I was afraid to try my hand at veal scallopini. I think I was intimidated to attempt this restaurant stalwart, the ‘unavoidable signature dish’ that reflects the caliber of food at a given restaurant.
To gauge an Italian restaurant, I order—with a mix of trepidation and genuine anticipation—veal scallopini. Or in a pinch, I order the other ‘standard Italian’ dish: lasagna (somewhere in my head I hear my husband’s voice: standard and Italian don’t belong in the same breath—it’s an oxymoron! One guess on his heritage.).
Do you do that as well? You walk into a new restaurant—one tied to a particular culinary tradition—and order what is considered the standard, classic, staple [and ideally specialty] entree, since it so stereotypically represents the culinary barometer from, in this case, Italy.
If the lasagna tastes blah, with overcooked pasta and rubbery cheese and ‘how do you ruin red sauce?’, chances are the rest of the menu falls under the ‘blander side of life.’ But if the lasagna melts in your mouth, has award-winning red sauce, fresh noodles, and quality cheese that can hold its own, it may be safe to bet that all dishes are crafted with the utmost care as if for a king (or a non-standard Italian).
So it is with veal. And who am I to take on this ultimate, bar-setting, easily-critiqued culinary feat?
I tried it—and who knew? Found that a simple version is quite easy to make, and the melt-in-your-mouth flavors far outweigh the efforts to plate and put this lemony gem on the table. Even my fourth grader adored it: the veal was tender, the flavors rich yet citrusy with a certain sophistication ushered in by the capers. Steamed or roasted vegetables and some focaccia to sop up the extra sauce makes for a simply prepared, quick to make meal (and just may beckon the status of ‘default dinner’).
And who knows? Maybe at some point, not too long from now, I will venture to make veal marsala?
Veal Scallopini w/lemon and capers
4 scallopini (1/4 – 1/2 inch thick)
2 T olive oil
2 T butter
3-4 T flour
1 lemon (or 2 cubes of lemon juice)
2 T capers, rinsed of brine
2/3 – 1 cup chicken broth
optional: 1/3 cup white wine
optional: 1 T butter
KS&CP (kosher salt & course pepper)
Lightly coat scallopini by dipping into and shaking off flour. Heat skillet over medium high, pouring in 2 T oil and 2 T butter. When almost smoking, add scallopini (two rounds is fine, as they won’t all fit at once, add more oil and butter if needed). Cook one minute per side until browned, place under foil on plate to keep warm. When finished cooking veal, using same pan, pour in broth and wine and simmer until reduced by half (about 15 minutes). Off heat, stir in juice from half a lemon (slice other half into wedges to serve on dinner plate), the capers, 1 T of butter if using and KS&CP to taste. Pour over veal and serve.