Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Veal Piccata with Lemon and Mushrooms

Veal Piccata with Lemon and Mushrooms 

There used to be a restaurant in Richmond, back in the '80's, that served the most wonderful veal dishes. We used to go there with a group from my husband's office. No one was more enthusiastic about this restaurant than his boss. The boss LOVED Italian food, and especially the veal, but admittedly, the cost was a little high. Back then, we were the parents of young children, and money was often in short supply. We were comfortable, but we never had a life style, we just had a life. That's not to say it wasn't a good life, and a rich one, but rich in love, fun and family as opposed to the monetary kind.

My husband loved one veal dish in particular -- me too! --  so I figured out how to make it. I dragged out my old Intro to Italian Cooking cook book (ca. 1971), much splattered and stained even back then, and read up on veal. There was no recipe that looked identical to the one we loved, but "Picatta Di Vitello Al Limone" was pretty darn close!  I used that recipe as a template and added fresh mushrooms, cooked it in olive oil instead of the recommended butter and added fresh garlic. It was a winner then, and it's still a winner. I will tell you honestly, this dish is a little trouble and a little costly for everyday fare, but as a special occasion dinner, it's a WOW! Since the amount of veal used is relatively small, it can be called a "little splurge"!

Look for thinly sliced veal scaloppini in the meat department of your grocery store. You'll need only one cutlet for each serving, as this is a pretty rich dish, especially when served with the recommended noodles on the side. Why noodles instead of pasta, you may ask? Well, the first time I made it, all I had on hand were egg noodles, and we liked is, more than the next time when I made it with fettuccine. I think the delicate nature of the egg noodles simply complemented the veal. Next time you want to celebrate, a birthday, a promotion, an anniversary -- or even if you just feel like puttering around in the kitchen -- give this wonderful veal dish a try.

Veal Scaloppine with Lemon and Mushrooms
(4 servings)
3/4 lb. veal (4 pieces veal scaloppine)
1/4 c. all purpose flour
2 T. grated Parmesan cheese 
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt + more for seasoning
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper + more for seasoning
2 T. chopped garlic
12 oz. fresh mushrooms, sliced or halved**
1 1/2 c. dry white wine ( I used a pinot grigio from Trader Joe)
1 lemon, washed, thinly sliced and seeds removed. 

First, prepare your veal: Lay the scaloppine out on a piece of parchment or wax paper.
Veal on waxed paper, before pounding.

Cover the veal with another piece of paper. 
 Cover the veal with another piece of paper and pound the cutlets until they are very thin and uniform in thickness. I used the smooth side of the meat mallet so as not to tear the thin slices of veal.
Floured veal, ready to fry.
 Prepare the breading mixture by mixing together the flour, cheese salt and pepper in a shallow dish or on a large plate. Dip each piece of veal into the mixture and press down a bit, so that both sides are covered in the flour/cheese mixture. Set the veal aside while  you prepare the pan to fry the veal.
In a large, heavy, deep frying pan, add enough olive oil to completely cover that bottom of the pan. The oil doesn't have to be more than a 1/4" deep, but it must cover the bottom and be enough to fry the meat. Heat the oil over medium high heat. The oil is ready when a little bit of flour dropped into it immediately begins to sizzle and floats to the top. When the oil is hot enough, add the veal, one piece at a time, being careful not to crowd it. I find it better to cook only 2 pieces at once.

Veal frying in olive oil.

Don't crowd the pan and fry the veal until golden brown, turning once. Then drain it on paper towels.
Drain the veal on paper towels. 

While the veal is draining, make the sauce. Turn the heat down to low. Pour off almost all the oil in the frying pan,leaving about 2 T. of oil. Then, add 2 T. all purpose flour to the hot pan.
Add the flour to a little bit of oil in the pan.

 Stir the flour into the remaining oil until all the white is absorbed into the olive oil. Turn the heat up to medium and add the white wine to deglaze the pan, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan so that all the browned bits are incorporated into the sauce.
Add the mushrooms to the sauce,
I like a combo of white and brown ones. 
 When the liquid begins to bubble, add the mushrooms, the chopped garlic,
a 1/2 tsp.Kosher salt and a few grindings of fresh black pepper. Stir the mixture gently to coat the mushrooms, turn down the heat a little bit, then cover the pan and let the mushrooms cook for about 5 minutes on a low, gentle bubble. Don't let them start to stick. The liquid shouldn't get too thick -- if it starts to look pasty, add a little water, just a T. at a time.
Put the veal back into the pan, on top of the mushroom mixture. 
The fried veal is laid out over the mushrooms and sauce.
Add the sliced lemon on top of this.

Lay the sliced lemon on top of the veal. Spoon a little of the liquid in the pan over the veal, put the top on and simmer gently for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring now and then to make sure nothing is sticking or getting too thick.

Serve the veal with the sauce next to egg noodles, which have been cooked and drained. While the noodles are draining, melt a T. of butter in the hot noodle pan. Add the noodles back into the butter, sprinkle them with salt and pepper and toss with a little Parmesan cheese. Perfect side dish for your veal! 

**COOKS NOTE: My old cookbooks recommends "the whitest mushrooms you can find" at your supermarket, but I prefer a half and half mixture of white mushrooms and baby Portobello (also called "cremini") mushrooms in this dish.

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