scaloppine al vino bianco
+ JUMP TO RECIPE
Scaloppine di vitello al vino bianco, veal scaloppine with white wine sauce – why do Italians always have to get it so right? So annoying. So gorgeous!
Scaloppine must be one of the most misspelt words in cookery – on par with focaccia, mozzarella, pappardelle and conchiglioni. Italian language is playfully perverse with double letters: they turn up in just the opposite spots to what you’d expect. And as it happens, the dish is also not quite what you’d expect: nothing to do with scallops, all to do with thin slices; not breaded, just dredged in flour; classically veal, but turkey and chicken just about appropriate too.
Since the English language counterpart, escalope, refers to a cut of veal, I’d always thought scaloppini were simply slices of veal, in Italian. Ah well, if I had a pound for every time I was wrong about cooking I’d not need to write a single word here again.
I’ve also been ambivalent about veal’s texture, about flattening meat chops and so in case of scaloppine clearly both. Whacking the living daylights out of meat – literally so, as you could see daylight through thus flattened cutlet - makes me think of shabby schnitzels whose thickness is constituted mostly by breadcrumbs. I don’t subscribe to the view that pounding makes a tough cut tenderer: it doesn’t, unless you pulp the thing into a meatball.
Veal has caused me trouble too: not so much ethically as I always buy humanely reared meat, but the texture of it always puzzles me. It should be more delicate than beef but it isn’t. It should be softer but not the case. And – as I never miss the chance to quote when talking about veal – Kalbfleisch ist kein Fleisch*, my grandmother used to sneer.
As it often happens, the Italians do it right. Scaloppine al limone, followed by vitello tonnato and Milanese is one of those really easy dishes that can be served at poshest dinner parties. It doesn’t even matter much if the veal isn’t sliced perfectly against the grain (amazing how many butchers cock it up) – the secret is in flattening the cutlets to half their original thickness, not any more. That actually tenderises the veal, and if you can afford to salt the flattened meat and chill it for several hours, you’ll get the loveliest texture.
Secondly, don’t be afraid of butter. Frying in butter sounds like an insane idea considering its low smoke point but magically, veal escalopes fry beautifully without burning, smoking or even colouring much – which isn’t essential here as they will get dunked in sauce.
And the sauce is the nicest thing, with capers and parsley being the classic, simple and great combination. I find ordinary white wine is the best, rather than fancy Italian Vin Santo or another. Just remember: never put in cooking a wine that you wouldn’t be happy to drink!
*veal is no meat
scaloppine al vino biancoServings: 2Time: 15 minutes
- 350g (11-12 oz.) veal topside
- salt and black pepper
- 2 tbsp. unsalted butter plus 1 more tbsp. cold
- 150ml (2/3 cup) white dry wine
- 1 tbsp. capers, drained and rinsed
- 1 tbsp. finely chopped parsley
- a large squeeze of lemon
1. Slicing the veal is much easier if the meat is very cold, straight from the fridge or even after a half hour in the freezer. Slice it into escalopes about 2cm/½ inch thick, across the grain.
2. Place the slices on a chopping board, cover with a sheet of cling film or parchment and flatten with a mallet to half the thickness – about 1cm/ ¼ inch. Season each with salt on both sides and chill until use. If you can do it several hours in advance, the salt will considerably tenderise the meat. Remove the veal from the fridge and bring it to room temperature before cooking either way.
3. Heat a frying pan large enough to fit the scaloppine in one layer, or cook them in batches. Melt the 2 tbsp. of butter in the pan over medium-high heat. When the butter is foaming, add the scaloppine and cook for 1 minute on each side. Remove them to a plate and keep warm.
4. Pour the wine into the pan and let it bubble furiously until cooked down by about a half. Whisk in the cold butter and turn down the heat. Add the capers, parsley and cook for another minute.
5. Return the scaloppine to the sauce, add a squeeze of lemon then divide the meat between individual plates and serve with the sauce spooned over.