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Veal Parmigiana: what's the key?

I've been asked to make veal parm for a job "audition" (I'm a private chef). I have eaten veal parm maybe once. I could kind of make it up as i go and i'm pretty sure it would be decent enough, but i'm also pretty sure that there are folks out there who have firm opinions on how to do it right. Most importantly, the person i'm cooking for. And it needs to be better than decent!

So, cutlets? Or thicker cuts? Of what? Cutlets seem like they'd get tough in the oven. Other tips, recipes, or recommendations for the holy grail of veal parm would be most welcome. (I'm in NYC). A post from 2002 said Difara's was it. Can anyone corroborate this? (And confirm he's still doing it).

I was also thinking about the possibility of a reinterpretation involving braised veal, because i know i can do that well, but would a veal parm fan recoil at this idea? I guess it depends on the veal parm fan...

By the way, I'm talking about the entree, not the sandwhich.

Many thanks.

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  1. Cutlets. Salt & Pepper. Dip in flour, beaten egg, then seasoned breadcrumbs (I usually use basil and oregano). Pan fry until just browned on each side. Layer with sauce in ovenproof shallow baking dish. Sprinkle with a mixture of mozz. and parm. cheese and broil until cheese is melted and browned.

    This way you avoid overbaking the meat.

    You could also use thicker cuts, but I think the meat to breading ratio is crucial in veal parmigiana. That's JMHO though.

    3 Replies
    1. re: QueenB

      Queen B: When you say "layer with sauce" are you doing more than one layer of each element?

      Others: am i understanding you correctly that you do only a single layer?

      Thanks all, for your tips.

      1. re: robotcoupe

        No, I'm sorry I was unclear. One layer! Meat, then sauce, then cheese.

      2. re: QueenB

        Just to add a little to QueenB's method, which is spot on. I would add a little butter to the oil in the pan when you are frying. Also make sure you don't fry to many in the pan at once or else basically you will end up steaming them.

        I also use Panko mixed with breadcrumb, about 1/2 and 1/2 for a crunchier coating. Remember to keep the oil mixture hot enough but not too hot to burn them, a little over medium on my stove.

        Another tip I would give is to change the oil mixture after each batch. What I find is that if you don't the second batch will pick up pieces of burned breading off of the pan, usually not a problem if you are covering and baking after but if you have guests that like to check the bottoms, then presentation is everything.

      3. Agree with QueenB's method. Thin cutlets that are pounded so they are even. I would shun a thick cut veal parm. Also i like to add a decent amount of parmesan cheese to the breadcrumbs. The oven (actually broiler) should only be used brown/melt the cheese and not to cook the veal.

        I personally like to add only the cheese to the pan fried cutlets and then plate ontop of the sauce (or ladle the sauce over the melted cheese in a roll). That keeps the veal crispy.

        I'd be hesitant on the reinterpretation. My dad, for instance, judges Italian-American restaurants by how well they do a simple veal parm, thinking if they can't get that right, they wont get anything more complicated right. personally, the only reinterpretation I like, is I've had places that use essentially bruschetta topping (chopped tomato,garlic, basil, etc) instead of a tomato sauce. Braising, although maybe good, certainly is not a veal parm.

        1. Cutlets from the veal round (leg) pounded thin. Agree with other posters on method BUT mine are special because I like them crispy and I use panko breadcrumbs mixed with grated Romano cheese and a little parsley for breading. I think mozzarella is bland and sometimes use Fontina or Provolone cheese instead. Homemade tomato sauce is a must. Don't overbake, only long enough for cheese to melt.

          1. Hey robotcoupe,

            Just remember that pan-frying is MUCH different from just doing a quick saute. Look at the amount of veal that you are frying, and make sure that you have enough oil/fat in the pan to come up to over more than half the thickness of the meat when it is placed into the pan.

            The oil must be hot enough to quickly brown, but not burn, the coating before turning the cutlets. But, the heat of the oil must'nt be so low/high as to totally cook the cutlet while the coating is browning. Quite a refined science, pan frying.

            I wish there were exact instructions to give, but the variables of pan type, size, type of oil, and heat source make an educated guess of cooking times irresponsible at this time. (How is that for a discalaimer!)


            1. Ate at Trattoria del Arte across from Carnegie Hall last spring, my father had the veal parmigiana. We still talk about it. Seriously. I think the key was it seemed to be butterflied and then pounded incredibly thin. Lightly sauced and light on the cheese so as to not overwhelm. The portion literally took up the entire plate but was so incredibly light. Almost like a veal pizza. LOL-you can see I still dream of it.

