The Veal Deal

24 Sep

Vegetarians, look away.


I made veal for dinner a few weeks ago, and it was easy and delicious.

Veal has a bad rap in this country. People avoid it like the plague, or as if PETA’s going to barge through their front door if they dare serve it to their family. But the truth is that you can get cruelty free veal, especially if you shop at European groceries or buy from small farmers.

Brooklyn Heights Mansion

My mother accompanied me on a trip to Italy in 10th grade. It was supposed to be a group of about 30 students, but the first Iraq war started 4 days before we were scheduled to leave and all but about 10 students canceled. The tour operator required more than 10 kids to continue the tour, so my high school opened the trip up to parents, teachers and, well, anyone who would pay for it, so my mom came along.

It was the most regimented tour I’ve ever been on. We were told when to sleep, where to walk and of course, what to eat. At the time I had just decided to become a vegetarian, and so what did they serve at every meal? Veal, naturally.

If it had been any other meat I would have eaten it, if only to survive. The meals were meager and bleak. I lived on gelato and grappa, until one day I nearly passed out. My mother forced me to eat the veal. I was shocked, it was good, and it was different.

Shy House

Years later I found out that the vogue for keeping veal calves under tortuous conditions was largely an American invention. The veal served across Europe is allowed to gallivant and gambol, thus giving the meat a meatier texture and darker color.

I’ve never cooked veal. I’ll order it from time to time in restaurants, but it’s never even crossed my mind to buy it when contemplating the meat counter. That’s changed now, and I’ve got RayRay to thank.

Lebanese Church Door, Brooklyn Heights

The same day that Dandy Sandy made something that looked edible, Ms. Ray said something that made me go, “Duh.” “Why don’t more people cook with veal?” she asked. “It’s so easy and delicious and cooks up in a flash.” I’d never thought of it like that, and so I was determined to give it a go. And you know what? She’s right.

I marinated the meat in vinegar for an hour, a recipe I found in the Silver Spoon, and then gave it a light fry in butter, a few minutes on each side. The meat was tender and delicious, a little gamey and just ever so sour, like a sauerbraten, but better and more subtle.

Slightly Sour Veal with Pappardelle con Broccoletti

To accompany I whipped up a half-recipe of the Silver Spoon‘s fresh pasta recipe, cut it into papparadelle and and made a quick sauce of broccoli rabe. It was delicious and satisfying, and the leftover veal was possibly even better a few days later heated through in a pan with a little water and served over a bed of arugula dressed simply with lemon juice and olive oil.

Yummo indeed!

Head below the jump for the recipes for Slightly Sour Veal and Pappardelle con Broccoletti.

Slightly Sour Veal

prep time: 1 hour ~ cooking time: 10 minutes

  • 1 Veal cutlet per person, but at least 4, lightly pounded
  • 1 cup Vinegar (I used a mixture of sherry, white wine and Filipino cane sugar vinegar because that’s what I had on hand and I was nearly out of all three)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

Whisk the vinegar and oil together as best you can and pop it into a thick zip-top bag. Add the veal, extract as much air as possible, seal the top, place in the fridge. Allow the veal to marinate for one hour. Heat a dollop of butter and a little olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Drain the veal and cook in the hot fat a scant 5 minutes per side.  Season with salt and pepper and serve alongside your favorite pasta, potatoes or bread. Enjoy!

Pappardelle con Broccoletti

prep time: 15 minutes ~ cooking time: 1o minutes

  • 1/2 portion of the fresh pasta recipe from the Silver Spoon (page 268) cut into papparadelle or an equivalent amount of store bought noodles
  • 6 fat cloves of Garlic, minced
  • Juice of 1 Lemon
  • 1/2 c. dry Vermouth
  • 2 bunches of Broccoli Rabe, trimmed
  • 1 tsp Capers, rinsed
  • a handful of fresh Basil, chopped
  • Chile flakes
  • Olive Oil

Cook the garlic in a glug of olive oil in a sautée pan over medium heat until fragrant. Add the lemon juice, vermouth and rabe. Stir to coat with the garlic and cover. Turn the heat down a bit and allow to cook 5 minutes or until the rabe have gently wilted. Uncover and allow some of the liquid to cook off.

