serves: 6 servings
Veal chops are always something of an extravagance, though worth it when well prepared. In this exciting recipe from Valle d'Aosta, thick rib chops are stuffed with the region's prized fontina, browned, and braised on the stovetop, then baked. The result is quite grand, because the succulent meat and pan sauce are enriched with driblets and hidden pockets of sweet melted fontina. And if you want to go superluxe for a special occasion, shave fresh truffle on top of each chop just before serving. To return to earth, however, let me point out that you can make costolette alla fontina in more modest versions that are absolutely delicious and much easier on the pocketbook. For instance, you can form veal scallopine into envelopes to enclose the fontina, or stuff a veal loin chop, a thick pork chop, or a plump chicken breast in place of the veal rib chop. You may have to adjust the amount of cheese you put inside, and adjust the cooking time at each step to avoid overcooking. But if your meat, wine, olive oil, tomato paste, and broth are of fine quality, and-most important-if you use real fontina (and Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano), you will produce a splendid dish.
6 bone-in veal rib chops, about 1 1/2 inches thick, 8 to 10 ounces each
2 teaspoons kosher salt
8 ounces Fontina cheese, shredded, from Valle d 'Aosta
1 cup Grana Padano, grated, or Parmigiano-Reggiano
4 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup all-purpose flour, for dredging, plus more as needed
12 sage leaves
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cups white wine
½ cup chicken broth, hot
Arrange an oven rack to accommodate the covered saucepan, and heat oven to 400 degrees. Trim the chops, leaving only a thin layer of fat. With a sharp, thin knife, slice horizontally into the outer edge of each chop, splitting the meaty portion in two almost all the way to the bone, forming a pocket for stuffing. With the mallet, pound and spread the meaty part, flattening it to 1/2-inch thickness. Lift the top flap of the meat you just sliced apart, hold it up, and pound the bottom flap of meat few more times, spreading it thinner and wider than the upper flap. When all the chops are sliced and pounded, salt them on both sides, using a teaspoon in all. Toss together the shredded fontina and the grana (grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano), and divide the cheeses into six equal portions. One at a time, lightly compress the cheese portions into oval patties, and slip them into the sliced chop pockets. Fold the larger bottom meat flap over the top flap - enclosing the cheese-and thread a toothpick through both flaps to keep them together. (The chops can be prepared up to this point a day in advance, sealed in plastic wrap and refrigerated.) Put 2 tablespoons of the butter and the olive oil in the big pan, and set over medium-high heat. Spread the flour on a plate, dredge each chop on both sides, shake off excess flour, and lay it in the pan. When all the chops are in the pan, drop the sages leaves in between them. Cook the chops for 5 minutes or more, turning them once or twice, until well browned on both sides. Clear a space in the pan bottom, drop in the tomato paste, and toast it in the hot spot for a minute. Pour the wine over the tomato paste, stir them together, and shake the pan to distribute the liquid. Bring it to a boil, and cook for 3 minutes or so, to reduce.
Add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and whisk it into the pan liquid. Turn the chops over, pour
in the chicken stock, sprinkle on the remaining salt, and bring to a boil. Cover the pan, and place in the oven. Roast for about 15 minutes, then remove the cover and roast another 10 minutes or so, until the chops are done and the sauce has thickened. Remove from the oven, and place the chops on a warm platter. (Drape a towel over the handle of the pan when it comes out of the oven to remind you it is very hot.) If the sauce is thin, put the pan over high heat and reduce until the sauce has the consistency you like. Serve right away-while the cheese is still oozing-arranging all the chops on a warm platter and spooning the sauce over, family-style, or on warm dinner plates with mashed potatoes alongside and sauce drizzled over. (If you do have fresh white truffle, shave it on the top of each chop at this moment.)