Tuesday, April 25, 2006

learning from a springy veal recipe

In an effort to find a nice springy recipe for a recent cooking club dinner, and to try something new, I stumbled across a recipe for Veal Scallopini with Spring Pea Coulis and Asparagus. It's quite good, straighforward, and involved veal scallopini, a trivially simple meat preparation that I'd never happened to make before. I learned a bunch of new things in the course of making the recipe, and here are some of them. If you knew all of them already, feel free to make fun of me in the comments.
  • Veal Scallopini. I've had veal scallopini before, but never made anything with them. Much less likely to screw up than a medium-rare steak, I do say. Step one is to find some veal. Veal of course is just a young, milk-fed cow, restricted in its movements to keep the meat pale and tender. (This is generally considered to be done less cruelly now than it used to be.) Scallopini are slices from the top of the round (back of the leg), which are then pounded thinner to tenderize them some more. They should be cut 1/4" to 1/2" thick, then pounded to less than 1/4" thick, with a smooth meat mallet or even the heel of your hand. The basic recipe is just to season the veal with salt and pepper, possibly lightly dredge it in flour (see below!), then fry it in a small amount of hot oil until browning but not overdone, usually a minute or so per side. Of course, step one in this process was "find some veal", which brings me to my next learning experience...
  • Butchers in Astoria close on Orthodox Easter. Why, I'll just pick up some veal from my friendly neighborhood Greek butcher, said I! It'll be much cheaper than getting it from Fresh Direct or Whole Paycheck, and will be much fresher than the supermarket! It didn't occur to me that every butcher within 2 miles of my apartment would be closed for a holiday that the rest of the country had celebrated the week before. Yep, veal at Whole Paycheck is quite good, naturally raised, and yep, it's nearly twice as expensive as at my neighborhood butcher...
  • Broth vs. Stock. In the course of writing this posting, it occurred to me I didn't know exactly how "stock" and "broth" differ. I looked it up, and now I know. Broth is made from boiling meat (chicken, beef) in water with other flavorings. Stock is made from boiling meat bones (chicken, beef) in water with other flavorings. Stock is usually a stronger flavor and has more gelatin, which is handy if you're using the stuff to make a thick sauce. Now we know.
  • Coulis. A coulis (coo-lee') is just a thick, strained sauce. It used to refer to such a sauce made from meat or even shellfish (ala bisque), but now it mostly means such a sauce made from fruit, as in a raspberry coulis. The one for this recipe is a vegetable coulis, thinned with chicken broth (or stock!) and a bit of white wine.
  • Flour, Frying, and Pans. I made the recipe twice, once with a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet, and once with stainless steel fry pans. In both cases I lightly dredged the seasoned veal in flour before frying, a technique that's pretty widespread for scallopini, but wasn't actually recommended in the original recipe. It seems to help the veal brown rather than steam. But with the stainless steel, the flour also stuck to the pan, leaving the tasty brownness separate from the meat. So it seems to me that the rule might be (and please correct me if my speculation is wrong) to dredge in flour when using non-stick or cast-iron, and not to dredge when using stainless steel. Additional experimentation is clearly needed.
Despite all of the learning experiences, both times I made the dish it was successful, and all were pleased.



At 2:08 AM, Blogger Tanya Lee said...

Ohhh--broth vs. stock. Never occurred to me either. So then, veggie stock would be when you boil the, uh, vegetable bones...?

At 9:57 AM, Blogger Harlan said...

Hah, yes, that's probably it! There might not be a distinction for vegetable broth... When I was playing several years back with making a vegetarian version of a french sauce (beef stock and red wine, reduced until somewhat thick), I used veggie broth, and then thickened it with a blond roux. Worked pretty well...


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