Something like veal cordon bleu, whatever that is

Veal cordon bleu: is it real?

Did anybody make it up?

Or is it like an Hawaiian pizza, nothing more than the fertile imagination of an Australian pub cook, circa 1970. Remember? It was at about the same time as carpetbag steak, and ham steak, and sweet corn and onion salad, and baked potatoes and sour cream.

Anyway, whatever it is (it’s not in Escoffier, nor Larousse) it can be marvellous, if you choose its components carefully and cook it gently and well.

My memories of the pub version of veal CB was a rather large, round, pear-shaped and pear-sized ball of meat, with a couple of tooth picks holding the thinly sliced veal (or more likely beef) around a mix of cheese and ham. The idea was that the veal would be very well cooked and the cheese would melt and ooze out. Whatever flavour the veal lacked, the cheese and ham would compensate.

I can’t be bothered with that. What you should look for is a lovely, tender, pink slice of veal, mixed and matched with a first-class cut of ham, a sharp cheese, a stack of herbs, plenty of butter and very quick service.

the back strap, or loin of veal, sliced away from the bone by your butcher — If you can’t get that, go to a very good veal butcher and ask for a tender cut from the leg, flattened and tenderised a la veal schnitzel.

15g butter per portion all the fresh herbs you can find the juice of 1 lime or lemon the best ham you can find.

a few slices of Provolone piccante — This is a very sharp cheese from southern Italy, usually in the shape of a truncated cone and about 15cm in diameter. You can use any melting cheese. Raclette would be marvellous, Gruyere great.

a little white wine


Slice the strap almost through, then flatten it. Cut into individual portions and pound with the back of a heavy knife to tenderise.


Heat a little oil in a pan which can go to oven and slide in the veal, piece by piece. You will need to make sure the portions are well separated so they can fry, not stew. Heat oven to flat out.


Brown for about a minute on one side, then remove from heat. Gently squeeze the lime/lemon juice on top of the slices of veal, then sprinkle with plenty of herbs. Add one piece of butter to each slice, season with a little salt and plenty of black pepper, and cover with a slice of ham, then a slice of the cheese.


Return to heat and sizzle for about 30 seconds. Bake in the hot oven for about 6 minutes. The cheese should have just melted, and the butter should have poured out, joining with the veal and lime juices to provide a lovely sauce.


Optional: Set the veal aside and pour off the sauce into a sauce bowl. Return the pan to the heat, add the white wine, and, with a wooden spoon, gently remove any sediment. Remove from the heat again and whisk in the sauce set aside. Pour over the veal.

WINE: What makes great wines great is complexity of aroma and flavour. Orange juice is orange juice, but great red keeps giving you different signals as you waltz together through 750 ml. To my mind, Australia’s three best cabernet-producing areas are Margaret River, the Yarra Valley and Coonawarra. All three regions would provide a delicious red for the veal CB.