Gabe first had this classic—and ubiquitous in Rhode Island—Italian-American dish at Mike’s Kitchen in Cranston, RI, a wonderful restaurant/private club staged in a VFW Post hall. The restaurant is only open to the public part of the time, so check before you head out to Western Cranston, because it can be a long and bewildering drive. There is only the most subtle signage indicating that you have arrived at your destination. Also, the line starts early (like, 5 pm), and they close early, too, so better to get there with the blue-haired set and wait in the vestibule. The bar, which is run separately from the restaurant, will be happy to serve you a glass of Chianti while you wait and read the signs and bumper stickers that say things like “Vietnam Vets aren’t Fonda Jane.” In any event, do go, as the polenta is fantastic, and so is everything else. End of commercial for Mike’s.
So, Gabe requests veal and peppers occasionally, and I am happy to cook it because it is easy, relatively cheap, and delicious. You can also sneak some vegetables in (peppers, peas) and they will actually eat them. Tonight, I’m serving the veal with a green salad, pasta, and white beans (see my earlier post, Dawn of the Dead Chicken and a Side of White Beans for the recipe), but that’s only because there is a houseful of extra kids. All you really need is the polenta. In my opinion.
Veal and Peppiz (RI pronunciation):
1 onion, sliced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 pounds stewing veal (trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces)
1 cup dry vermouth or dry white wine
1 large clove garlic, lightly smashed with the side of a knife
1 28-oz. can Luigi Vitelli tomatoes, drained and chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
4 red and green sweet frying peppers, cut into strips
1 large bay leaf
1 tablespoon double-concentrated tomato paste
1/2 cup frozen peas
Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet or Dutch oven. Add the onions and saute until translucent. Remove the onions to the upturned lid of the skillet. Dry the veal pieces well and add to the pan, working in batches. If you overcrowd the veal, it will steam, not brown, and you want some caramelization here. Add a bit more oil, if necessary to keep the bottom of the pan from scorching. Remove each batch of veal to the upturned lid. When the veal is all browned, add the vermouth and garlic to the pan. Reduce down to about 1/3 cup. Add tomatoes, salt and pepper, veal, and onions and stir. Add the peppers, stir, and cover the pan. Simmer for one hour, until the veal is tender and the peppers are soft. Add the tomato paste and peas and stir. Cook for an additional 5 minutes. Serve over pasta (or amazing polenta) with some Parmigiano Rggiano on the side.