Veal Scallopini: The Magic Is in the Meat

Veal is one of the most tender and prized meats available. It makes some of the best meat dishes on the planet, including veal scallopini. Let’s take a look at veal, its best uses and a couple of recipes for a diverse selection of veal scallopini.

veal scallopini

Veal


Veal is the meat of young cattle, called calves. It can come from any breed of bovine, and of either sex. However, most of the veal in the world comes from male dairy cow calves, as only the female dairy cows are needed to mature to produce milk.

It has been eaten for millennia and is prized for its soft and tender texture. It has been a staple of French, Italian, and other Mediterranean cuisines since the Classical Era. The United States can thank Italian immigrants for bringing their culinary traditions with them to the country and introducing veal dishes.

As it comes from cows, veal is just as versatile as beef is, but it’s just softer, and some would say more delicious. There are veal rib roasts, steaks, stews and even veal burgers. So, why aren’t three more veal dishes around to rival the popularity of beef?

There are a couple of reasons. First and foremost is the price. Veal is almost always more expensive than beef because the animal is so young when it is slaughtered.

It doesn’t produce as much meat and in many cases, it is more expensive to raise. Most types of veal require special feeds, and that cost is passed on to the customer. So, don’t expect McDonald’s to start offering veal burgers anytime soon.

Another reason veal is restricted to fancier restaurants and talented home cooks are the difficulty associated with cooking it. Veal has much less fat than beef does, so cooks must take great care when preparing it.

The minimal amount of fat on veal cuts renders away quickly and the meat then toughens up and dries out. You need a decent hand at the kitchen counter to pull of veal and a good recipe, but that’s why you’re here!

Veal Nutrition

Although veal comes from younger cattle, it is not that much different from been nutritionally speaking. The tastes may be different, but your body gets roughly the same amount and type of nutrients as it would from a beef cut of comparable size. Veal does have a bit more cholesterol on average than beef, but it isn’t excessive. You’re not likely to eat veal all that often anyway compared to beef, so the difference shouldn’t cause any problems.

Scallopini


As we talked about before, scallopini is a dish that originated in Italy. The word comes from the Italian scaloppa, meaning a small scallop or slice of meat. Scallopini is a dish that consists of thinly sliced meat, most often veal, but pork and chicken sometimes take its place.

Veal is the pinnacle of scallopini, however, because the tenderness of the meat and the thin cut makes the meat a delight to eat.

In Italy, every household has its own family recipe for scallopini. It’s comfort food like mom’s mac and cheese, grandma’s casserole or dad’s pancakes. Just, you know, more Italian. So more flavor, more complexity, and a lot more wine.

Traditionally, scallopini is dredged in wheat flour, then sauteed or fried in a redux sauce. A redux sauce is simply a reduction sauce consisting of many different ingredients including but not limited to stock, water, beer, wine, aromatics and a small amount of fat.

Of course, there are many types of redux sauces out there, but the ones most associated with scallopini are tomato-wine redux, mushroom-wine redux, piccata and pizzaiola sauce.

Veal Scallopini Recipes

On to the recipes! We’ll look at two recipes here, each with its own distinct bouquet of flavors. Since scallopini is a broad definition of a dish, there have been many different takes on it over the years with different sauces and accompanying ingredients.

Veal Scallopini in Mushroom Sauce


This simple recipe can be done by just about anyone and in a relatively short amount of time. It’s a good recipe to start with if you’ve never cooked veal before and want something nice and easy to try the dish out.

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces of veal: Ideally, you want this in two cutlets, but you can go smaller if you want.
  • 2 tablespoons wheat flour: you can use all-purpose flour if you want. The type isn’t so important; you can use your favorite. Just don’t use self-rising flour!
  • Salt and pepper: The amount here is up to you. Season it to your preferred taste.
  • 3 tablespoons butter: Keep these tablespoons separated, for now. You’ll add different amounts at different times, so don’t mix them all together.
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil: Again, your preference here. Just make sure it’s olive oil and not some other kind.
  • 1/4 pound fresh mushrooms: You are going to want to slice these up pretty thinly.
  • 1/3 cup chicken broth: You can use canned broth but if you have the time and ability, homemade broth makes for a more robust flavor. It isn’t vital, though.
  • 2 teaspoons fresh parsley: Mince this up beforehand. Also, if you aren’t a parsley person you can probably skip this if you want.

Directions

  • Flatten your veal cutlets; they should be around a 1/8th of an inch thick by the time you are done. You use the flat side of a kitchen knife but don’t use a tenderizer. The veal is tender enough as it is.
  • Put the veal, salt, pepper, and flour into a Ziploc or similarly resealable bag and close tightly.
  • Shake the bag until the mixture of flour, salt, and pepper evenly coat the veal cutlets. Just eyeball it.
  • In a skillet, heat two of the tablespoons of butter that you set aside as well as the oil.
  • Place the veal into the skillet and cook on medium heat for one minute on each side. The juices coming from the veal should be clear.
  • Remove the veal and put it somewhere it can stay warm.
  • Add the mushrooms to the skillet and stir for two to three minutes. The mushrooms should be tender by the time you are done.
  • Place the mushrooms on the veal.
  • Stir the broth into the skillet. If you see any chunks forming, break them up and stir them in.
  • Add the parsley and the rest of the butter and stir for two minutes, or until thickened to your liking.
  • Pour over your veal and mushrooms.

This recipe makes enough to serve two.

Veal Scallopini with Olive and Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce


If mushrooms aren’t your thing (they should be but to each their own) then try this variation that uses olives and sundried tomatoes along with white wine to make the sauce.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil: Again, up to you what kind.
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter: As with the last recipe, keep the butter separated into tablespoon-sized chunks.
  • 1/2 cup flour: Again, all-purpose works fine here. No self-rising flour!
  • 1-pound sliced veal cutlets: These, of course, should be sliced thinly so that they are about ¾ of an inch thick.
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine: Sauvignon blancs, pinot grigios, pinot blancs, sémillons, and dry sparkling wines work well here because of their high acidity. Good for cooking.
  • 1/3 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes: These should be julienne cut.
  • 1/3 cup drained pitted brine-cured black olives: Chop these coarse.
  • Salt and pepper: In amounts to your taste.

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 200 degrees F with the rack in the middle position.
  • Heat the oil and two tablespoons of the butter in a heavy skillet on high heat until the butter stops foaming.
  • Spread the flour in half of a shallow baking pan.
  • Place veal cutlets onto the flour and season the top side with the salt and pepper.
  • Flip the cutlets and season the other side so that now both sides are floured and seasoned.
  • Place the veal cutlets, two at a time if you can manage it, into the skillet and cook for one and a half minutes. Flip them over halfway through. The cutlets should be lightly browned and just barely cooked all the way through.
  • Put the cutlets on an oven safe platter when done cooking, and warm in the oven.
  • Bring the wine, broth, tomatoes, and olives to a boil in the skillet. Don’t clean it first!
  • If you see any brown bits, stir them into the sauce and break them up.
  • Add the remaining two tablespoons of butter and stir until fully mixed in.
  • Remove the sauce from heat and season further with salt and pepper to your liking.
  • Pour the sauce onto your veal scallopinis and enjoy!

Garnish with parsley and lemon slices if you like.

Delicate Yet Robust

Veal scallopini is a great way to try out veal or, if you already love it, try veal in a variety of different ways. These two sauces we went over in these recipes are a good place to start, but there are more out there! There are lots of ways to enjoy this Italian classic.

Featured image: CC BY 2.0, Ralph Daily via https://www.flickr.com.

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