I’ve been thinking a lot about old recipes lately. Recipes other people used to make, that have gone out of fashion. And recipes I used to make ( and love) that don’t seem to be in my rotation anymore.
Which of course has lead me to start thinking about some of my oldest and most beloved cookbooks.
I cooked from a very early age, and by the time I was in high school, I was the de facto chef in the house. My mother worked, and so I pretty much had the run of the kitchen. While I definitely consulted her battered and stained copy of Joy of Cooking and her even older copy of Thoughts for Buffet (I kid you not) I was usually after something more exotic, challenging and (I realize now) sophisticated. This lead me to the local library where I thumbed through copies of Time Life series learning how to make things like Gumbo and Coq au vin. At one point I got my hands on a Chinese cookbook that lead me to present multi course feasts for my family on a regular basis.
But my favorite book of all was a paperback copy of Craig Claiborne’s Favorites from the New York Times. I’m not sure how I came in possession of this. I have a feeling I found it in my father’s kitchen in New York. In any case I appropriated it as my own, and began to cook what I considered to be extraordinarily sophisticated meals that also tasted delicious.
One of my favorites from his pages, long before I discovered Marcella Hazan, was Veal Piccata. Which I made, and made and made and made for years. And naturally assumed that not only was it an authentic Italian recipe, but that was the oh-so-authentic Italian name for it.
So the other night, when I was deciding what to do with some veal scaloppine that I had bought at the farmer’s market, I must have said, out loud, “Oh, I’ll make Veal Piccata.” And immediately Sophie and Domenico started laughing at me, repeating, over and over, in an exaggerated American accent “Veal Picada, veal picada.”
And so I found out that this super easy, addictively delicious dish, should never be referred to as Veal Piccata, or even Vitello Piccata. It’s more commonly known, in Italy, as scaloppine al limone, or, more rarely piccata di vitello. Marcella chimes in with Scaloppine di Vitello al limone.
Along the way from my first introduction via Craig Claiborne, I’ve made a few changes to the original recipe. Neither Craig nor Marcella call for white wine, but I do. I’ve also played around with the type of meat over the years. Here in Italy veal is usually much older than veal in the States, called Vitellone (teen veal more or less) and that is usually what I use. But chicken and even flattened pork loin slices work too.
As you can see it’s super easy and although you may think the amount of butter in the dish is overabundant, it’s the secret ingredient. Skimp on another part of your meal, but don’t try this without all that butter. The sauce won’t be nearly as delicious. And the sauce? The whole point of this old fashioned, much loved, recipe.
Which is now back in rotation at Casa Minchilli.