Sunday, December 22, 2013

Blanquette de Veau - Veal Stew

I picked up some veal stew meat on one of my trips to the grocery store. With the cold weather outside, I felt like having something warm and comforting for dinner. I looked up a few veal recipes on Epicurious and elsewhere on the web, and I decided to go with the Blanquette de Veau. It's a French dish which basically means veal stew. The rule is to keep it as 'white' as possible, so refrain from any green garnishes. Also it's traditionally served with rice to soak up the gravy. Its a little bland for an Indian palette, so I was worried if Bee would like it. But to my relief, he loved it!! I did make a few changes to the original recipe though, which I will mention in notes below. I brought a slight Kerala twist to the stew, which not only brought good flavor, but also made it slightly more simpler. This took me roughly 2 hours to prepare from start to finish.

Veal - roughly 1 lb. or 1/2 kg, cut into 1 inch pieces
Garlic - 2 cloves
Yellow or white onion - 1/2
Cloves- 10
Carrots - 2
Leeks - 2
Potato - 1
Cremini or button mushrooms - 20 pieces
Pearl onions - 10
Lemon - a wedge
Butter - 3 + 3 tbsp
Flour - 3 tbsp
Thick coconut milk - 1/2 cup
Salt to taste

For bouquet garni:
Parsley (flat leaf) - few sprigs
Thyme - few sprigs
Bay leaf - 1
Black peppercorns - 20

Cut veal into 1 inch pieces (mine was store bought so it was pre-cut).
Note: if you get veal with bone, save the bone for using in the stock, adds a lot of flavor.
Add the veal pieces in a pot and cover with water and bring to a boil. You will notice a lot of scum forming on the top. At this stage, drain the veal and wash off all the scum. Put it back into the pot.
Prepare a bouquet garni by taking a piece of muslin cloth (i used a sterilized medical gauze, wink!) - and wrapping the parsley, thyme, bay leaf and black peppercorns in it. Tie it into a knot. Add this to the pot with the veal. Take a quarter of an onion - pierce cloves into it. Wrap this in another muslin cloth. Add it to the pot as well. Now fill it with water to cover the meat and some more for the vegetables too.
Note: If you have a veal bone, add this now to make a more flavorful stock. Alternately, you can also use chicken/beef/vegetable stock, or bouillon cubes.
Slice the garlic cloves and add it to the pot. Now bring the pot to a boil on a medium heat.
While its heating up, meanwhile, we're going to chop the veggies and add them to the pot one by one. Cut the carrots into bite size chunks, slice the remaining quarter of onion, dunk them into the pot. Wash the leeks and cut off the green part. We're using the white portion of the leeks only. Slice it and it goes into the pot. I cubed a potato as well and added it.
Note: In the traditional recipe, potatoes aren't used. But some use potatoes as a side to the stew. I wanted to add the Kerala stew twist to this, so I decided to add a potato in.
Add salt to taste. When it has started to boil, bring the heat down to almost low. Cover and cook for 1 hour and 15 mins. This is slow cooking so the veal is cooked until tender.
Note: Some like to cook the vegetables separately and then add it after the veal is slow cooked. That way, the vegetables will still have a slight crunch to them. I wasn't too worried about that, and mine didn't turn to mush either. I wasn't using a stock, so I wanted the vegetable flavours to form the stock. So it's all good!
While the veal is cooking, slice the mushrooms and peel the pearl onions. It is also a good point to get the rice started too.
When the veal is tender, strain the veal and vegetables and reserve the stock. Bring the stock back to a boil and reduce it further to about 2 cups. While the stock is reducing, it's time to saute the mushrooms.
Heat up a frying pan and melt 3 tbsp of butter. Heat the butter until the foam subsides. Add the mushroom slices and pearl onions. Saute for about 6-8 minutes until the mushrooms are cooked and still have a good crunch. Squeeze a bit of lemon juice over it.
Note: Keeping with the 'white' theme of the stew, white pearl onions are traditionally used, but I used the red ones, no biggie!
Now in a saucepan, prepare the roux. I've explained this in my fish fry in white sauce recipe, but here it is again. Heat the saucepan and melt 3 tbsp of butter. Add 3 tbsp of flour to this and whisk it. Allow it to froth and turn golden brown. The flour will be cooked in a minute or two. Now slowly pour in the reduced stock, whisking constantly as you're pouring it, to avoid lumps. You will see that the stock will thicken into a gravy.
Note: The traditional recipe, asks for a dollop of crème fraîche (fresh cream) to be added at this stage. Two large egg yolks are beaten in a bowl. Half a cup of the gravy is slowly beaten into the yolks to temper it (warm the yolks to prevent curdling). The egg yolk mixture is slowly whisked into the gravy pan, removed from heat and whisked until sauce has a creamy consistency. Lemon juice is added and seasoned with salt and pepper.
I avoided this complex step above, and used my Kerala stew twist again. I had half a cup of thick coconut milk leftover from last week's beef curry. I tempered the coconut milk by whisking in a little gravy into it. Then added it back into the gravy (prevents curdling of the coocnut milk). Add the veal and vegetables and sauteed mushrooms. Cover and let it cook for another 10 minutes so everything is combined.
Note: Some people put the veal, vegetables and mushrooms on a plate and pour the gravy over it. Some combine it. I chose the latter option.
Serve with a cup of steamed rice and enjoy! This also stores well, reheats well and makes great leftovers!

Check out my other recipes that uses roux:
Julia Child's fish fry in white sauce
Shrimp and veggie pasta casserole
Canneloni Florentine