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Veal Breast Stuffed with Spiced Ground Meat

Veal Breast Stuffed with Spiced Ground Meat
David S. Deutsch for NPR /

This is one of the more elaborate dishes in Aleppian Jewish cooking. It looks very dramatic but is actually quite easy to put together. In this recipe, adapted from Aromas of Aleppo by Poopa Dweck (Ecco 2007), allspice-scented hashu, the common Aleppian ground meat and rice filling, is stuffed into a breast of veal that is slow roasted until very tender. Fresh fava beans are usually available around Passover and are often added to this dish. Ask your butcher to form a pocket in the veal breast. Veal breast has a fairly high fat-to-meat ratio so it is quite rich. A little goes a long way.

6 to 7 pounds veal breast, bone in, with pocket

1 pound hashu (Aleppian ground meat and rice filling, recipe below)

1 tablespoon ground allspice

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 to 3 garlic cloves, minced (1 1/2 tablespoons)

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 large onion, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)

4 ribs celery, including leaves, chopped (about 2 cups)

2 pounds shelled fava beans (may substitute shelled green peas, whole mushrooms or artichoke hearts — all may be fresh or frozen)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Loosely stuff the veal breast with the hashu. Set breast aside on a tray.

Combine the allspice, salt, garlic and pepper. Rub 1 tablespoon of the oil all over the veal breast. Generously apply allspice mixture to the meat.

In a large roaster, saute the onion and celery in the remaining 2 tablespoons oil for 3 minutes, or until soft. Transfer to a small mixing bowl.

Sear the veal in the same roaster over medium-high heat or until lightly browned, turning once, about 5 minutes. Add the onion-celery mixture to the pan along with 1 cup water. Cover and roast for 1 hour, basting occasionally.

Remove from oven and add fava beans (or other vegetables) to roaster. Season with additional allspice, salt and pepper, if desired. Reduce temperature to 300 degrees. Add another 1/2 cup water if pan dries out and return to oven. Roast for another 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Let roast rest 10 minutes then slice between ribs.

Hashu (Aleppian Ground Meat and Rice Filling)

When the Jewish community still lived in Aleppo, hashu was mostly rice since meat was expensive. For fancy dinners (such as the Seder), pine nuts are added. This recipe is adapted from Aromas of Aleppo.

Makes 8 to 10 servings

1 pound lean ground beef

1/3 cup short-grain rice (white or brown)

1 teaspoon ground allspice

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 onion, chopped (1/2 cup)

1 cup pine nuts

Soak rice in water, enough to cover, for 30 minutes. Drain.

Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Mix well. (Hands work well).

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