Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Veal with Spinach, Gorgonzola & Mushrooms

Plans sometimes have a way of changing because of inconvenient little problems wrapped around pesky simian-sounding tools. A.K.A., monkey wrenches. Pow! The plan gets blown to smithereens.

That's exactly what happened with Saturday night's dinner. I'd planned (notice the past tense) to make a quick and simple veal cutlet with spinach, mushrooms, lemon and gorgonzola. I figured on a quick trip to the grocery store to pick up what I needed and dinner would be ready in a snap. We hadn't had veal in many years...couldn't wait!

After picking up pre-sliced fancy mushrooms and lucking upon a mild and tangy buttermilk gorgonzola, I headed back to the meat case at our local market - which shall remain unnamed. (Okay, the initials are GE and I'm NOT talking General Electric, if you get my drift.) A quick search of the service meat case produced no veal to be seen.

After waiting a while for the "butcher" to finally look up from his meat-wrapping intensity way in the back of the prep area, I asked if there was veal cutlet to be had. He came around the case, lead me past the "service meat" counter to the prepackaged meat case area and grandly showed me the "veal." 

Not only was it prepackaged, it hadn't even been packaged in their own meat department. Good lord, it was vacuum sealed from some big veal factory from God knows where and pre-sliced into what was billed as scallopini. Scallopini? Looked like scraps to me. Nope. Not gonna.

Okay, I'm flexible...instead of veal cutlet and weiner schnitzel, I'd compromise and do a pork cutlet and make it a schwein schnitzel. Nope. No pork cutlets either. Did I think "service meat" in a grocery store would be an actual butcher shop with real, cut-able meat? What century did I think I was living in?

So I headed to the Strip District and Strip District Meats. Surely the huge butcher shop lined on both sides with rows of end-to-end display cases, piled sky high with meats would carry veal. Yes! They did! 

The nice young woman behind the counter led me past those long lines of cases stacked with chicken, pork belly, pork chops and steaks to the veal area at the back of the store. To the FREEZER CASE in the back of the store! Oh they had veal alright, frozen, pre-packaged, vacuum sealed veal. Oh HELL no, not again.

I could have used chicken. But that's not what we wanted. Why waste good mushrooms and SPECIAL gorgonzola on chicken when both Mark and I were craving veal? Saturday's special plans came and went. I think I made omelets instead. Eh.

The next day I checked the internet and Googled "Pittsburgh Butcher Shops." Tom Friday's Market in BrightonHeights came up on my screen. I called good old Tom. YES, they do cut FRESH veal to order! Honest to God fresh, not frozen, veal the way it used to be done. Hallelujah! 

Mark stopped at Friday's real butcher shop today...that lovely little local, independently owned butcher shop with the helpful and friendly staff (and Tom himself!) and picked up exactly what we wanted. Instead of a quick Saturday night dinner, our special veal night became a quick Tuesday night dinner.  It was worth the wait!

I learned something in the process. Things change, not always for the better. "Service" isn't always what you might expect it to be. BUT. Persistence and a lucky Google search may eventually produce positive results. That and the discovery of a new-to-me REAL butcher shop that now has a customer for life.

Veal with Spinach, Gorgonzola & Mushrooms

Serves 4
  • 1 pound veal cutlet, gently pounded thin with the flat side of a meat mallet - cut into 6-8 pieces
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk - echoes the buttermilk gorgonzola below
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup panko (more if you need it) gluten-free to make this GF, regular if gluten isn't an issue

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, sliced - I like the gourmet variety with oyster mushrooms, criminis and baby bellas - use what you like best!
  • 1 bag spinach, baby, cut coarsely
  • 1/4 cup gorgonzola cheese, crumbled, plus extra for garnish - I used a mild, but flavorful, buttermilk gorgonzola (and yes, I got it at GE)
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced, extra slices for garnish

Spread the panko on a large plate. Beat the egg and buttermilk together and pour into a second large plate. Dip each piece of veal into the egg wash, then into the panko and coat each side well. Set onto a third large plate until all are coated. Don't lay the pieces on top of each other; keep each piece separate to let the crumbs set. Season with salt & pepper.

Heat a large skillet.  Add oil & butter and melt over high heat. As soon as the pan is hot, add the veal pieces in batches.  Don't crowd. It won't take long for them to cook, just brown quickly on both sides and remove to a plate. Keep warm while doing the other batch(es). Don't overcook the veal....it's tender, delicate and you do NOT want it to be tough.

Once the veal is all browned and removed to a plate, add another tablespoon of butter to the pan. Quickly add the mushrooms and garlic and stir for a minute or two. Add the spinach and stir until the spinach is wilted. Add the gorgorzola and the juice of half a lemon. Stir and remove from heat.

Spoon the spinach mixture over the veal pieces, garnish with additional crumbled gorgonzola if you wish and a few lemon slices.

NOTE: Don't want to use veal because of the expense? I don't blame you.  That's why it's been so long since I've made it at home. Use pork instead or even chicken. Be sure to pound whatever you use thinly, but gently. Use bleu cheese if you prefer or leave out the cheese completely. The recipe is flexible...like we all need to be. 

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