Thursday, May 28, 2015

Francatelli's Veal Cutlets and Bacon: A Recipe for the Victorian Working Classes

Francatelli's Veal with Bacon

About the Recipe
This recipe comes from A Plain Cookery Book of the Working Classes by Charles E. Francatelli (London, 1852 edition reprinted in 1978). Francatelli was of Italian descent but born in England. Notably, Francatelli was the chief cook to Queen Victoria from 9 March 1840 to 31 March 1842 and held many other exalted positions. Ironically, though he was a chef to the Royal family, he wrote cookbooks offering advice concerning economy in the kitchen for families of limited means.

Francatelli's recipes for the working classes embody an idea presented by Robert Prouse in his 2013 article called Crust nor Crumb - the "Slow Reduction of Working Class Food Culture", ". . .the [British] poor . . . ate a food which was a product of circumstance: Cheap, often monotonous and nutritionally inadequate. Yet out of this necessity came a resourceful invention, a creative use of the ingredients at hand and an open minded adoption of the products of foreign trade and technological innovation supposedly absent from traditional English cookery."

Francatelli's Veal Cutlets and Bacon is good example of a dinner recipe for a dish that may have appealed to the Victorian working classes because it is versatile (it could be made with any cut of veal available), practical (very simple and quick to prepare after a long day at work), and very tasty!

The RecipeNo. 23 Veal Cutlets and Bacon
You may sometimes have a chance to purchase a few trimmings or cuttings of veal, or a small piece from the chump end of the loin, which you can cut up in thin slices, and after seasoning them with pepper and salt, and rolling them in flour, they are to be fried in the fat that remains from some slices of bacon which you shall have previously fried; and, after placing the fried veal and bacon in its dish, shake a table-spoonful of flour in the frying-pan; add a few drops of ketchup or vinegar and a gill of water; stir all together on the fire to boil for five minutes, and pour this sauce over the cutlets. A dish of cutlets of any kind of meat may be prepared as above.

Modern Recipe Adaptation
(Serves 4)


  • About 2 Pounds of Veal Cutlets, About 1/4 Inch Thick
  • 1/2 Cup Flour
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste
  • 8 Ounces Raw Bacon, Diced into One-Inch Pieces
  • 1 Teaspoon White Wine Vinegar
  • 1/2 Cup Water

  1. Season the flour with salt and pepper and place on a plate. Dredge the veal cutlets in the flour. Set aside the veal at room temperature while you prepare the bacon and keep the remaining flour for use later (this will allow the temperature of the meat to be even inside and out).
  2. In a frying pan over medium-high heat, fry the bacon until crisp. Remove the bacon from the pan with a slatted  spoon and set aside. Pour the grease into a heat-safe bowl and set aside. 
  3. Using the same frying pan as you used to fry the bacon, add about  some of the reserved bacon grease. Fry the veal cutlets in the bacon grease in small batches. Add more grease as needed. The cutlets should only take about 1 minute on each side to cook.
  4. Place all of the cooked veal onto a plate and set aside.
  5. Lower the temperature to low under the frying pan. Add enough of the remaining bacon grease so that there is about 1 tablespoon of it in the frying pan. Add 1 tablespoon of the remaining flour and mix thoroughly with the bacon grease while cooking over medium heat. Cook for about 1-2 minutes until the flour is cooked. Be careful not to burn the flour.
  6. Add the vinegar and the water and whisk thoroughly. Cook for a few minutes until the sauce thickens.
  7. Add the bacon to the sauce.
  8. Pour the sauce over the veal and serve.

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