              1 Reply
              1. re: elayne5

                That sounds fantastic! I have some veal in my freezer waiting to turn into this, hope it's as good as yours sounds-even though the meat was frozen:(

              2. I agree with everyone's advice so far - but just wanted to say, perhaps it might be a good idea to do a pre-audition veal parm in your own kitchen to make sure it's exactly what you want. Good luck!

                3 Replies
                1. re: Gio

                  I would echo everyone's comments thus far. All are solid suggestions and if you incorporate any of the ideas, you will end up with an excellent rendition of Veal Parmigiana. I would further suggest you consider if you want to go the traditional route, or think out of the box and go with something more exciting for the recipe.

                  For me the key to a great Veal Parmigiana is it must be tender, so pounding the veal is a must. I would caution you to not pound too thinly, as you do not want the Milanese Cutlets to taste more like the coating than the veal itself. A nice balance of texture and taste is important. For the sauce, you need to decide if you want the sauce to be smooth, slightly thick or chunky. Personally, I prefer slightly thick and not runny with water. I also like the idea of combining Panko and Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese together with day old fresh Italian bread crumbs. Another bread that works well for fresh bread crumbs is Pepperridge Farms Brands. As for the cheese, I like (Diane in Bexley)'s suggestion for the use of Fontina or Provalone, or even a combination of both cheeses with or without Fresh Mozzarella.

                  If you want to think out of the box and make it more exciting, if your budget permits, consider using a Rib Eye or Shoulder End Veal Chop pounded. This is the way some top fine dining Italian Restaurants serve the dish. Il Mulino in NYC serves their dish this way and it is the most memorable Veal Parm in my memory.

                  As for the method of actual preparation and heating, years ago, Ed Levine used to do a show on New York Cable about "The Best of New York". One episode featured the best chicken parmigiana sandwich available in NY, and it was from The Corona Pork Store in Queens. There, the owner fried the pounded chicken cutlets first and held them on a rack to cool. The sauce was slightly thick and she used fresh shredded mozzarella. When she was ready to prepare and heat the finished chicken parm sandwiches, this was her method:

                  1. Coat a sheet pan with a ladle of Sauce for each Cutlet
                  2. Place a Cutlet over the Sauce
                  3. Sprinkle Parmigiano Reggiano over the Cutlets
                  4. Cover the Cutlets with Mozzarella Cheese
                  5. Ladle sauce over the Cheese
                  6. Heat in oven for 15-20 minutes

                  1. re: fourunder

                    Thanks everyone.

                    I especially like the idea of pounding a rib chop (not sure what a rib shoulder chop means), and no money is not an issue with this audience. Also panko plus parmesan, and using a variety of cheese. A chunkier sauce seems more appealing as well.

                    But I don't know why you'd need to cook the cutlets for 15-20 minutes when all you're really doing is melting and browning the cheese. This is not the first case I've seen where that was suggested and it doesn't make a lot of sense to me.

                    I will definitely do a dry-run beforehand.

                    Thanks again!

                    1. re: robotcoupe


                      Sorry, the Shoulder End Rib Chop was part of a typo.....(or) was omitted, but I have edited the text.

                      As for heating 15-20 minutes.......that would depend on how you are actually preparing the meal. Most commercial kitchens brown the breadcrumbs on Milanese Cutlets in the fry pan, but finish cooking baking in the oven, usually at a moderate temperature if they preparing many cutlets. If you want to save time, you could cook the meat to temp, heat the sauce on the stove and then assemble cutlet, sauce and the cheese to the top and melt in the oven, but in my opinion, you do not give the flavors of the dish sufficient time to meld together. I cannot explain why it is done this way, but in any kitchen I have ever been associated with, the way dishes are prepared is in steps. The many parts or ingredients of a dish are pre-prepared and put together when ready to be fired.. In the case of cutlets, they are usually browned before hand and prepared as mentioned. Refer earlier to the part where I said to "cool on rack". Whichever method you elect to use, please remember this.......you want your food to be hot throughout.......just because the cheese is melted on top does not guarantee the temperature of the meat and sauce underneath will be hot, but may be just merely warm. If that were the case for me, you would fail somewhat on your test. I can only assume you will be preparing your sauce beforehand. Whether you reheat the sauce on the stove first or in the assembled dish in the oven before serving, the choice is yours.


