Time to Put the Hammer Down

by Mark R. Vogel

            One of these days I must consult with an English professor to determine if my suspicions are correct.  It seems to me that the culinary world is beset by an inordinate amount of nomenclatural complexity and confusion.  It’s uncanny how frequently I encounter definitional diversity when delving into the study of a particular cooking technique or food.  Allow me to come straight to the point.  This article is about thin cuts of meat and how they can be stuffed, rolled and cooked.  Bear with me as I weave through all the terminological tediousness.   My goal is not to burden you with details, but to clarify yet another lexicological Gordian knot.

            Paillard, scallop, escalope, (French), scaloppine, (Italian) and cutlet all refer to a thin cut of meat.  “Veal scaloppini” for example, does not refer to a specific recipe but rather a thin cut of veal.  While all thin cuts of meat can be pounded to make them even thinner, the Culinary Institute of America textbook specifically defines paillard as a scallop that’s been pounded thin.  Therefore, if you pound a scallop, an escalope, a scaloppine, or a cutlet into a thinner piece, you’ll then have a paillard.  The term cutlet, by the way, is generally reserved for a thicker, (but still thin relatively speaking) cut of meat.  Thus, a cutlet is thicker than all of the above terms.  Whew!  On to the next issue.

            You can certainly take your paillard as is and grill, sauté or pan-fry it.  For the latter two it is often coated with flour or breadcrumbs.  But, you can also take your paillard, roll it around a stuffing and then cook it.  Once stuffed and rolled you will have either a paupiette, a roulade, (French), or a braciola (Italian).  These terms are basically interchangeable.  The term bracicola, although irrevocably linked to the stuffed and rolled cut of beef round, does not refer to that specific dish.  Rather, it is the Italian term for a paupiette or a roulade, whatever the meat might be.  

            Finally, at the risk of being esoteric, there are galantines and ballotines.  Generally only found in upscale and inevitably French restaurants, galantines and ballotines are meat that is boned, sometimes flattened, stuffed and then cooked.  Galantines are usually stuffed with forcemeat, (a mixture of finally ground meat and seasonings such as a pate), while ballotines can employ a variety of stuffings.  Both are typically wrapped in cheesecloth and/or tied before cooking.  Both are often braised or poached in stock.  One clear differentiator is that galantines are served cold and ballotines are served hot. 

            OK, if you’re still with me, how about we throw out the dictionary and get down to some cooking?  Let’s discuss how to make a paillard.  Obviously you want to start with a thin cut of meat.  If your, shall we say, “cutlet” is a little too thick, you can always slice it in half horizontally.  Place it on a cutting board and cover it with plastic wrap.  This will help maintain its structural integrity while you pound it but more importantly, it will prevent flying pieces of raw meat from adorning your kitchen walls. 

            Next, take your meat tenderizer, pounder, or mallet, (more terminological diversity), and begin pounding.  Meat mallets often heave a double head; one side being smooth and the other jagged.  With the possible exception of flank, hanger or skirt steaks, always use the smooth side.  You don’t want to obliterate the meat, just thin it out.  In that vein, don’t pound too hard and try to slide your strokes from the center outward.  You also want to ensure that you produce a uniform thickness so that the entire piece will cook evenly. 

            Once formed you can fill the paillard with almost any kind of stuffing and roll it into a roulade.  Fillings include standard bread based stuffings, vegetable stuffings, cheeses, and ground meats.  Seafood is often filled with a crabmeat stuffing.  If the stuffing is precooked or doesn’t require much cooking (like cheese), them merely searing all sides of the roulade in a pan should be sufficient.  Raw stuffings may necessitate baking the roulade in the oven or braising it in a pot for a longer period of time. 

            Below is my recipe for veal roulade stuffed with duxelles.  You start with veal cutlets, scaloppine, whatever, and pound them thin.  Duxelles is a mixture of finely chopped mushrooms, shallots and herbs cooked in butter.  It is used to flavor soups and sauces, as a garnish, and a stuffing.  The veal is rolled around the duxelles, tied and cooked.  You can substitute other types of meat if you prefer.

 

VEAL ROULADE STUFFED WITH DUXELLES

 

4 veal cutlets

Olive oil, as needed

Salt and pepper to taste

Duxelles, as needed, (see recipe below)

2 oz. sherry or other fortified wine

4 oz. beef or mushroom stock

2 tablespoons cold butter

Chopped parsley to taste

 

            Place plastic wrap over each cutlet and pound them so they are as thin as possible without tearing them.  Lightly brush the cutlets with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Place some of the duxelles filling down the center of each cutlet taking care not to overstuff them.  Roll the cutlets tightly and secure them with cooking twine near the ends and the center.  In a 12-14 inch skillet sear the cutlets on each side in very hot olive oil.  As soon as they are uniformly browned, remove them from the pan and cover with foil to keep warm.  Deglaze the pan with the sherry and boil the alcohol down.  Add the stock, salt and pepper, and reduce by at least half.  Add the butter, parsley and the veal back to the pan.  Roll the roulades in the sauce until the butter melts and serve. 

 

DUXELLES

 

8 oz. mushrooms, finely chopped

1 shallot, finely chopped

Butter as needed

Parsley, chopped to taste

Salt and pepper to taste

 

            Sauté the mushrooms and shallot in butter until the mushrooms are browned.  Season with the parsley, salt and pepper.

 

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