Braciole di Vitello


Nonna Margherita Dottorelli in her kitchen, 1905

Some excellent Tuscan recipes from her granddaughter, Marta, who refuses to be just a character in a novel made up by that writer

Braciole di Vitello (Veal Chops)

The strangers come to our country and they walk all over our land.
       And if they find some little clue – some piece of ancient pottery, or something of bronze — beh! before we know it they will call the pezzi grossi (what that writer of The Whirling Girl might call in her idiom, bigwigs), with their rules and regulations, from their offices in Florence.
       Then teams of archaeologists will come, and their students, who turn on their loud radios and start digging up our good earth with their little spoons.
       And if they find something, do they let us even touch it?
       Ha! It goes off to some “laboratory” to be cleaned and catalogued and then it is locked away in the basement of some museum.
       Did you know this?
       Did you know that every antique thing that is found in Italy, even on private land, belongs not to the landowners but to those pezzi grosssi in Florence, or in Rome?

Please don’t make me have to tell you how I know this from a story of my own, which “she” stole.
       Or how she lied, too, about what happened up in the meadow where Signora Chiara went to paint the flowers.
       Instead, I will tell you how on Sunday when the family comes — after I serve them the crostini (I will give you my best recipes for this, one day) — and the pasta (this time just with a little sauce of anchovies and olive oil and of course the garlic) — I will make very hearty braciole di vitello.

How I make my veal chops.
This is very simple, very fast. (Did you know that all the so-famous French cooking came first from Italy? But then they spoiled it by covering everything with sauce.)

I will have on the table lemons cut in halves.
       I will have on the stove my big iron “grill pan” which I will make very hot.
       I will have ready on a dish, some thick veal chops, one for each person and two for Niccolo. These will have been resting in a bath of good green olive oil.
       I will put the chops on the smoking-hot grill and sprinkle them with coarse salt from the sea.
       I will cook them maybe one minute, then turn in a different direction (but not turn over) so they get a diamond pattern; then after another minute I will turn them on their uncooked side, and repeat this to make again a grid, and, ecco! after perhaps four and a half minutes they are done.
These, with a good squeeze of lemon (and a green salad after, and then the sweet budino) will make all of us happy as we sit around the table that is covered with Nonna Margherita’s embroidered linen cloth, and forget about the stranieri who come to steal our treasures (and our stories!).