In Italy, when you say “parmigiana” it is understood to be eggplant parmigiana, because these days there hardly is any other form of this classic Neapolitan dish. In times past in the Italian south, cooks might have prepared artichokes alla parmigiana, zucchini alla parmigiana, or some other vegetables alla parmigiana, but these are so rare today that they hardly count. “Veal parmigiana? What can that be?” an Italian might well ask. It is strictly an American invention. I propose that it is a New York City invention. Few other American cities had as plentiful a supply of veal as New York City, and they still don’t. The city has always been a consumer of veal because New York State was, at one time, the top dairying state in the nation. All you have to do is look at New York City restaurant menus from the late nineteenth century and through the mid-twentieth century and you can see all the veal products—calf ’s liver, veal sweetbreads, veal tongue, veal chops, and, of course, at least one dish featuring a scaloppine of veal. Interestingly, French chefs who started working in New York City in the 1960s say they had trouble getting milk-fed veal. I think the veal all went to the ethnic market, especially the Italians.
Cooking Methodbaking, frying
Total Timeunder 2 hours
Make Ahead RecipeYes
OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Family Get-together
Recipe Coursemain course
Taste and Texturecheesy, meaty, savory
- 1 pound veal scaloppini, cut from the leg (should be 8 slices)
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1½ to 2 cups breadcrumbs
- Peanut or canola oil for frying
- ½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 3 cups tomato sauce
- 1 pound fresh mozzarella
Season the meat on both sides with salt and pepper.
Break the eggs into a pie plate or other deep plate that the scaloppini can fit into. Beat with a fork to mix well. Spread the flour on a sheet of wax paper. Spread the breadcrumbs on another sheet of wax paper.
Draw each slice of veal through the egg, coating well, then dredge in the flour. Repeat the egg bath, then dredge in the breadcrumbs, pressing the crumbs into the veal to coat thoroughly.
Set each breaded veal slice on a plate or platter, placing wax paper between them. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or for several hours.
In a 12-inch skillet, over medium-high heat, heat about ¼-inch of oil. When the oil is hot enough for a pinch of breadcrumbs to sizzle instantly, add two or three slices of the breaded veal. Do not crowd the pan. Cook for about 90 seconds on each side, until browned on both sides. Set aside on a wire rack to drain.
When almost ready to serve, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Arrange the fried veal slices on a baking sheet. Top each with a light dusting of the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Spoon some tomato sauce over each to almost entirely coat them. Place a few small slices of the mozzarella on top of the sauce.
Bake until the mozzarella is melted and the sauce is bubbly, about 10 minutes.
2004 Arthur Schwartz