Lovers of risotto and fresh pasta flock to the West Loop’s Gioia Ristorante e Pastificio in droves to take full advantage of chef Federico Comacchio’s Michelin-starred experience and interpretations of regional Italian cuisine. But while his mastery of the boot’s most popular carbo-loading dishes is on point, his wow-worthy best-seller is none other than the orecchia di elefante, or elephant’s ear.
No elephants were harmed in the making of this dish. Rather, the evocative name is a reference to the shape and size of the double veal chop used to make this variation of the classic cotoletta alla milanesa, aka veal milanese. To make it, a whopping 28-ounce bone-in chop is first butterflied before being pounded thin and fried until crisp and golden brown.
Texture is a major factor in the success of this dish, and Chef Comacchio has a few tricks up the sleeves of his chef’s whites to double-down on the crunch. No run-of-the-mill breadcrumbs will do to make the coating for this chop; instead, the enterprising chef opts for crushed grissini, or Italian breadsticks, which provide the perfect contrast for the tender veal.
His house-made potato chips continue in the same vein. To make them, Comacchio begins with Kennebec potatoes, which he says are unparalleled for frying. He slices them thinly on a mandoline before blanching them quickly in salted water. They’re then patted dry and fried in canola oil before being seasoned with truffle salt — Comacchio prefers Marinello Tartufi, imported directly to Chicago by Italian-born chef Giacomo Marinello. Gild the lily with a touch of Parmigiano-Reggiano and fresh parsley to make these chips even more special.
Just before serving, Comacchio tosses together a super simple salad of arugula and halved grape tomatoes, dressed in full Italian fashion with just olive oil, lemon juice, salt and white pepper.
“At Gioia, the elephant ear is sliced tableside in front of the guest,” says Comacchio. “At home, serve the elephant ear sliced alongside arugula and fried potatoes and enjoy.”
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Orecchia di Elefante (Elephant Ear)
For the chips
- 3 Kennebec potatoes
- 1 gallon canola oil
- 1 tsp. black truffle sea salt
For the chop
- 1 28 oz. bone-in veal chop
- 1 lb. breadsticks, crushed finely
- 8 eggs, beaten with 1 tsp. whole milk
- 1 cup 00 flour
- 1 lb. clarified butter
- 1 lemon, cut into wedges
For the salad
- ¾ cup arugula
- ¾ cup grape tomatoes
- 1 lemon
- Extra-virgin olive oil, to taste
- White pepper, to taste
- Maldon sea salt, to taste
1. Cut the potatoes into thin chips with a mandoline. Blanch in salted water for 1 minute, then remove from the water and set on a tea towel to dry completely. Heat the canola oil to 350 degrees, and fry the chips until golden brown. Remove and season with black truffle sea salt.
2. Butterfly the veal chop and thinly pound it. Dredge in the 00 flour, the egg wash and the finely crushed breadsticks.
3. In a large frying pan, heat the clarified butter. Add the chop and cook on one side, basting the bone side with butter all the while. After about four to five minutes, flip and continue basting until golden brown.
4. Remove the elephant ear from the pan and place it on a large cutting board. Season with Maldon salt and top with the lemon wedges.
5. Dress the arugula and the tomatoes with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Serve the chop with the salad and the chips.
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