Monday, May 3, 2010

Real Deal Veal

First let me give credit to Lidia Bastianich for the essentials of this recipe for veal parmigiana. This dish never fails to impress friends and even I constantly marvel at how good this tastes. My daughter, who claims to hate veal, will eat this Italian entree.

The most essential part of this meal is the veal. It must be pale, pale, pale leg meat cut across the grain in very thin, somewhat large pieces. If it is even the color of a baby girl’s blanket … forget it. It must be almost white. I know. I know that this means that the baby calf donor must be only milk-fed and kept in a crate, but I like to imagine that it does this to make me deliriously happy. Also use good quality virgin olive oil (light pale green and fruity tasting) and buffalo mozzarella cheese would also be a big plus.

Now, prepare the veal (about 7 or 8 pieces) by pounding them even more flat and thin with a meat mallet. Then salt and pepper them generously on both sides. Heat up a large frying pan and coat the bottom with the olive oil. Fry on both sides all the veal pieces in shifts, replenishing the oil as needed, until they are a crusty brown but still relatively pink on the inside. (If you are more ambitious and capable, you may want to quickly deep-fry these pieces.) Put a bit more olive oil on the bottom of a sheet pan and place the veal pieces a few inches apart.

Next, in the same frying pan (very important to incorporate all these good meat juices and the cooked-on veal fond or sucs) put some more olive oil, about four or five garlic cloves slivered, and about two or three pinches of red pepper flakes (Lidia calls them peppernchino (sp?)). Be careful about not putting in too much peppernchino as it can spoil the dish. Stir well with a wooden spoon to incorporate the meat juices and fond. Then add a large can of good-quality peeled Italian tomatoes (either small diced or, if whole, well crushed with your hand in a large bowl – I recommend Muir Glen or Red Pack tomatoes). Salt and pepper to taste and, if you like the taste, sprinkle some fennel seeds in too.  Cook briefly … about four or five minutes.

Place a good dollop of this quick tomato sauce on top of each veal piece and then cover them well with the mozzarella cheese (either sliced or grated through the large holes of a food grater) and, if you have it, sprinkle on a little good-quality parmesan cheese. If the veal is still quite warm then place this pan under the broiler until the cheese top is bubbling and the color of George Hamilton’s suntan. If not, then first bring it back up to heat in a 350 degree oven (about 3 minutes). Remove from oven and sprinkle with some chopped Italian parsley and maybe a few drops of olive oil (if they look dry) and serve immediately

Two good accompaniments with this veal are some al dente cooked pasta shells dressed`with olive oil, briefly sautéed minced garlic and chopped parsley as well as broccolini, dealt with the same way. You may also spoon some of the extra tomato sauce over the cooked shells. Enjoy with a glass of good Borolo and crusty baguette pieces (torn from the loaf, not cut). Bella sera

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