French Veal Stew - Blanquette De Veau

A classic French-style veal stew has long been one of my favorite recipes to make during autumn and spring. That's because it's an ideal main course for cool -- not cold -- weather, hearty and satisfying enough to warm and fill you up, yet still fairly light and refreshing.

The name the French give to such a stew, blanquette, which translates literally as "little white," seems to sum up the kind of delicate balance this kind of dish achieves. The chunks of meat are first sauteed until they take on some color, but they aren't browned as deeply as they might be for some braises or stews. Likewise, the onions that help flavor the stew are sauteed only until translucent, so they have a more subtle presence than they might in some stews. A little flour is sprinkled into the stew to help thicken it without making it pasty; but it, too, is stirred just until it absorbs a little of the butter in which the onions were cooked, without changing color.

All that subtlety also extends to the vegetables that round out the blanquette. In springtime, little mushrooms, pearl onions, baby carrots, and peas express the delicacy of the season. Autumn might include more robust additions, such as the matchstick-sized pieces of larger carrots and celery and the small broccoli florets that I include in the recipe here. What you won't find in the stew, however, are the kinds of big chunks of root vegetable that are present in more robust winter stews.

And then, of course, there's the meat itself. Over the last decade or so, veal has been receiving negative attention in the press over inhumane treatment of young calves to get the ultra-tender, mild, pale-white qualities for which the meat was prized in classic European recipes. I have especially taken such concerns to heart, and in our restaurants we now use meat -- whether it's veal, beef, lamb, pork, or poultry of any kind -- from animals that have been raised only under humane conditions. I suggest that you look for free-range veal for this recipe. It will have a slightly darker color, but also correspondingly more flavor; and its slightly chewier texture makes it a perfect meat to use in this kind of gently simmered stew.

Still, the blanquette takes little more than an hour to cook, start to finish, making an ideal autumn dish whether you want to serve it to the family on a weeknight or to guests for a weekend dinner party. While the stew cooks, prepare your favorite rice pilaf, the classic accompaniment to soak up the delicious sauce of this deservedly popular dish.

Blanquette De Veau (French Veal Stew) Recipe

    Prep Time: 30 minutes

    Cook time: 60 minutes

    Yield: Serves 6

Blanquette De Veau Recipe Ingredients

    2 tablespoons canola oil or safflower oil

    3 pounds boneless trimmed veal shoulder, cut into 2-inch cubes

    1 tablespoon unsalted butter

    1 large onion, finely chopped

    3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

    2 cups dry white wine

    3 cups organic chicken broth

    Pinch of dried thyme

    1 bay leaf

    Leaves from 2 organic celery stalks, finely chopped

    1 teaspoon salt

    Freshly ground black pepper

    6 large organic carrots, peeled and cut into thick, matchstick-shaped, bite-sized pieces

    1 organic celery stalk, cut into thick, matchstick-shaped, bite-sized pieces

    1 medium head broccoli, cut into bite-sized florets

    1 cup heavy cream

    Juice of 1/2 medium lemon

Blanquette De Veau Recipe Directions

    In a wide, heavy saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the veal cubes, in batches if necessary to avoid overcrowding, and cook until lightly browned on all sides, 5 to 7 minutes per batch, transferring the veal to a dish as it is ready.

    Carefully pour off any oil remaining in the pan. Add the butter and return the pan to the heat. When the butter has melted, saute the onion, stirring continuously, until it turns translucent, about 3 minutes. Return the veal to the pan and sprinkle with the flour. Continue to stir until the fat in the pan has absorbed the flour.

    Pour the wine into the pan, raise the heat to high, and bring to a boil, stirring and scraping with a wooden spoon to deglaze the pan deposits. Stir in the broth, thyme, bay leaf, celery leaves, salt, and pepper. When the liquid returns to a boil, cover the pan and reduce the heat to maintain a bare simmer. Cook until the veal is fork-tender, 35 to 45 minutes.

    Meanwhile, bring a separate pan of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the carrot, celery sticks and the broccoli florets and cook until tender-crisp, 4 to 5 minutes. Drain, rinse under cold running water, and drain again. Set aside.

    With a slotted spoon, transfer the veal to a clean saucepan, reserving the cooking liquid. Add the cream to the cooking liquid, bring to a boil over high heat, and cook until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, 7 to 10 minutes. Hold a fine-meshed sieve over the pan with the veal and strain the thickened liquid over the veal. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, add the vegetables, and cook until heated through. Stir in the lemon juice, taste, and adjust the seasonings if necessary with a little more salt and pepper.


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