Jerome Watkins

Marcos Ascenscio’s Veal Parmesan

The Versatility of Veal

What four chefs made for the Royal Dutch Veal challenge.

Royal Dutch Veal challenged four chefs of diverse backgrounds to create LTOs with different cuts of veal to highlight the protein’s versatility and contestants’ culinary creativity.

Mark Ulrich, executive chef at Cecil Creek Farm in Mickleton, New Jersey, served a veal tenderloin entree. After an initial sear on a flat-top grill, he finished the tenderloin in a roasting pan with rosemary, thyme, onion, garlic, and red wine, then sliced the veal into medallions before serving. On the side he served cornmeal polenta with crispy Berkshire bacon pieces and charred Cubanelle peppers from the garden just a few steps away.

“Several folks tried veal for the first time that night,” Ulrich says. “Others said it was the best veal they have ever tasted—the quality was phenomenal.”

For the challenge, Chef Marcos Ascencio took a break from The Ivy Room at Tree Studios and returned to the familiar neighborhood restaurant that gained him legions of loyal fans: Chicago’s Bar Lupo.

“We were known at Bar Lupo for chicken parmesan, so I wanted to do a twist on a classic,” Ascencio says. After pounding the scallopini thin, Ascencio brushed the meat with a mustard and garlic sauce. Next, he used a three-step breading process with flour, egg, and panko and fried the scallopini to a crispy golden brown. The veal was plated with sauce on the bottom, then covered with a mixture of mozzarella, pecorino romano, and Parmesan cheeses and served with fennel and arugula salad. “One person asked if his grandmother was working in the kitchen because it tasted like the veal she made for him as a child,” Ascencio said.

Jerome Watkins, owner of Cafe Rosa in College Hill, Pennsylvania, chose to experiment with a few dishes instead of just one. Week one brought regulars and more experienced diners, where Watkins served grilled veal with a potato and roasted pepper ragout, haricot verts, and caramelized onions, as well as pan-roasted veal with pave potatoes. On week two, he prepared more approachable dishes like scallopini and veal medallions. “Everyone was blown away by the quality and how tender it was,” he says.

Lisa Carlson and Carrie Summer, owners of Chef Shack in Bay City, Wisconsin, created a less-traditional preparation. Using a salt, pepper, and crushed anise rub, the duo used an Oklahoma Joe smoker and a mix of pecan, apple, and cherry wood to smoke an entire veal shank with chickpeas, tomatoes, and onions. The meat was then braised overnight in cider and chicken stock, finished with a butter and miso caramel demi-glace, and served on fresh puff pastry. “Many of our customers had never had veal before—those who tried it fell in love with it,” Carlson says.

Chefs also noted that being able to relay sourcing practices was a big selling point. Calves are humanely group raised—never tethered—and raised by certified farmers which undergo audits by animal welfare officers. A tightly-controlled integrated supply chain guarantees full traceability, which conscious consumers not only appreciate, but demand.

As veal experiences a resurgence, look for more chefs to incorporate this versatile protein onto menus nationwide.