Along with Gorgonzola, Taleggio is my favorite of Lombardy’s many fine cheeses. Both are made from rich cow’s milk, exclusively from animals that have grazed in the pastures of particular locales. The finest Taleggio, in my opinion, comes from small producers in the highlands north of Bergamo, where the cheese originated centuries ago. Creamy and soft when ripe, Taleggio is superb table cheese, all by itself or with a piece of good bread or fruit (and at room temperature, of course). On my recent trips to Lombardy, though, I’ve appreciated it as a component of cooked dishes. As I’ve suggested in the recipes, fold it into any of the riso dishes in this chapter—after the heat is off—and you will love how it melts and lends its luxurious texture and complex flavors to the rice. Because it browns beautifully in a hot oven, Taleggio is a great cheese for a gratinato, as you will find when you try this very special recipe. Thick veal chops are browned, then braised in a sage- infused tomato sauce and finished in the oven under thin slivers of Taleggio and a sprinkle of grana. The golden crown of cheese over the tender meat is a perfect final touch. To be sure, this is an extravagant dish and demands the best ingredients. Meaty veal chops are always expensive, and these should be cut extra thick (either rib or loin chops, my preference, are suitable). And your Taleggio must come from a reliable cheesemonger who has allowed the cheese to ripen properly before it’s cut and sold—too young and you won’t get the full flavor. The cheese should be soft under the rind but not runny all the way through. In fact, you’ll need to chill ripe Taleggio in order to slice it thinly for the recipe. But the effort (and expense) are well worth it, you’ll find when you taste your costolette al formaggio.
- 6 veal loin chops, cut 1½ inches thick, about 12 ounces each
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 cup all-purpose flour for dredging
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 12 fresh sage leaves
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 3 cups (one 28-ounce can) canned Italian plum tomatoes, preferably San Marzano, crushed by hand
- 5 ounces Taleggio, cut in 6 or more thin slices
- 2 tablespoons grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano
You will need a heavy-bottomed, ovenproof skillet or sauté pan, preferably 13-inch diameter or larger, with a cover. Season the veal chops with salt on both sides, using about a teaspoon in all. Spread the flour on a plate, and lay in the chops to coat on both sides. Leave them in the flour briefly while heating the olive oil and butter in the big skillet over medium-high heat. As soon as the butter is foaming, quickly shake excess flour off the chops and lay them in the pan, nestling them all in one layer. Brown them well on the first side, about 3 minutes, then flip them over. Drop the sage leaves between and around the chops. When they are nicely caramelized on the second side, move the chops to a large platter (but leave the sage in the pan). Pour in the wine, and bring to a boil, scraping up the browned bits in the skillet bottom. Boil for a minute or so, to cook off some of the alcohol, then stir in the crushed tomatoes and the remaining teaspoon salt. Slosh the tomato containers with 1 cup water, and stir that in, too. Bring the sauce to a bubbling simmer and cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes, to reduce a bit and develop flavor. Return the veal chops to the skillet, and pour in any meat juices that accumulated on the platter— the meat should be nearly submerged in braising liquid. Cover the pan, and adjust the heat to maintain the active simmer. Let the veal braise about 20 minutes, until cooked all the way through. Meanwhile, arrange a rack in the top third of the oven, and heat to 425 degrees. Uncover the pan, and if the braising liquid is still near the top of the chops, let it boil down to thicken over high heat for a few minutes. Distribute the Taleggio slices equally over the meaty parts of the chops, and sprinkle a teaspoon grana over each cheese-topped chop. Set the skillet in the oven, and bake until the cheese is tinged with gold and the sauce has thickened. Carefully remove the hot pan from the oven. Lift the chops from the pan to a serving plate, and spoon sauce all around. This dish is so full of flavor that a vegetable with a gentle flavor will do best. I love boiled asparagus spears with just a drop of butter, allowing the veal sauce to flavor them. Braised spinach or Jerusalem artichokes would be very good as well.