I love veal scallopini served with almost any pan sauce, but my favorite is piccata. Whenever the wife and I eat at high-end restaurants, I usually order the veal picatta as a way to gauge the quality of the kitchen. But more times than not, I prefer my own version to the restaurant’s.
The worst veal scallopini piccata I’ve ever eaten was at an Italian restaurant in a strip mall on Woodruff Road in Greenville, SC. I was served a bowl of water-thin sauce that was composed of about 80% white wine. After timidly provoking the yellowish liquid with my spoon, I dredged up a few chunks of thickly sliced veal. They were more elastic than a popped balloon and about as tasty. Needless to say, I haven’t gone back.
There’s no authentic recipe for veal scallopini piccata, at least not as far as I know. I’m not a purist anyway. Nevertheless, there are a few steps in the cooking process that are essential. To begin with, you must pound the veal or else it’s not scallopini. Also, you need to dredge the cutlets in flour so the sauce will thicken. Finally, the sauce must include chicken broth, white wine, capers and lemon. The amounts may vary and people are free to add or substitute other ingredients. But if you stray too far from the basics, you’re not really making picatta anymore.
Here’s everything you need for my version of the dish:
Veal Scallopini Piccata
- 4 veal cutlets, pounded thin (about a pound or less)
- 1 cup low sodium chicken stock
- ½ cup white wine
- ½ large lemon (or 1 small one), seeded and sliced into rounds
- 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 small shallot, minced
- 3 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
- 4 tablespoons butter, divided
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- enough flour for dredging
- salt & pepper to taste
I always try to buy pre-flattened cutlets. Veal can be pretty difficult to pound really thin. Your butcher probably has a machine like a pasta press he can run it through. Publix is good about selling pre-flattened veal cutlets that don’t need to be prepped beyond rinsing them off and patting them dry, but you pay for that convenience.
Season the scallopini with a little salt and pepper. Next, dredge them in flour and shake off the excess. Resist the urge to cut them into smaller pieces. They’ll shrink when cooking.
Heat two tablespoons each of olive oil and butter over medium-high heat. When the butter is foaming, add the veal. Shake the pan at first so the flour doesn’t stick to the bottom. They cook really quickly. You’re really just browning them around the edges. You’ll add them back to the pan later to simmer with the sauce.
When the veal cutlets are nicely browned, remove them to a plate or cutting board. Add the shallots and garlic to the pan and sauté for a couple of minutes until softened.
Add the white wine to the pan and use a wooden spoon to deglaze the bottom. Once it’s clean, add the chicken stock, lemon slices, capers, most of the parsley, and mix well. Reduce it by about half and then add the veal back to the pan. reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the sauce just begins to coat the back of a spoon. Don’t cook it down too much or else it’ll get too sour (from the lemon and capers).
When the sauce is nicely thickened, remove and plate the veal. Take the pan off the heat and add the remaining two tablespoons of butter. Stir until the sauce is smooth. If you think the sauce tastes too sour, then add a little cream and maybe some more butter. Butter makes everything better.
Season with salt and pepper and drizzle over the veal. Garnish with the lemon slices and the remaining parsley and serve immediately.
I really love this dish. As far as the cooking process goes, there’s not much difference between piccata, marsala, saltimbocca, et al. If you can cook one dish, you can cook them all. The wife’s not as fond of picatta as I am, but she humors me. I served this with some roasted eggplant and she cleaned her plate. That’s the real barometer for success around my house.
NOTE: I only cooked two cutlets but made enough sauce for four. I like my scallopini swimming. So don’t be surprised if you follow this recipe and don’t have as much sauce for your cutlets as I did in the picture. Typically, piccata sauce barely coats the veal, almost like butter spread on toast. It tastes great that way.