Tuesday 3 December 2013

Breaded Veal Scallopini with Blanched Purple Asparagus, Lamb's Lettuce and Marinara Sauce.

The blog is back already with a new and inspiring dish. Scallopini is a thin cut of meat usually of veal but can also be chicken or sometimes turkey. It is most commonly dredged in flour and/or breadcrumbs and fried. Because the meat is thin it only takes about a minute or two per side to cook which makes for a stupendously convenient weeknight meal. Some supermarkets wil sell cuts of scallopini as is or you can make your own by cutting medallions from a cut of veal (like a leg, for instance) and gently pounding it into a thin, flat serving. The particular cuts I used here are veal leg which I had bought as is. These are narrow cuts but scallopini can vary in shapes. 

You can go out a buy tomato sauce but it probably won't be as good as one you make yourself. As I mentioned in a previous post about tomato sauce, when tomatoes are not in season the best quality you can get are from canned tomatoes (which were picked and preserved at their peak ripeness). This post is a great opportunity for me to tell you how to make an effortless marinara sauce with canned tomatoes that will take less than 30 minutes.

I garnished the dish with some lamb's lettuce but you may be more familiar with it as corn salad, mâche, nut lettuce or rapunzel (there are even more names for it believe it or not). It's more of a salad green than an herb. It's flavour is very mild, nutty and has a sprouty aftertaste. They are fantastic in salads but work well as a refreshing garnish. Be sure to take advantage of it if you can find it.

Lastly before we carry on with the recipe, you may have noticed that in the title I specified purple asparagus though they look more green than purple in the photo. That's because most purple varietals of vegetables turn green when they're cooked. You might be surprised how many common vegetables can be found in purple versions (bell peppers, carrots, cauliflower, tomatoes, potatoes, kale, corn, etc...). All green vegetables contain chlorophyll which is responsible for their green colour. Purple vegetables contain an element called anthocyanins which appear in the plant's natural acids. They are very pH sensitive. When a purple vegetable is cooked the cells begin to rupture (so to speak) and release water thus diluting the anthocyanins. This causes the purple colour to fade as the green chlorophyll, which was always there to begin with, shows through. In case you are curious to know what purple asparagus looks like before it gets cooked, I took a picture just for you:


To blanche asparagus of any colour, drop them in lightly salted boiling water for no more than two minutes and then drain. For best results, dump the drained asparagus immediately into an ice bath to shock them and stop the cooking process. This will ensure that they are cooked through but still have a lovely crunch when you bite into them. One important tip about asparagus, the base of each spear tends to be woody and less palatable. You can slice those parts off with a knife but what I prefer to do is snap them with my hands. The asparagus will break naturally at the seam of the woody part and the edible part. 

If you don't have homemade or store bought tomato sauce at your disposal, make a basic canned tomato version. All you need is a small onion, a clove (or two) of garlic, a can of tomatoes, seasoning and preferably a little fresh herb like parsley, thyme or oregano. I finely sliced a small onion and allowed that to sweat in a pot with a little oil. A little salt helped to break down the onions. Once the onions go translucent, add finely minced garlic and stir frequently for a couple of minutes. Then add your canned tomatoes. Crush each one with your hand before adding it to the pot and pour in the liquid as well. Season with salt and pepper (I usually add a pinch of chili flakes too) and stir that from time to time as it reduces on medium to medium-high heat. The tomatoes will continue to break down in the process. If you are recreating this dish, be sure to start the sauce first as it takes the longest.   

After 20-25 minutes, pour the sauce into a blender. Add a pinch of fresh parsley (or the herb of your choice) and blitz into a smooth purée while it's still hot. SAFETY PRECAUTIONS TO KEEP IN MIND: Never fill a blender more than half way with a hot liquid before turning it on. Make sure that your blender has a tight fitting lid and I suggest holding the lid down with your other hand just to be sure the lid doesn't come flying off. Neglecting to do so will result in an enormous mess in your kitchen and even worse, injuries upon you and anyone else in the vicinity in the form of burns. That would not be cool. Otherwise, once you have your pureed tomato sauce, taste for seasoning, adjust if necessary and keep warm until you're ready to use.

The blanched asparagus and the tomato sauce are simple enough that you shouldn't need a step-by-step recipe. Let's go into a little more detail with the scallopini...


4 cuts veal leg scallopini
2 eggs
3/4 cup breadcrumbs
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp garlic powder
Oil for frying

Set up your breading station. Beat the two eggs in some sort of vessel and in another combine the breadcrumbs and spices and stir to thoroughly combine. 

Take each cut of meat and dip it in the egg wash, shake off any excess, dredge with the seasoned breadcrumbs until completely coated, shake off any excess again and set aside. It will be easier and cleaner if you do this one cutlet at a time.

Lightly coat a pan with oil and heat it to medium-high. Place 2 of the cuts of meat in the oil making sure to lay them away from you as to ensure you don't splash any hot oil on yourself. 

Depending on the thickness of the meat, let it cook undisturbed for a minute or two. Then flip them to cook the other side for the same amount of time.

When cooked place the scallopini on a paper towel to drain any excess oil and repeat with the remaining two veal cutlets. Scallopini is such a thin cut of meat that you don't really need to bother with letting it rest. As soon as it's cool enough to eat, dig right in!

There you have it. Crispy on the outside, tender on the inside strips of veal with just enough richness to compliment the acidity and slight spiciness of the marinara sauce. The asparagus spears bring another dimension of colour, flavour and texture with the occasional kiss of tender, buttery lamb's lettuce. I was very happy with this dinner and I'm excited to enjoy the other half of it for lunch tomorrow.

As always, I hope I have inspired you to try something new. There will be more to come soon.

Until then,


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