                2. I do mine using a bunch of tricks I've picked up in various restaurants over the years.

                  Put a heavy aluminum or cast iron sheet or tray in the freezer.
                  Heavily flour a cutting board with flour mixed with *finely ground* pepper (not too much), oregano, basil and marjoram (seasoned flour, as it were).
                  Place your veal on the flour mix.
                  Cover with plastic wrap and pound it as thin as you can without it falling apart.
                  Fold the veal in thirds, like the way you'd fold a piece of paper before you put it in a #10 envelope, *flour side in*.
                  Lightly dredge the outside in flour, place *seam side down* on some plastic wrap.
                  When finished pounding and forming all your veal, transfer them (still on the plastic wrap) onto the tray you have in the freezer.
                  Let them sit in the freezer for about 10 to 15 minutes, just long enough so that there's a 'shell' of frozen veal on each, and the seam on the bottom is frozen shut.
                  Dip in beaten egg, then a mix of 2/3 seasoned bread crumbs and 1/3 parmesan cheese.
                  --optional-- I like more breading on mine, so I return them to the freezer for 5 minutes, re-dip them in egg and more bread crumbs.
                  Pan fry in a cast iron skillet on medium heat, turning once. The oil is up to you. The temp is somewhat critical here, as you want the veal completely cooked through, without the outside getting too browned.
                  Brush or very sparingly spoon and spread sauce on top each piece, then cover with mozzarella cheese. I prefer sliced cheese as it keeps the cheese/meat ratio uniform over the whole piece. Sprinkle some parmesan on top. Place on a sheet tray and bake at 225 until the cheese is melted through.
                  Put some sauce on a plate, put the finished piece on top of the sauce, and a spoonful of sauce in the center of the cheese.

                  The whys and wherefores:
                  Pounding on the spiced flour helps the veal spread more easily, so it gets thinner. Pounding makes it more tender, and pounding it very thin makes it as tender as possible. Folding in thirds brings it back to a good thickness overall. You fold the spicy flour side in so that the flour absorbs any liquid from the veal while it's cooking. This keeps it moist and tasty, plus the flour keeps it held together better. You freeze it just enough to freeze the seam shut. The metal tray helps by being a 'heat sink'. I bread mine twice to get a nice ratio of meat to breading. They go back in the freezer after the first breading to keep the seam closed. I use a cast iron skillet when pan frying them because I want the oil in the pan to drop in temperature as little as possible when the veal is added, to keep the breading from soaking up too much oil. I only put a very small amount of sauce on before I put the cheese on so that the cheese "adheres" to the veal better. I hate picking up a bite of parm and having it drag the cheese off the rest of the piece because it's floating on sauce. You could alternately use no sauce under the cheese, but I find that a bit too crunchy. I bake them without sauce under them so they don't get soggy. Temp is 225F (just above boiling) so that the cheese melts slowly while the veal re-warms. Sauce on the plate then veal on the sauce, plus the extra spoon of sauce on top for taste and presentation.

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: ThreeGigs

                    Ok. I drooled on my keyboard reading that. Beautifully written :)

                    1. re: ThreeGigs

                      Very glad you posted the folding method. I've been following this and thinking that I just don't think really, really thin Veal Parm is what I remember or have come to love. Not sure I recall the folded method, maybe just cutlets thicker than those here are recommending. When I make Chicken Parm I pound the breasts til they're about 3/8" thick or so. I guess I just like a piece of meat I can sink my teeth into. And.......... your description is well worth printing out for future reference. Thanks.

                      1. re: ThreeGigs


                        I have been accused of not being impressed by anything in the restaurant business, but I must say this is a very impressive method and response. In all my years I have never heard of this recipe and preparation. ......nor have I ever been lucky enough to experience a place that prepares it this manner. It's the small details and extra effort that make a dish exceptional and I think this definitely fall into the exceptional category. Usually in an unfamiliar place where/when I order Veal Parm, it's usually a small piece pounded or not, and deep fried. Very disappointing. How you can tell if the veal has been deep fried as opposed to pan fried is easy.......the edges on the cutlets curl up when deep fried.

                        Thinking out of the box......as most know, many pizzerias in the past and present do not actually use veal,,,,,but instead use pork. These unscrupulous offenders should be prosecuted for fraud in my opinion for the blatant and willful disregard for people's choices and diet.....but pork makes a very good option for an arguably tastier version of Milanese Cutlets. One very popular restaurant in Northern New Jersey clearly states their menu offering as Pork Cutlet Parmigiana and does not offer Veal at all on the menu in their restaurant.

                        Assuming your prospective employers may or may not keep a Kosher Household.......Maybe you should consider offering a side dish of the pork version to show initiative you can save them money, but not compromise on quality or taste.

                        For the record, I have never saved any recipe on Chowhound for future reference, but this one is definitely a keeper. Thank you.

                        1. re: fourunder

                          Fourunder - if they keep a kosher kitchen they wouldn't be having veal or any other meat "parmigiana" - no mixing of meat and dairy in a kosher kitchen.

                          1. re: laylag

                            Thank you for the clarification and enlightenment.....

