Veal Marsala Perfected
How to make the best veal Marsala you've ever had.
- ½ tablespoon butter
- ½ tablespoon oil
- 6 veal cutlets or scaloppini
- 1 medium shallot minced
- 1 sprig of thyme
- ¼ cup Marsala
- ¼ cup demi glace
- salt and white pepper to taste
For the mushrooms
- 2 teaspoons butter
- 2 teaspoon olive oil
- 3 large mushroms sliced
Start by getting everything ready. This in French is called “mis en place”. It is especially important to have everything ready for this dish because things happen quickly and if you are held up chopping shallots while the veal is cooking, something is going to go wrong.
Mince your shallot, chop your thyme, and have everything prepped before you even think about heating up a pan.
Prepping the Veal
If you own a meat-tenderizing mallet that has a waffle side for tenderizing and a flat side for flattening, now is a good time to get it out of the drawer. If you don’t have a mallet, try using a rolling pin or a can of soup.
Give each piece of veal a whack with the tenderizing side, then cover them with some clear plastic wrap and flatten them with the flat side so that they are all the same thickness. This will help break up the membrane from this cut of veal and make them more tender.
Heat your pan over medium heat to get it hot and then add half your butter and oil. When the butter and oil are hot but not smoking, sauté three veal cutlets for just one minute per side. Remove them from the pan and reserve on a plate but don’t cover.
The reason you don’t cover them is because they are thin, hot, and will continue to cook off the heat. If you cover them in foil, they will steam and get rubbery. You are going to add them back to the pan at the end so don’t worry about them getting cold.
You want to be sure to save any accumulated juices that come from the cutlets to add back to the sauce.
Repeat this process with the other three cutlets.
Making the Sauce
Discard any oil in the pan if there is any and reduce the heat to medium. Add the shallot, thyme, salt and pepper and cook for 1 minute. When Ricco gave me this instruction my first question was, “How can you cook shallots in a dry pan?”
His response was to keep stirring so the ingredients don’t burn and don’t walk away from the stove. In time with lots of practice, he reminded me, it becomes second nature. If you are concerned about burning the shallot, leave a little of the residual oil from cooking the veal cutlets.
Add ¼ cup of Marsala wine and reduce to half. Add ¼ cup of demi glace, stir and correct seasonings by tasting to see if it needs a little more salt or pepper. How will you know? This is something you learn by doing.
I have found that if whatever I am cooking is bland, a little bit of salt will perk it up. You have to be careful here because if the sauce is hot, your taste buds won’t taste anything. Try using a spoon to taste the sauce but be sure to blow on it to cool it off before you make any adjustments.
You can also taste for sweetness at this point. If the sauce doesn’t have that wonderful Marsala flavor, you can add a touch of Marsala but again be careful not to overpower the taste.
Reduce the sauce just a little and finish it by adding a tablespoon of cold butter. The restaurant term for this process is “mount” which means to whisk cold butter into a warm sauce for added flavor, smoother texture, and more sheen.
If you are adding more than one tablespoon, it is important to add them piece by piece making sure the first one in fully incorporated before adding the next. If you add all the butter at once, you risk the chance of the sauce separating into liquid and fat. This is called “breaking.”
What About Mushrooms?
I’ve always associated Veal Marsala with sliced mushrooms so I asked Chef Ricco to give me some ideas and pointers on adding them to his recipe. He explained that in many restaurants, they typically cook the mushrooms right in the sauce to save time and reduce the number of dirty pans but he likes to cook them separately for a couple of reasons:
Mushrooms give off a lot of liquid that he doesn’t want in his sauce.
By cooking them separately they won’t taste like the rest of the dish. This way you are adding an additional layer of flavor to the over all recipe.
How does he serve them? He likes to serve the mushrooms as a garnish on top of the dish after it’s been sauced. As an alternative, he might add them back to the saucepan right before serving.
Be sure to get the mushrooms started before you begin cooking the veal. You don’t want to be messing around with mushrooms while the Marsala sauce is being made.
Preparing mushrooms to serve with Veal Marsala
Clean fresh mushrooms with a damp cloth or paper towel. Never soak them in water or they will absorb the water like a sponge and be soggy.
Thinly slice the mushrooms, and then sauté them in a little butter and oil. You want to cook them until they are just tender.
Season with salt and pepper.
Remove from pan and reserve. If you are adding them back to the sauce just before serving, don’t worry about them getting cold.
If you are going to serve on top of the veal as a garnish, cover and keep warm.