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May 10, 2011
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Wine With . . . Grilled Veal Chops

by Paul Lukacs and Marguerite Thomas


There’s no getting around the fact that veal chops are expensive.  Unless your pockets are considerably deeper than ours, you probably are not inclined to invest in six or eight of them to serve at a dinner party.  You might, however, want to spring for a couple of the meaty morsels if you’re designing a delicious dinner à deux


Our favorite recipe for veal chops on the grill is adapted from one that Michael Franz, our friend and WRO colleague, shared with us many years ago.  It’s a honey mustard and sage glaze that gives the meat a slightly sweet sheen as well as an earthy edge.  It not only helps bring out the best flavor in the chops, but also allows them to shine alongside the accompanying dishes of your choice, everything from baked or roasted potatoes to something more elaborate—spinach soufflé, for example, if you’re really going for gourmet glam. We generally keep the meal fairly simple, dishing the chops up with a heap of sautéed mushrooms, a side of salad, soft candlelight, and a bottle of excellent wine.  


Grilled Veal Chops 

Serves two.


--1 ½ tablespoons honey mustard

--1 tablespoon olive oil

--1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

--1 tablespoon dried rubbed sage

--2 loin veal chops, preferably about an inch thick

--Salt and pepper

Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for both direct and indirect cooking.  As the grill heats, mix together the honey mustard, olive oil, lemon juice, and sage so that it forms a light paste or glaze.  (If it seems too thick, add more oil and lemon juice; if too thin, add more mustard.)  Season both sides of the chops with salt and pepper, and liberally coat one side with the glaze.  Grill the chops, with the coated side facing up, over direct heat for three or four minutes, or until the chops are seared, with a crusty exterior.  Using tongs, turn them and move them over to the side of the grill with indirect heat.  Brush the now seared top sides with the remaining glaze, and cook until done (140° degrees for rare, 150° for medium, using an instant-read thermometer).  Let rest, loosely tented with aluminum foil, for five minutes before serving.

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For this edition of “Wine With,” we splurged not only on the meat but also on the wines we opened to try with them, thinking that since veal chops are often the main ingredient in a special occasion meal, we ought to try some special occasion wines.  Perhaps not surprisingly, with all the wines costing between $25 and $50, it was difficult to choose our favorites.  Some wines, though, just didn’t have the stuffing to work well.  A Chianti Classico, for example, seemed tired, while a young California Pinot Noir tasted sappy and sweet.  The five we are recommending, no matter the grape variety, were more substantial. That includes the biggest surprise of the evening, a full-bodied Chardonnay that more than held its own in the match.  We only opened current releases so as to be most helpful to readers, but if you have a special older bottle stashed away somewhere, this might be a good meal with which to drink it.




Approx. Price



Arrowood, Sonoma Valley ( California ) Malbec 2007





Very impressive because firm in addition to ripe, this deeply-flavored red helped make the veal itself taste deep and rich.  It was a marvelous pairing, featuring what we concluded is a truly stellar wine--the best California Malbec we have yet tasted.




Bella, Alexander Valley ( California ) Zinfandel “Two Patch” 2008





Zinfandel’s inherently exuberant and briary character is balanced in this wine by a lushness that gives the wine surprising refinement and grace.  That winning combination helped it star with our chops.




Chappellet, Napa Valley ( California ) Chardonnay 2009






We opened this white wine as an experiment, and found to our considerable surprise that it paired very well with what we always had thought of as an exclusively red wine dish.  The key, we suspect, comes from the glaze, which imparts a somewhat citrus-like sweetness that this very nicely balanced wine echoed.




Freemark Abbey, Napa Valley ( California ) Merlot 2008





Deeper and more substantial than many Merlots, this wine offered dark cherry fruit flavors.  Though not overtly sweet, the wine’s forward fruit flavors complemented the glazed meat very well.




Stark-Condé. Stellenbosch ( South Africa ) Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

(Imported by Vineyard Brands)





Unlike the Freemark Abbey Merlot (which we liked equally well), this wine’s calling card consists of earthy, leathery, and slightly herbal flavors, with ripe fruit playing an important but not necessarily a leading role.  That character helped bring out similar flavors in the grilled, glazed meat, making for a very satisfying but clearly different combination.