November 23, 2009

Blanquette de Veau

Let me begin this post by saying that I'm not a huge fan of veal. I just feel guilty about eating it.
And I'm not even going to touch the whole "politics of veal" subject...which these days seem to have been replaced by the politics of foie gras. Don't people care about the baby cows anymore?

Husband adores veal. He waxes lyrical about the Veal Milanese he used to enjoy in Italian restaurants in New York, so on the rare occasion that we go out to lunch and veal is on the menu, he always orders it.

Recently, I had moment of weakness.

Living in France changes the way you look at meat. Wild boar, frogs, gizzards, glands, feet, brains, hare, snails...all of it is celebrated and enjoyed with reckless abandon.
I also find that while waiting patiently in line at the butchers and watching what every one else is buying can be incredibly inspiring. I stand there and scroll through recipes in my head, imagining savory pots of bubbling Coq au Vin, rich Boeuf Bourguignon, rustic Cassoulet, garlic studded Gigot d'agneau...

So I'm at the butcher's one day and the price of nice looking, healthy-sized chunks of blanquette de veau was incredibly reasonable. I stared at them and stared at them, debating the purchase.
The line was long so I had plenty of time to argue with myself.

In the end I just gave in and bought a kilo.

And finally made Blanquette de Veau.

This recipe is my adaptation of Dilled Blanquette de Veau from The New Basics Cookbook by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins.
Dill is one of the few herbs that I absolutely cannot stand the taste of, but I liked the look of the recipes, so I 86'd the dill and added bay leaves and fresh thyme. And a bit of minced parsley sprinkled over at the end.

Blanquette de Veau
serves 6
  • 12 tbs (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 3 pounds boneless veal, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 8 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 scant teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 fresh sprigs of thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 cups diagonally sliced peeled carrots (sliced 1/8 inch thick)
  • 3 cups coarsely chopped onions
  • 3 to 4 cups chicken stock
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons freshly minced parsley
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Melt 8 tablespoons of the butter in a heavy flameproof casserole or Dutch oven. Add the veal and cook over medium-low heat, turning frequently, until opaque but not browned, 5 to 10 minutes.
  3. Stir 3 tablespoons of the flour together with the nutmeg, salt, and pepper in a small bowl, and sprinkle over the veal. Continue to cook over low heat, stirring, for 5 minutes. The flour and veal should not brown.
  4. Add the carrots, onions, thyme, bay leaves and enough stock to just cover the meat and vegetables. Raise the heat to medium and bring just to a boil. Then cover the casserole, transfer it to the oven, and bake for 1 1/2 hours.
  5. Remove the casserole from the oven and pour the stew through a strainer placed over a bowl. Reserve the solids and liquid separately, discarding the bay leaves and thyme sprigs.
  6. Return the casserole to medium heat, and melt the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter in it. Sprinkle in the remaining 5 tablespoons flour, and cook over low heat, whisking constantly, for 5 minutes.
  7. Whisk the reserved cooking liquid slowly into the butter and flour mixture, and bring to a simmer. Cook slowly, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes.
  8. Whisk in the cream and additional salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste. Return the veal and vegetables to the casserole, and simmer to heat through, about 5 minutes.
  9. Transfer to a deep serving dish, sprinkle with the minced parsley and serve at once.

Have to admit that even though I loved this dish -really loved it - I've yet to buy veal again. Stupid guilt.

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spacedlaw said...

I don't like dill either (which was a problem when I traveled to Sweden a lot for work: they stuff it everywhere).
Congratulations for the blanquette. It is a lovely dish and one suitable for colder weather.
My family's recipe adds lemon juice at the end, to counterbalance the richness of the sauce.

spacedlaw said...

You did not say whether you liked it or not...

felK said...

No! Even after travelling in Japan & China, I couldn't. Sometimes I think I would starve on a desert island.

Kate said...

We don't eat meat that often anymore, but I've made that exact recipe with the dill and it was sublime. Did you know Sheila Lukins passed away from brain cancer this year? I made a week's worth of her recipes as a tribute

martha said...

A lot, if not most of the veal being sold today, especially if its affordable is raised out of doors with the mother's on grass.

The days of baby cows raised in darkness are mostly over in Europe - only the very expensive stuff is produced that way anymore.

I also like tarragon with veal. I use dill often especially with fish but don't like it with veal.

Vivi said...

Blangquette de veau is one of those classic dishes I have yet to taste! I may have to make a point and try it with this recipe soon. Our favorite veal dish is veau marengo.

Ken Broadhurst said...

My understanding is that the male calves of dairy cows face two fates. They can be raised as veal for human consumption, or they can be ground up to serve as dog food. I don't believe calves are treated any worse than chickens. Or beef cattle. But if you really feel that guilty about it, it's probably better to abstain from all meat, including chicken.

I'm not sure about the dill. It is certainly not traditional French. And then I don't think the veal should be cooked in all that butter before it is braised. It just needs to be simmered in white wine for a couple of hours. Then you make a roux and a sauce using the liquid the veal cooked in. Don't forget the cream and the mushrooms.

Loulou said...

I would love to get a copy of your family's recipe, if you would like to share it. I think Blanquette is a perfect dish for winter.
(and I loved it!)

I must admit that I don't feel that strongly...
I would definitely not starve on a desert island. :)

Yes, I heard about Sheila - very sad news! Some of my favorite recipes come from that cookbook.
You aren't eating your chickens anymore?

Thanks for that info. I had a discussion with a farmer today about this very subject. I'm now inspired to cook veal more often.

You must try the Blanquette and I must try Marengo...never had it!

I go out of my way to buy farm raised chickens (and pork and beef if possible), hence my hesitation with veal...but as I said above I've learned some more about how they are raised in France so it has changed my mind.
The dill in Blanquette is not traditional French and that recipe is not from a French cookbook, so I don't think it was trying to be traditional. :)
I used it because I forgot to buy mushrooms and it worked with the ingredients I had on hand. I would love it if you would share your recipe for Blanquette with me so I can try it next time!

Betty C. said...

I love a good blanquette or sauté de veau...I don't get into the politics, I figure one is either a vegetarian or not and I'm not!

Ken Broadhurst said...

Betty, I agree with you.

Loulou, the blanquette de veau recipe I like is here on my blog. I can't take any credit for it but it's always been really good. White wine is crucial; I like veal shoulder more than any other cut; the pearl onions can be hard to find but some sliced yellow onion is good as a substitute. And mushrooms! The veal is tender and succulent cooked this way.

I'm going to try the recipe you posted but I might substitute some other herb for the dill. That still seems like an awful lot of butter...

Loulou said...

Very true! I'm definitely not either.

Thanks for sharing the recipe, I'll be trying it out. I think I've seen frozen pearl onions at Picard.
You're right...compared to your recipe that is a whole lot of butter! It might be just as good with only half that amount.

katiez said...

When we lived in Andorra we ate lots of veal - no beef. The beef was old and tough, the veal was grass fed in the high pastures all summer and was wonderful. As other's said, the days of confined baby cows is over - at least here. Eat without guilt!

Loulou said...

Thanks Katie! I will. :)