Costoletto alla Milanese is a famous Italian dish of pounded veal rib chops, trimmed so the long bone extends halfway off the plate. The veal is breaded and fried and served with a small salad on top. I love this mix of crispy, oily veal with a slightly astringent salad. I’ve given this dish a Southern Italian touch by making it with veal scaloppine, which is thinly sliced boneless veal, cut from the leg across the grain to keep it tender. The cut is a staple of fancy Southern Italian cooking. My mother used to make scaloppine all the time, but she called it veal cutlets. Piccata (with white wine and capers) and Parmigiano (with tomato sauce and melted mozzarella) were her two ways with it.Seasoning the breadcrumbs is your opportunity to give the mild veal added flavor. I use different flavorings when breading different meats or fish; with veal, I really like the mix of lemon zest and thyme.
1/2 cup Wondra flour (Wondra is finely ground and tends not to gum up when used for sautéing)
1/2 cup finely ground, lightly toasted breadcrumbs
The zest from 1 lemon
A few large sprigs of thyme, the leaves chopped
A few scrapings of nutmeg
A tiny pinch of ground clove
1 large egg, lightly beaten
About 3/4 pound veal scaloppine, either in a few small pieces or in two large ones
Extra virgin olive oil
For the salad:
A small bunch of tender young dandelion, stemmed, washed, dried, and cut into small pieces
1/2 pint sweet cherry or tear-drop tomatoes, cut in half
1/2 a small spring bulb onion, very thinly sliced, including some of the tender green stem
A handful of lightly toasted pine nuts
A small palmful of salt-packed capers, soaked in cool water for about 1/2 hour and rinsed
Extra virgin olive oil
The juice from 1/2 lemon
Pour the breadcrumbs onto a flat dinner plate. Season them fairly generously with salt and a little less generously with black pepper. Add the lemon zest and the thyme, a few scrapings of nutmeg, and a tiny pinch of ground clove (you just want a hint). Mix well. Pour the Wondra flour onto another flat plate.
Put the dandelion, cherry tomatoes, pine nuts, and capers in a small bowl, and set it aside (you want to have the salad ready so you can dress it as soon as the veal is sautéed). I use dandelion in this salad almost as if it were an herb, by chopping it small and using only a little. If you can’t find dandelion, or if you can locate only big, tough bunches, try flat-leaf parsley leaves instead. They won’t give you the elegant bitterness of dandelion, but parsley’s fresh herbiness goes very well with the capers.
Place the egg is a shallow bowl, and give it a good whisk.
Choose a skillet large enough to hold the veal in one layer, ideally without crowding it too much. Put the heat on medium-high and add enough olive oil to generously coat the skillet about 1/8 inch deep.
Dry the veal slices and coat them with the flour, shaking off excess.. Dip them in the egg until coated on both sides. Let the excess egg drip off, and dredge the veal in the breadcrumbs, coating them well on both sides.
When the skillet is hot, add the veal, and brown it quickly on one side. If it seems to be browning too fast, turn the heat down a bit (you’re going for a deep golden-brown color). Turn the veal and brown the other side. This whole operation should take only about 2 minutes (you want to veal to stay tender and moist, so quick cooking over high heat is essential). Grab the veal slices from the skillet with tongs and drain them briefly on paper towels to blot up any excess oil. Lay them out on dinner plates. Toss the salad with olive oil and lemon juice, and season it with salt and black pepper. I use a bit more lemon when making this dish than I normally would add to a salad, because the acidity balances very nicely with the crisp, rich veal. Top each portion of veal with salad, and serve right away. My feeling is that this dish should be served unaccompanied, but a pasta tossed with some sort of tomato sauce is ideal as a first course.