Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Scallopini di Vitello al Marsala

Veal Marsala!
     I learned this recipe in the first Italian restaurant that I apprenticed in.  The saute chef there was phenomenal!  I have never seen a better Italian saute chef since.  His accuracy and classic Italian styled presentations of each plate were excellent.  I have posted a few great recipes from that restaurant in my blog in the past.
     The restaurant was sold and the new owner lost the business many years ago.  Its a nice surprise when I am talking to someone and I mention that long gone restaurant, just to see if they knew of the place.  Those who remember, get a smile on their face and give a reply of "Oh yes, I remember that place.  The food was so great there!"
    Apprenticing there was worth it.  I worked 14 hours a day and I was paid less than $50.00 dollars per day.  Most cooking school chefs attend classes or instruction for only 7 hours total per day.  Believe me, you learn much better techniques and a better chef foundation by apprenticing.  I apprenticed in several restaurants for 5 solid years.  Most of the restaurants were haute French and fine regional classic Italian.
     After ten years in the business I was trusted to teach externship to culinary school graduates from the finest cooking schools in America.  Most chef school interns were resentful of having to work with a chef who had never opened a textbook.  In the first major business rush during a busy night, I'd find my "head strong" intern cook "freaking out" under the pressure of cooking for several hundred people in a fine dining atmosphere.  So I did a lot of double duty work till they "got it back together" outside in the fresh air and resumed their duty back on the cooking line to finish the night's business.  Believe me, that first major business rush is not easy to handle for a "green" cook.
     I was very good at teaching efficiency, speed, accuracy, coordination, composure, timing, safety, safe food handling and great techniques to cooks who were new to the business.  I was a "slave driver" when it came to keeping a kitchen healthy and clean through the nights business too.  I'm a weird chef in one respect.  I could cook for a few hundred people by myself and not spill a drop, no spatters, no plates sent back and my kitchen whites looked like they were brand new at the end of the night.  My kitchens only needed a light wipe down at the end of a night.  It all comes with experience.  Experience can not be taught in school.  That is what externship is all about.
     Anyway, here is one of the simplest to prepare, all time favorite recipes, Veal Marsala!
     Recipe:  Cut some small escallops from a tender section of a veal leg.  (Never use the tough sections like the flanks and mock tenderloin for scallopini.) 
     Gently pound the veal escallops till they are thin and even with the flat side of a meat mallet or a wine bottle.
     Lightly dredge the veal escallops in flour and set them aside.  (Don't stack the veal escallops on top of each other or they will sweat and stick to each other like glue.)
     Saute a little bit of very finely chopped shallot and a minced garlic clove with a small splash of olive oil and and a couple pats of plugra butter in a saute pan over medium/medium high heat.  (Plugra is a very rich European style gourmet unsalted butter.  Plugra is so rich that it is pliable like dense clay.)
     Before the garlic turns golden colored, add the escalloped veal to the pan. 
     Shake the pan so the veal does not stick. 
     Add a handful of sliced mushrooms. 
     Add a little sea salt and black pepper. 
     Saute both sides of the veal till each piece is getting golden brown highlights and the mushrooms are cooked lightly.
     Add some rich veal stock to the pan. 
     Scrape the bits of fond from the bottom of the pan. 
     Add a very generous pour of imported Italian Marsala.  (American marsala is like American sherry.  Not so great!  Spend the extra money and get the real marsala that is imported from Italy.  Florio is a good brand of marsala wine.) 
     Simmer the sauce rapidly.
     Before the sauce reduces to a medium thin consistency, place the escalloped veal pieces across a plate like an overlapping row of escallops. 
     Reduce the sauce till it can coat the back of a spoon. 
     Spoon the mushrooms over the half of of the scallopini row that is closest to the center of the plate.  (Its nice to expose a portion of the veal instead of completely covering it with mushrooms.) 
     Pour the marsala sauce over the veal and mushrooms.
     Serve with al dente cooked campanelle pasta that is flavored with melted plugra butter and parsley.  Steamed sweet snap peas are nice with this entree too.  No garnish is necessary.
     The translucent, rich marsala sauce is very appealing to the eyes.  The aroma and flavor of this simple recipe is so very delicious!  The veal is very tender after simmering in the wine sauce.  The plugra's richness adds a great touch to the campanelle pasta.  So yummy!  Ciao Baby!  ...  Shawna            

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