat), and would work beautifully in a variation on the theme of salade Niçoise.

        Whatever you use, I very much prefer to slice the meat quite thin, and starting with a layer of sauce interleave sauce and meat in the dish, ending with sauce, then refrigerating for at least several hours, preferably overnight. It seems like it would be perishable, but the acidity acts as a preservative, and I've enjoyed it after a week or more in the fridge. I was served a portion at an overpriced tourist trap next to the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence that had a brownish skin over the sauce, having obviously been kept uncovered, and suffered no adverse consequences except for the withering contempt of the waiter...

      2. I have not made the whole thing, but I have made the sauce several times each summer. I like it with blanched green beans, hardboiled eggs and/or sliced tomatoes. It makes a great cold supper or lunch. I have been tempted to make the whole thing, if only veal weren't ruinously expensive for me. I like the suggestion of using pork. I've also heard of people using turkey for it.

        Anyway, since it is cold where you are and this is a cold dish (which HAS to be made ahead) I would go with a soup or a risotto--risotto really only takes 30 minutes, if you have your ingredients prepped ahead of time.

        What about artichokes for a veg? They do take a while steaming, but about 8 minutes in a microwave. Or steam them ahead of time and reheat.

        I think sauteed spinach would be a nice side as well.

        1. i most frequently make tuna tonnato with tuna steaks instead of veal. it's nice of you to want to surprise your b/f but this really is a summer dish, lol.

          you could start with some nice cured meats and marinated/pickled veggies. risotto, pasta or any kind of cheesey dish really would be over the top. any kind of sharp greens, like spinach or watercress sauteed and finished with lemon would be a nice side, as would crusty crispy roasted potatoes.

          1. Vitello tonnato is fabulous, but for me, the dish is all about the sauce. Therefore, instead of using pricey (and ethically challenged) veal, I usually poach chicken breasts or pork loin. Whatever meat you choose, the important elements are: tuna must be first rate and packed in olive oil, and make your own mayo. For the tuna, I've been known to splurge on Ortiz from Spain -- it is simply the best, at least in my part of the world, but you can get away with a supermarket brand if necessary. In my mayo I use half grapeseed oil and half extra virgin olive oil. I also add some preserved lemon, which you may not have on hand, but that is always my secret ingredient in mayo which always makes the flavors sing.

            7 Replies
            1. re: pitterpatter

              oh, and PLEASE, whatever you do, ignore those trendy morons who think to "improve" the dish by using fresh tuna instead of canned. Canned tuna is not only a precious commodity in its own right, but the one truly authentic substance from which this dish was originally made and of which the true version shall always be made. Amen.

              1. re: Will Owen

                Thanks very much! I will give this a try over the weekend. I think I'll go with veal since I can get pretty high quality meat at the local butcher and I assume the French treat their local animals well.
                Any thoughts on whether the recipe should include mayo? Some do, some don't. I am assuming that mayo is not in the traditional, Italian version. What do you think?

                1. re: lloreen

                  Not commercial mayo, you make a form of mayo yourself with everything else added in.

                  1. re: coll

                    Depends on the recipe. I've seen only one that calls for the sauce to be made only from tuna in oil, seasonings and lemon juice; most call for mayonnaise. Marcella Hazan says handmade only, some American ones say "either home made or Hellman's" (a brand widely considered the next-best thing). I've done mine with both kinds of mayonnaise. The mayo-less recipe is new to me and I haven't tried it yet.

                    1. re: Will Owen

                      I'm just guessing, because I made it twice with Hellmanns and wasn't thrilled. I am going to try it again with a home made, food processor version, and if it stinks (besides being fishy) I will give up.

                      1. re: coll

                        You might very well have a different set of taste receptors from me, and a different attitude towards flavors besides. I go for a very "fishy" flavor on purpose, adding a good bit of anchovy paste. One of the classic recipes I have even calls for anchovy fillets to be inserted into the veal before it's cooked (poached or "boiled", in this case).

                        1. re: Will Owen

                          That's the trouble, I haven't tasted it prepared by a classic chef. Maybe I'll be able to develop it to my taste without losing the authenticity completely.

            2. I've had a 'reverse' version with tuna carpaccio and a veal demi-glace 'gravy'. Pretty awesomely delish as well....

              1. Oh, you mention that this dinner is for this weekend so I hope I'm not posting a couple of hours too late.

                First, this is a cold dish, and much more common in warmer weather. So soup doesn't often enter the equation. But if you were to serve a hearty soup, I'd be tempted to serve the veal as a starter, maybe with some toasted Poilâne on the side at most. In an Italian meal, you won't have a side, you might have a contorno after the main event. So I might do the meat first, followed by a stew-y soup. And yes, you can find kale and chard in Paris, maybe not at Monoprix, but certainly at any well stocked market - I now shop at the open air market on boulevard Blanqui when I'm in town, but I also like Raspail, the cover market Saint-Quentin and especially marché d'Aligre. You're looking for bettes or blettes. Also look anywhere where Portuguese, Africans or Brazilans might shop. Where in town are you? You could round off the meal with salad and cheese if you want to be French about it.

                Now about the dish itself: make sure the veal roast has been out of the fridge for a while before cooking. You can cook it two ways: throw the meat celery, carrot and onion in a pot of cold water and bring to a simmer, or sauté your coarsely chopped soffritto of the same veggies, then brown the meat, then cover everything with water and simmer. Skim, add salt and pepper, maybe a bay leaf or a bouquet garni. Either way, simmer until the meat is tender, then let it go completely cold in the broth. Then remove from broth and SAVE the veggies and broth separately.

                For the sauce, use as little mayonnaise as possible. I often make it without any mayonnaise at all. In a mortar if you're a masochistic purist, or in a blender or food processor if you're not, grind/pulse a can of tuna, some chopped oil-packed anchovies, maybe a couple of capers very quickly and - here's the trick - a couple of the boiled vegetables from the stock (not too much carrot or the dish takes on an unnatural color). You don't want the sauce to be too smooth, but you don't want chunks of onion either. Continue to pulse, adding a little stock until you get the right consistency.

                Slice the meat (I like thin, but some say thick), fan out on a plate, coat with the sauce, cover with plastic film and leave in fridge. Remove 15 minutes before serving. I don't think a few leaves of parsley, some chives or a couple of capers would go amiss on top.

                Bon appétit.

                1. Um, I tend to think of kale and chard interchangeably. Bettes and blettes are easy to find in Paris, but you may also find chou frisé, which is a darker green, possibly closer to the dark Italian kale you have in mind.

                  A funny footnote to the search for different greens: in season, I pack my bags full of puntarelle, or cicoria, or agretti for a nostalgic Italian friend in Paris when I go to visit from Rome. She eats noithing but fresh greens for days, then cooks and freezes the rest.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: vincentinparisandrome

                    OK now I'm inspired to try it again. I'm not a mayo lover.