The Best Veal Francaise
Last night I enjoyed a marvelous dinner with my wife and our next-door neighbors. Bob and Barbara took us to their favorite local Italian restaurant, Frankie's Fellini Cafe, and said it would be the best Italian food in the area.
This BYOB is in a mini strip mall with an all-glass front so you can see everyone inside. It's not that big; I'm guessing maybe 20 tables.
We were greeted by Frankie himself, who has been in the restaurant business since 1978 and in its current Berwyn, PA location for 12 years. They make homemade pasta, fresh bread, and Italian desserts like hand-filled cannoli from scratch.
The place isn't fancy or pretentious, and the wait staff makes you feel comfortable as soon as you sit down—my kind of place.
When my friend told me this would be the best Italian food ever, I felt the challenge of finding something on the menu to test his bravado. As soon as I saw veal Francaise, I thought back to my days in New York City when I used to go to a now-closed restaurant called Guido's in the back of Supreme Macaroni.
I've written about Guido's in a post about the best chicken piccata and how it was where they shot the cover for Billy Joel's The Stranger Album. They also had the best veal Francaise ever, so now I had something to compare with, although it's been over 30 years since I've been to Guido's.
Veal Francaise History
Also spelled Vitello Francese, this popular Italian-American dish came to New York with the flood of Italian immigrants. It is not an authentic Italian dish but one that evolved from recipes brought to the United States by those immigrants.
You will not see Vitello Francese or Veal Francaise on any menus when visiting Italy. Instead, you will more likely see the name "indorato," which means "encased in gold," referring to veal or chicken cutlets dredged in breading and fried.
I have read that veal Francaise was extremely popular in Rochester, N.Y., where there was a large population of Italian Americans. Unfortunately, the chicken was substituted for veal because of expense, and the name was shortened to Chicken French.
If you want to read more about the history of this classic dish, I recommend you check out the website, A Food Obsession which goes into much more detail about the history of chicken Francaise.
What is Veal Francaise?
It is a dish prepared with veal cutlets dipped in egg batter and then sauteed in a sauce made with white wine, butter, and lemon juice. There are numerous variations depending on where you live or what part of Italy the recipe you are preparing came from.
The cutlets for Veal Francaise, also known as round steak, should come from the leg of the calf and be both thin and boneless. Stay away from any cutlets from the calf shoulder because they won't be as tender as the leg because of all the connective tissue.
Difference Between Veal Cutlets and Veal Scallopini
Both cutlets and scallopini are cut from the leg or top round, but scallopini means it has been sliced very thin and then pounded to make it even thinner. Cutlets are thicker cuts and are typically about ¼ inch thick.
What is the difference between veal piccata and Francaise?
Not much. Check out my recipe for Chicken Piccata if you want to compare, but they are very similar except for one main reason.
They are both made with a lemon butter sauce, but the big difference is that veal Francaise dips the cutlet into flour and an egg wash before frying, and veal piccata only dips the cutlet into flour.
Another slight difference is piccata adds capers to its sauce, and Francaise does not.
- Prep the ingredients, including juicing one lemon and slicing the other.
- Flatten the veal cutlets to a uniform ¼ inch thickness by placing them between two sheets of wax paper and hitting them with a meat hammer, rolling pin, or saucepan.
- Season the cutlets with salt and pepper.
- If frying four cutlets at a time (see note below), dredge 4 in the flour, knocking off any excess flour, and then into the beaten egg.
- Heat your fry pan over medium-high heat. Add one tablespoon of olive oil to the pan, and when hot, add the four coated veal cutlets.
- Cook for 2 minutes on one side, flip, and another 2 minutes on the other.
- Transfer the four cutlets to a plate, cover them with foil and keep them warm.
- Repeat the same process with the other four cutlets.
- After removing the last four cutlets from the pan, reduce heat to medium, add the chicken stock, lemon juice, and wine, and stir to combine.
- After 3 minutes, whisk in the butter one tablespoon at a time, and then the heavy cream if using.
- Return the reserved veal cutlets to the pan and cook for a couple of minutes to reheat and combine with the sauce.
- Add sauce to each plate, top with two cutlets, a little more sauce, and sprinkle with minced parsley.
On the Side
At Frankie's, my veal Francaise was served with a bowl of spaghetti with bolognese sauce, charred broccoli, and sweet Italian peppers. And red wine, of course.