I will readily admit that I am cooking (and eating) at the edge of my conscience when it comes to veal – maybe even over the line. But once twice maybe three times a year, my desire for the supremely tender meat gets the best of me, and I put on blinders to enjoy the chic delicacy. Somehow (probably due to a combination of expense and being a finicky eater at a younger age), I had never tasted veal until about 5 years ago when I flew to Massachusetts to visit Jay and his grandmother, the incredibly chic and exceptionally knowledgeable about most all things culture-, art-, food-, and travel-related Mrs. Claire H.
During that winter visit, she treated me to one of her homemade specialties: veal scallops in a marsala sauce, topped with sauteed mushrooms. I was blown away by the tenderness of the veal, which melted in my mouth like butter. The almost syrupy marsala reduction sauce, which featured a hearty mound of sauteed mushrooms and onions, added further warmth to this comforting Italian dish. The decadence of veal marsala goes perfectly with creamy fettuccine alfredo and a green vegetable on a cold night – the type of night where, perhaps, your boyfriend/taste-tester warms up the ambience by offering his endless photographer services (unasked!) and then lighting a cozy fire in your rare-but-cherished San Franciscan fireplace.
Notes on ingredients and substitutions: Because veal is a mildly flavored meat (like chicken or pork) that seamlessly adopts the flavors of whichever spices or sauces it shares a pan with, veal can be used with incredible versatility. Veal scallops should be pale pink, which indicates a higher degree of tenderness than dark pink or reddish veal. For those who have qualms about eating veal, please substitute chicken cutlets pounded to 1/4-inch thickness. I served the veal with lightly steamed haricots verts (the really thin, French green beans) and fettuccine alfredo. I halved the fettuccine recipe below, which overfed two incredibly hungry people and still provided another two servings in leftovers.
Veal Marsala with Mushrooms (adapted from Grams’ recipe)
Serves 2 very hungry adults
5 veal cutlets (total weight: 3/4 lb. to 1 lb.)
4 Tbsp. butter, divided
1 c. mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/2 c. red onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. pepper
1/2 c. dry marsala wine, plus more as needed
1/2 c. chicken stock
2 Tbsp. flour (if needed to thicken sauce)
Melt 2 Tbsp. butter in large pan. Add mushrooms, onions, and garlic, and sauté until mushrooms are browned and onions are lightly caramelized, approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from pan, and set aside.
Lightly salt and pepper both sides of each veal cutlet, then dredge both sides of each cutlet through flour. Shake off excess flour, and set aside.
In same pan, melt remaining 2 Tbsp. butter. Making not to crowd the pan, add 2 or 3 cutlets. Sear each side until the light pink meat turns white (perhaps still a tad pink in the center), 30 to 75 seconds per side, depending on the size of the cutlet. (Note: it is better to err on the side of undercooking at this stage because overcooked veal gets incredibly chewy, ruining the tender meat; you will heat the veal in the marsala sauce later, and can cook it for an additional minute at that time if needed.) Remove seared cutlets, and set aside. Repeat to sear remaining cutlets.
Add 1/2 c. marsala wine to the hot pan, and scrape remaining veal drippings from bottom of pan. Add 1/2 c. chicken stock to pan, and continue to scrape any remaining bits off the bottoof the pan. Reduce marsala stock to 3/4 c. of liquid.
If necessary to thicken sauce, remove a couple tablespoons of marsala sauce to a bowl and whisk in 2 Tbsp. flour. Return flour mixture to remaining sauce in pan, and stir.
If necessary to add volume to sauce, add another 1/4 c. marsala to the pan, and cook for another minute or two to desired thickness.
Turn heat down to low. Return veal and mushroom mixture to pan, and heat through. Do NOT overcook here – just heat through for a minute or until hot. Serve immediately.
Makes 3 cups of sauce (certainly enough for 1 lb. of fettuccine pasta)
- 2 Tbsp. butter
- 1/4 c. flour
- 2 ½ c. milk (I used 1%)
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. pepper
- Pinch garlic powder
- Pinch dried basil
- 3/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 lb. fettuccine, cooked al dente
Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat. Add flour. Whisk together, and cook for a couple minutes, whisking constantly.
Meanwhile, warm the milk in another pan (or in the microwave), but do not boil.
Whisk in ½ c. milk, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and basil. Bring to a boil, whisking as it thickens. Slowly whisk in the rest of milk, ½ c. at a time. Reduce heat, and simmer, whisking occasionally, for 5 minutes. Toss with Parmesan cheese and cooked fettuccine.