Smackdown: Tastes Like (My Second) Home


I’m discombobulated. Off my feed, as it were.


I had to work from home a couple of days this week, and although I got a lot done, something about losing the whole going-in-to-the-office routine and working from the couch in my PJs has really thrown me off. I’m confused. I’m tired. I am, dare I say it, a little cranky. Or, you know, a lot cranky.

I’m so off, in fact, that I almost came home tonight and shelved dinner in favor of take out. But you know what will NOT help me get back to my old self? Continuing to ditch my routine. So I sucked it up, and voila: veal scalloppine with brown butter salsa verde and fresh corn polenta, from Sunday Suppers at Lucques.

salsa verde

Okay, I did take a lazy-woman’s shortcut in the preparation of the salsa verde and did it in the mini FoPro instead of by hand in the mortar and pestle as directed. Like I said: tired and cranky. So instead of hand-crushing batches of herbs, followed by garlic and anchovy, followed by capers – they’re all supposed to be crushed separately, dontcha know – I chucked everything in the FoPro and called it a night.

Fresh oregano, mint, parsley, anchovy, garlic, capers, olive oil, lemon juice and salt and pepper made for an intensely hued and flavored herb paste. I can’t convince myself that it would have tasted any better if done the old fashioned way, although you should feel free to castigate me in the comments.


Setting the salsa aside, I started on the polenta. The last time I made polenta it involved truffle oil, which is so freaking delicious that I had to restrain myself from throwing tonight’s recipe to the wind and dumping some in.

Luckily, there are leftovers, thank god. Truffled polenta cakes with a fried egg on top, I’ll see you Saturday morning.


Next up: veal. When choosing the categories with which to tag this post, I realized that there was no category for veal, for not once in three and half years have I posted about it. I suppose I can chalk that up to my own conflicted feelings about eating veal at all. On one hand, the eyes of the baby cows, they haunt my sleep. On the other, those baby cows are damn tasty when served on a hoagie roll with marinara and melted mozzarella.

Damn you, baby cows, for being so tender and delicious. Yes, you can castigate me in the comments some more for saying that.

This particular slice of baby cow got salted and peppered, dredged in some flour, and quickly fried up in some olive oil. I stashed the cutlets in a warm oven while I made the brown butter sauce in the pan in which I’d cooked them.


You’d think that the name of the sauce – brown butter salsa verde – would have clued me in. (You’d also think I would have read the recipe all the way through…although actually, if you know me at all, you wouldn’t think that.) Still, I was a little shocked when the recipe told me to throw an entire stick of butter into the pan. Granted, the full recipe is meant to serve a lot more than 2 people, I assume, but still. Tossing whole sticks of butter around willy-nilly outside of the baking milieu makes me feel more like Paula Deen than I care to feel.

When the butter was good and brown I stirred in a healthy glop of salsa verde, and oh, friends and neighbors, the smell of those aromatics hitting the nutty butter is one I will not soon forget.


Finally, because I had not yet dirtied enough pots and pans in the preparation of tonight’s dinner, I dealt with the fresh corn. I sauteed it in still more butter with some fresh thyme, then folded it into the polenta.

I put down a bed of polenta on a plate, sprinkled some arugula over it and topped it off with a few pieces of veal and the sauce.


Lessons learned:

  • I really hate arugula, even when it’s covered in brown butter sauce. I mean, I knew going into this that I didn’t like arugula, but thought eating it in the context of the dish might turn my head. My head: not turned. Arugula is yucky.
  • I don’t dislike capers as much as I thought, although I definitely prefer them ground up in a salsa rather than having whole berries pop between my teeth.
  • I underestimate the power of taste and smell memory. Yes, this is obviously an Italian dish, but the flavor combination really made me feel like I was back in Italy in a resounding, feel-it-in-your gut kinda way. Sigh…I miss it there.
  • Polenta should always have crunchy, sweet fresh corn kernels folded in. (And truffle oil.)

What’s your favorite taste memory? Where does it transport you?

