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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!)
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.