The French and Italians became adept at making elegant and delicious meals using cheaper cuts of meat as well as using smaller amounts of meat than we tend to do in the United States. One way to achieve this is by pounding meat or poultry very thin and stuffing and rolling it with all kinds of wonderful fillings that add flavor as well as satisfying heft to the dish. They have the added benefit of also making beautiful pinwheels of color, texture and taste when sliced that would make you proud to serve to any guest. The following recipe comes from a book called Italian Cooking by Mary Reynolds that I have used for over 30 years. Follow the directions exactly and you will have a wonderful result, but also feel free to use it as a jumping off point and source of inspiration, varying the fillings to suit your tastes. Just try to keep in mind flavor balance, textures and the property of the ingredients when they are cooked. So, if for instance, you want to add chopped spinach, you should blanch it first and squeeze out all of the liquid. And remember that a little goes a long way if you start out with flavorful ingredients.
When I was in my teens I read about the way calves were treated in order to produce tender veal. While it didn’t make me into a vegetarian, I swore off veal for over 25 years. With the rise of organic farming also came awareness about the more humane treatment of animals. I still rarely eat veal but when I do, it is sourced from veal calves in non-tethered, humane environments, where the calves are ethically raised on family farms. If you still won’t eat veal – either because of the cost or for ethical reasons – I have successfully made this dish using pounded chicken breasts. Make it for your family and turn any night into a special night. They don’t have to know how easy it was. You can accompany this with polenta or rice or make it even quicker and use a good commercial pasta. I used a butternut squash ravioli and roasted asparagus. With a small salad, my husband and I ate like royalty and I only used less than 4 ounces of veal/person.
Stuffed Veal Rolls (Braciolette Ripieni)
Yield: 6-8 servings
8 scallops of veal, each weighing about 2 ounces
8 thin slices of prosciutto or jamon
2 slices of bread with crusts removed (I used a multi-grain bread because that was what I had on hand. Almost any bread would do; however, I wouldn’t use sour dough or corn bread here.)
3 Tablespoons seedless raisins (preferably Sultana or “white” raisins)
1/4 cup pine nuts or slivered blanched almonds
1/4 grated Parmesan, Asiago or Pecorino Romano cheese
2 Tablespoons chopped, fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
2 Tablespoons EVOO
2/3 cup of dry(ish) white wine (Use what you plan on drinking)
- Lay the scallops of veal (or chicken breasts) between 2 pieces of parchment paper and beat until thin but unbroken. If you don’t own a flat meat tenderizer (DO NOT use the kind with spikes!) you can use a small but heavy frying pan. Remove the paper and lay a piece of prosciutto or jamon over each flattened scallop.
- Soak the bread in tap water for about a minute. Then drain and squeeze it to remove all excess moisture. Mix the wet, softened bread with the raisins, cheese, nuts, parsley, slat and pepper. Divide the stuffing among the veal scallops.
- Roll up each scallop from the shorter end and secure your packages with two toothpicks/roll. Don’t worry if you lose a little filling. I just throw it into the sauce so nothing is wasted here.
- Heat the EVOO in a pan with a tight-fitting lid that is large enough to hold the rolls in a single layer. Brown the rolls fairly quickly on medium high heat, turning as necessary. Tongs make this very easy.
- Pour the wine over the rolls and cover tightly. Simmer the rolls on a low heat, turning once, for about 20 minutes. This can also be done in a 350 degree F oven but why heat up your whole kitchen if you don’t have to?
- Transfer the rolls to a serving dish and cover loosely with foil to keep warm. Boil the pan juices until reduced by about half. Remove the toothpicks and cut each roll in half on the diagonal, with the cut side facing up. Pour the pan juices over the top and serve.