Another one from “Jamie’s America”, and a real Italian American classic. I’ve eaten this in a few different places on two continents and it has varied wildly in style and, quite frankly, quality. The breaded meat is often deep fried (despite denials) and then whomped under a salamander with cheese on top. This usually results in over cooked, over oily meat, which is a pity as it should be a really delicious dish with lots going on.
Now, as well as veal, this can be made with either chicken breast or pork escallope, which is great as I’m generally not a big veal fan. I won’t eat traditional white veal, as I don’t want to have my few quid supporting the crate system. It is possible to get free range veal, which is still calf, but older and left outdoors with a milk-rich diet, but the resulting, far happier meat, is unfashionably pink in color, as well as being more expensive than the crated veal. Despite tasting better than its white counterpart, it’s simply deemed unsuitable for all white dishes like blanquette de veau.
Anyway, I’ve occasionally seen selected cuts of rosé veal in Marks and Spencer and in FX Buckley’s on Moore street in Dublin, if you fancy trying it.
Step one: make sauce.
This is a simple tomato sauce. Garlic, a couple of anchovies (don’t leave them out! You can’t taste them in the final dish, but you’d be completely missing the umami note without them), basil, and a can of tomatoes.
On tinned tomatoes – I’ve heard from multiple places that the tomato quality in the “whole plum” tins is much better than in the chopped, as it’s harder to get away with things with the whole tomato visible. Personally I find that a lot of chopped tomato brands, at various price levels, seem heavy on the juice and a bit low on the actual tomato flesh content, so I’ll usually pick the whole peeled plum variety. Plus I get a little childish glee from squeezing them over the pan in my fist until they burst!
Step two: chicken faffing.
A sucker for giving myself work, I made my own breadcrumbs from the tail end of a lovely sourdough loaf that was even past toasting. Add lemon zest, grated Parmesan and thyme leaves. Don’t forget to give the bowl a sniff – it’s a lovely, summery scent.
Sauce into the oven dish you’ll be using, and then it’s time to trim your chicken before engaging in a little stress relief.
Cling film or freeze bags are usually recommended here, but I used baking paper – I’m making an effort to cut my disposable plastic use, and the paper is also much less slippery. Beat the daylights out of the chicken breast with a rolling pin, wine bottle, or some other robust, heavy object. You want it to at least triple in area and be very evenly thin, but not to the point where it will break up as soon as you peel it off the paper.
Dust with flour, dip in egg and breadcrumb thoroughly. Into a hot pan with a nice glug of oil, for just a minute or two per side to brown the coating and then remove to a clean tea towel to get rid of any excess oil. Crispy, not greasy, is the goal.
Repeat with the next chicken breast, then pop both in the dish on topography the sauce. Break up a ball of buffalo mozzarella and dot over the top. Twenty minutes in a hot oven gives you enough time to clear the breadcrumby mess and get a simple side dish together. In my case, crushed new potatoes. A big spinach salad would be great too.
This smelled amazing as it baked, and it was declared the favourite dish of the project so far. Clean plates all around.
This is going straight in the regular rotation, despite it being a little messy. I can’t recommend enough starting this with clear counter space and an empty sink and dishwasher as it’s heavy on dishes (chopping board, knives, several plates and bowls, oven dish, cutlery and two pans (if you don’t wash one after the sauce, like I did).
Getting those breadcrumbs on thickly, and in every little nook and cranny makes a huge difference. If your pan is only big enough to fry one at a time (which my standard 30cm one is) then do add extra oil after the first one is done. It may seem overkill, but it’s the difference between your lovely coating sticking to either the chicken or the pan.
Overall, two thumbs up. Now for a nap…