Add the capers, basil and chile flakes to taste. Stir to incorporate and add the pasta and a bit of it’s water to the pan. Turn off the heat. Stir to coat the noodles with the sauce. Serve with good, milky grated cheese. Enjoy!

Slightly Sour Veal is adapated from the recipe for Fettine all’Aceto from the Silver Spoon.


10 Responses to “The Veal Deal”

  1. s'kat September 24, 2007 at 9:52 am #

    Miss Ray may be a bit excitable, but I don’t think she’s the demon-ness folk make her out to be. A lof of her food looks very good, indeed, and if she can get people to actually cook instead of ordering pizza, I’m all for it!

    That said, I LURVE me some veal! Please tell me you’ll try your hand at a saltimbocca next. Or even better- osso bucco!

  2. Kevin September 24, 2007 at 9:52 am #

    Let’s assume for a second that most beef live pretty crappy lives. [I know this isn’t always true] Wouldn’t putting them out of their misery sooner then be a blessing of some sorts? I’m not sure exactly how the age the animal is slaughtered at matters – you’re still killing the animal. I think if ‘they’ want to worry about killing animals, they should be more concerned about the human propensity for slaughtering other humans, not cows. There. I ranted for the day.

  3. Lydia September 24, 2007 at 10:52 am #

    I used to love it when my father cooked veal chops on the grill — but I haven’t eaten veal now for perhaps 20 years. Maybe it’s time to try it again….

  4. izzy's mama September 24, 2007 at 8:41 pm # my youth I thought nothing of eating it, as I hadn’t yet been enlightened to the tortured lives of those calves. Like you, I now realize that more ethically raised veal is available but I haven’t ventured there yet.

    The only time I remember actually preparing veal was in my college days, when trying to impress a new beau. I went to the local butcher and purchased over $20 dollars worth..I suffered sticker shock but but bought it anyway. It did the trick, but the boy wasn’t for me..

    Looks like your recipe would do the trick too..

  5. ann September 25, 2007 at 6:45 am #

    s’kat – My sentiment exactly. How did you know veal saltimbocca’s totally the next veal dish I want to make! The butcher pounded the cutlets very thin. I think next time I’d like him to not do that. Are yours usually very thin?

    Kevin — Great rant! Glad I could help ;-)

    Lydia — Veal chops on the grill sound delicious. I’ll have to try that some time!

    Izzy’s mama — That’s hilarious! Maybe RayRay was onto something. She made some not so subtle hints that the meal she was making would totally get you some. Funny.

  6. Amanda September 25, 2007 at 2:59 pm #

    My goodness!! This will be my next project!

  7. Toni September 25, 2007 at 11:36 pm #

    Thanks for the update on the veal. I had no idea that there was a difference!

  8. Terry B September 26, 2007 at 1:19 pm #

    Ann—First, while you may or may not have thought so at the time, I bet having your mom along on the Italy trip made for some great memories. And regarding veal, ohmigod. It’s one of those rare things like scallops where ease and speed of cooking and great taste intersect beautifully.

  9. Susan in Italy September 26, 2007 at 2:30 pm #

    The way you describe veal almost makes me want to go out to the macelleria and get some. The vinegar marinating sounds great! After 4 years living in Italy, I haven’t made veal yet (mainly because of the cruelty qualms you mention). Actually in my experience here, vegetarians can get along really well on the myriad primi piatti (pasta, risotto, polenta, etc) that just happen not to contain meat.

  10. ann September 26, 2007 at 7:53 pm #

    TerryB — You are so right. It was amazing to have my mom along on the trip. We had such a lovely time, and we might have the chance to do it again soon (fingers crossed please!!) I never thought of scallops and veal in the same way, but yes, you are 100% correct, they really are!

    Susan — Try it, I bet you’d like it. I wish they had served primi piatti on our tour, but they didn’t. Each meal was the same, veal, soggy vegetables, rock hard bread. It was dreadful! But, like I said above, there might be a chance that my mom and I will be back in Italy soon!! I’m sooooooo excited and hope it happens so I won’t say anymore lest I jinx it :-)

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