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Veal and Its Use in Italian Cooking

By: Mike Kiely BA (hons) - Updated: 17 Mar 2012 | comments*Discuss
Scaloppina Chop Shank Saltimbocca Osso

Butchering calves for the pleasure of diners is never going to be easy to stomach for some people. Such sensibilities should always be taken into account when preparing a menu. However, veal remains one of the best loved of meats by the Italians, and forms the central component of three of the nation's most famous dishes.

Breaded Veal

Breaded veal, either using a chop or an escalope, or scaloppina, is synonymous with the northern industrial giant of Milan, and can be found in the company of a variety of side orders, such as spaghetti in a tomato sauce, some sautéed or chipped potatoes, or wilted spinach. For the crumb coating, all that is required are some beaten eggs, some plain flour and a bowl of breadcrumbs. But before that process can begin, the cook must lay their hands on a kitchen mallet, which is used to lightly pound the meat flat in order that it cooks both quickly and evenly.

  • Some chefs lay the meat between two sheets of cling film to protect the flesh but this is not crucial as long as care is taken to strike with the flat of the mallet and avoid any contact with the corners, which will result in tearing
  • Once the meat is ready, coat on both sides with the flour, shake off any excess, then dip in the egg and then in the breadcrumbs
  • Heat some oil or butter in a skillet and fry the meat until the breadcrumbs are golden on both sides, then squeeze over some lemon juice before serving

How to Make Osso Bucco

Milan is also the home of osso bucco, or veal shank, usually accompanied by the city's famous risotto whose golden colour is derived from the addition of several strands of saffron.

  • Turn each shank in flour, heat some olive oil and butter in a casserole pan and fry until caramelised
  • Add a measure of quality white wine and after the alcohol has burned off pour in enough water to cover the shanks
  • Pop on the casserole lid and cook for around two hours until the meat is coming away from the bone. Remove the shanks to a warmed plate, add a little chopped lemon zest to the liquor and reduce to a sauce, adjusting the seasoning to taste
  • Pour the sauce over the shanks and garnish with some chopped flat leaf parsley

How to Make Saltimbocca

The final of the three signature veal dishes hails from the Italian capital, Rome. Saltimbocca translates as leap in the mouth, an apt description for these palate pleasing escalopes.

  • Use the mallet to flatten out each piece of meat, place a slice of Parma ham or other prosciutto on it, then a sage leaf, then another piece of ham and secure by pushing a cocktail stick down through the meat and then up through the opposite side
  • Heat some olive oil and butter in a skillet and fry on both sides, adding salt and black pepper just before transferring the meat to a warmed plate
  • Add a little more butter to the pan and heat vigorously for a minute or two until it becomes nut brown, then pour over the meat
  • The finished veal and prosciutto slices can be served with side orders of potatoes, carrot and peas

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