Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Jump in the Mouth - Saltimbocca alla Romana

This dish is traditionally made with Veal Scaloppine (Scalloped veal - Thin sliced veal, dredged in flour and pan fried in butter and olive oil), however, when one eats veal it seems to elicit frowns from a lot of people. I am sure this is, at least partially, due to the misconception that Veal is a "baby" bovine. Well, yes… it is… but I personally would not want to bounce this baby boy on my knee since he weighs about 475 lbs. Why do I keep saying boy and he? Most Veal is produced from male dairy cattle, usually Holsteins, since they are obviously not capable of dairy production. This gives the dairy “farmer” another source of income, stemming from what would otherwise be a liability or sold cheaply for Dog Food. The second reason for the PETA march, when Veal is on the menu, is the somewhat dubious origins of Veal in the U.S., I am speaking of "crating".

These two main factors have caused delicious dishes like Veal Piccata to be set aside in favor of modified dishes like Chicken Piccata. Which is all well and good, I love Chicken Piccata, however, Veal is deliciously tender and should not be cast aside due to exaggerated claims, being denied it's rightful place in traditional dishes. Don't be afraid to inquire about the source of the veal. If the source is questionable, don't buy it. It's that simple. Trust me, if you knew what happened in the Cattle Feed Lots, which produce 80 some odd percent of the beef on the market, questionable veal practices would be the least of anyones worries. I encourage you to read the Mad Cowboy by Howard Lyman.

On a happier note... Veal crates were banned in 1990 by the UK and in 2007 by the EU, to be completely phased out in Western Europe by 2012. Yet another agricultural issue in which the U.S. is always behind, especially when the “almighty dollar” is involved, right along with the continued use of rBST/rBGH (Canada, the EU, Australia and New Zealand have all banned its usage). While I am on a tangent about recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone, it is produced by genetically tampering with E. Coli bacteria. Doesn't that “bake your noodle”?

There is hope for the United States’ current unenlightened agricultural practices though. The AVA (American Veal Association) has announced that they are instituting a 10 year plan to phase out the practice of veal crating. Although, I have a sneaking suspicion this is only due to the laws already passed in Florida, Colorado, Arizona and Oregon. These same laws also protect pregnant sows from being boxed. They don’t, however, criminalize the caging of egg laying chickens like California’s Prop 2, just passed in November of 2008.

Personally, I think the AVA is missing a GREAT marketing opportunity. The words “FREE RANGE” are extremely popular right now, labeling everything from Chicken and Eggs to Cheese and Coffee Beans. (Yes, cheese wheels are freely rolling around the hillsides of France while coffee beans are scampering through the rain forests of Guatemala - brings a tear to the eye doesn't it?) There is no reason the calves could not be allowed to, at the least, walk around a pasture, then simply slap a “Free Range” sticker on it and charge twice the price! It all sounds lucrative to me and a lot more humane. But then again, I am not a Veal farmer.

All kidding aside, since I AM one of those people who try to buy “Free Range” and “Organic” as my budget allows. Let me make it abundantly clear... I do not agree with crating in ANY way shape or form. As a consumer, I make my voice heard by purchasing veal from a reliable source, supporting those farmers who follow ethical animal rearing practices. My recently purchased veal does not originate from the states. It is a product of Canada, thus it was group housed, not "Crated".

I did notice that it was cut improperly though… Veal cutlets/scaloppine should be cut across the grain, otherwise it curls when cooking. Originally I had planned to make this in a layered configuration, but since my Veal is messed up, I went ahead and folded it (If I had rolled it, then it would be Rolatini).

Saltimbocca alla Romana

4 Veal Cutlets
4 slices of Prosciutto di Parma
4 - 8 Fresh Sage Leaves; depending on size
2 oz AP Flour for dredging
4 TB Browned Butter; Divided
4 oz dry white wine; I used Pinot Grigio
2 oz Chicken Stock (or better yet, veal stock)
Kosher Salt to taste
Black Pepper to taste
(optional) 1 TB of Heavy Cream

Place one veal cutlet between two sheets of waxed paper and pound in lightly with a meat mallet to 1/8 inch thickness… Be gentle.

Lay down Prosciutto and 1 or 2 sage leaves and fold the veal;

“stitching” the flap down with a toothpick.

Heat 2 TB browned butter in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat.

Dredge the scaloppini (pl) bundles in flour to coat,

shaking off any excess.

Place them in the heated pan and sear on all sides until lightly browned.

Transfer to a warm plate.
Pour the butter from pan (Don’t wipe), place back over heat and add the remaining 2 TB browned butter.
When butter is hot deglaze with Wine and scrape fond from the bottom of the pan if necessary, then add the chicken stock and salt and pepper to taste.

Place the scaloppini back in pan and cook until sauce is reduced by half and scaloppini are heated through.

Transfer veal to a clean plate,
Add 1 TB of cream to the sauce and cook 30 more seconds.
While the sauce is cooking, remove the toothpicks and place on serving plates.
Spoon sauce over top and serve

with seared Brussels sprouts or lightly steamed potatoes tossed with Olive oil.



Mo Diva said...

I TOTALLY want to make this! It looks soooo good!

Bob said...

Ok, I'll admit it: I'm one of those "no-veal" folks. But please don't lump me in with PeTA, I hate them. They do so much more harm than good.

But, I would eat veal if I could be assured it wasn't tortured. Basically, that's my complaint, I don't want to eat something that has suffered needlessly. Good to know that I can get some that is ok, I'll have to keep my eyes out for it.

This recipe looks great, I would love to try it when I get my hands on some kindly treated veal.