                            When it comes to Kosher dietary law, the Goy/Shagetz knows Bubkis

                        2. re: ThreeGigs

                          This is great! I thought my chicken parm was good, wow I'm trying your method. I started using chicken because I couldn't find the right cuts, your method makes perfect sense and sound great.

                          1. re: ThreeGigs

                            ThreeGigs, I followed your technique tonight when I was faced with scallopini that had been pounded so thin and so large I'd have had to fry them in six batches. It was great to fold them (I only folded them in half), freeze them, and go ahead with it! They ended up the perfect thickness, the dish was beautifully balanced, 250 was the perfect slow oven temp, and my family was very happy thanks to you. Yay!

                          2. Here is a major change that jfood has adopted over the years. Fries the veal as other have suggested. The he only places cheese on top andunder the broiler to melt. He places the breaded cutlet on the plate and spoon hot sauce around it.

                            Why? The sauce onthe chop while the cheese melts causes the breding to get soggy and jfood likes it nice and crispy.

                            Then you cut the cheese chop with a little sauce and all the crunchiness is still present.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: jfood

                              My instinct tells me the same thing -- saucing will effect the crunchiness of the breading. But just to be sure, since I'm a novice, I'm doing my side by side comparison tonight. One a layered, sauced, and baked version, and one just sauced on the plate, and the cheese melted just to melt it and heat the veal through.

                              Thanks for all the input!

                            2. Made turkey cutlets last night for dinner and forgot to mention they also do an excellent job. I buy already sliced turkey breast or have been known to slice my own from a whole turkey breast (freeze for about 30-45 min first for easier slicing). They pound beautifully and are indistinguishable from chicken cutlets.

                              Another key to success I may have forgotten to mention is to let the cutlets rest for 30-60 min once they are breaded to allow the coating to stick really well.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Diane in Bexley

                                I can always tell when it's turkey unless it is ground and mixed with other meats, such as a meatball or meatloaf that is part turkey, part beef. Maybe it's the different smell, but my family can easily tell the difference between turkey and chicken cutlets, even served parmigiana. I also think the texture is a bit different. Maybe the stuff you are buying is a better quality?

                              2. Go with high quality, thin-sliced veal leg cutlets and pound them until they almost fall apart. I like dipping in flour, then egg wash, then bread crumb which I have seasoned. I can also buy a version of veal cutlet that is already tenderized -- thicker and looking more the the "cubed" steak you see for sandwiches made out of round, and it is always tender (I flatten these although they don't need tenderizing per se), but if your diners are purists, they won't prefer that cut.

                                Single layer, mild marinara sauce, whole milk mozzarella.

                                1. An update:

                                  In my trial run, I tested two different techniques, but used the same basic recipe for both. Dipped in seasoned flour, egg wash, and then a combo of breadcrumbs/panko/parmesan, and pan fried them. In one, I baked the cutlet (cheese on top was a mix of fresh mozz and aged provolone) on a pool of sauce for 15 minutes at 400 F. For the other I just baked the veal with the cheese, only until it melted. Then I plated it on the sauce. They actually tasted basically the same, although the oven-sauced one was a bit less crispy. I went with the sauce on the plate method mainly for presentation reasons. They ate up every bit of it at the actual audition so I have to assume it didn't suck...going back for another tryout soon.

                                  Thanks for all the suggestions!

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: robotcoupe

                                    Thanks so much for reporting back to us! I really like the idea of plating with the sauce on the plate-very nice. Now I'm in the mood to cook veal parm!

                                    1. re: robotcoupe


                                      Thanks for the feedback. Glad you enjoyed and the sauce separate does add that little bit extra crisp.

                                      Now are you ready for the next one? Hot fudge sundaes

                                      jfood hates the idea that when you place the hot fudge on the ice cream it melts the ice cream, sorta cutting the pleasure in half. Try the hot fudge in a separate dish. Take a spoonful of ice cream and take it through the sauce. You get twice as many ice cream with fudge tastes. And you should see the look from the server at Friendly's when you order it this way - priceless.

                                      1. re: jfood

                                        Come on jfood, every knows you have to fudge the glass, not the ice cream. That way you scoop some ice cream, then run the spoon against the glass to get some fudge in every bite.

                                        1. re: ESNY

                                          That's also an excellent idea.

                                    2. I have cooked thousands of veal parm , I pan fry with pure olive oil, Never use BHS or TBS veal ,i use veal tops cap off. Pound , yes with an old butcher knive /not this new stuff.

                                      the temp of oil is imoportant .. breading seasons. egg, very simple ....never never deep fry.
                                      cook place in over melt cheese .............................

                                      you have to know how to make tomato sauce :)

                                      been cooking veal parm since 1930 ..............................forget the flour .....i leaned from two chefs for italy. ...........