10 thoughts on “Smackdown: Tastes Like (My Second) Home

  1. I have two favorite food memories: saltimbocca, but with chicken (the baby cows haunt me too), which transports me right back to my childhood; and the patatas bravas at Jaleo in DC, which are the gateway to my happy place. Last time I ate them, the server came up and asked, quietly and with a note of concern, “Should we leave you two alone?” I was dining solo. I must have been making some truly obscene sounds/faces/both.

  2. No castigation here, love veal. And this is from the kid who spent more time on her uncle’s dairy farm than she’d like to admit.

    And mortar and pestle are for when you need to work out aggravation, not get back on track despite exhaustion and crankiness. Everything has its place.

    The arugala….I’m still kinda meh about it.

    But yet again, your dinner kicks butt. :-)

  3. Wait, you’re cranky because… you don’t have to commute? And you get to work in your pjs? And… yeah, does not compute.

    But what does compute is this meal. Polenta with fresh corn is just plain corn yumminess squared. And brown butter and capers and anchovies are the best savory things all rolled into one dish.

  4. My food memory is Mexicali Stew. Old cookbook, and there are other things in it, but this is stew with corn (with red and green peppers) and lots of chili powder and…I can smell it. Anyhow, it also has dumplings with more corn and chili powder. Then to end the meal Lane cake. If you aren’t familiar, its a layer cake with a rum/coconut filling…usually topped with a marshmallow frosting, but that’s too much for me! heh

  5. I can sort of relate to the working in pj’s and being thrown off kilter concept. I’m self-employed, so I spend a lot of time working from home, but on the occasions that I’ve tried working in my jammies, something just didn’t feel right. Then there’s the veal issue. I love veal, but I feel guilty when eat it. Somehow, I manage to power through the guilt.

  6. You can give me all your unwanted arugula. I can and have eaten the entire package in one glorious salad – plum tomatoes, parmesan curls, olive oil, lemon juice, salt & pepper. My mouth is watering now.

  7. i used to hate arugula and then i started eating spring mix salad greens. there’s usually a whole lot of that (also known as rocket in the u.k.) in the mix. there’s also radiccio (sp) another of the bitter lettuces. so now i like arugula.

    so, now to your castigation.

    gasp! for shame! you didn’t chop and process the herbs for the verde individually?

    gasp! for shame! you used veal?

    there. feel better?

  8. Baby animals are just tastier, as I learned as a child growing up on a very rural NC farm. Who wants to eat venison from a 12-point buck when you can eat a nice tender yearling Bambi?

    I’m very happy to eat pastured veal (we get all of our meat these days from either our own county, or a county touching ours (our definition of local)). One of the nice things about the way we’re eating these days is that I get to try more varieties of cow than I used to — in the past couple of years I’ve gotten to eat Jersey Cow Veal, which is much tastier as a breed than Angus, btw.

    So — no castigation for veal. Otoh, you cuss too little these days, “what-sa matta wit chou, chou gettin’ soft?” (my best imitation of a NY dialect) More cussin’, yankee girl.

  9. I was once shopping for a meal at the local co-op & was scanning the meat counter in a (what I suspected would be futile) search for veal.

    The gentleman behind the counter asked if he could help me. I leaned forward and almost whispered, “I was just wondering if you had…veal.”

    He sighed and said, “No…there’s really no way to do that ethically.”

    I tucked my basket under my arm and responded, “I assumed as much, but I was just hoping against hope that I might be wrong. I just wish I could not like it so much.”

    And at that point, he leaned forward too and whispered, “It’s my favorite meat. Ever.”

    And I felt less alone in the world.

  10. I recently tried veal for the first time in my 28 years at the fabulous Estancia hotel in La Jolla, CA and fucking fell in love. My husband ordered it and had to move his plate so I would stop trying to eat it. It was amazing. I had stayed away for ethical reasons but I think maybe an extra donation to the Humane Society should tilt karma in my favor, yes?

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