Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Dilled Blanquette de Veau à l'Ancienne

A classic of French cuisine, Blanquette de Veau is a creamy veal stew with mushrooms and pearl onions, in which in neither the veal nor the butter is browned in the cooking process — thus cooking them 'en blanquette'. The recipe begins with veal along with various aromatic vegetables being poached in either water, veal or chicken stock. In most recipes labeled à l'ancienne — in the old style — the vegetables are discarded once the veal has simmered for 1 1/4 hours, having become wonderfully soft and tender. The sauce is then prepared from a flour-thickened reduction of the cooking liquid and classically, a liaison of egg yolks and cream, however some recipes use a combination of cream and crème fraîche. The boiled pearl onions, mushrooms and cooked veal are finally returned to the sauce, garnished with a flurry of fresh dill and served with new potatoes. I was first served Blanquette de Veau while staying in Aix-en-Provence a few years ago, where the chef served the dish with a small pot of impeccably fresh sautéed snow peas. Magnifique!

Veal shoulder trimmed and cut into 2-inch cubes

The veal is covered with cold water and simmered for 2 minutes

The blanching process will allow you to rinse much of the grey scum that the veal releases

The veal is then drained and rinsed under cold water

An onion is peeled and studded with cloves to add to the broth

Bouquet garni from our garden: thyme, parsley and a bay leaf tied with kitchen string

Chicken stock is added to a pot with the blanched veal, clove studded onion and bouquet garni
and simmered, partially covered for 1 1/4 hours

While the veal is simmering, 2 cups of pearl onions are blanched in boiling water for 2 minutes which makes them easier to trim and peel

The pearl onions are then simmered in butter and a little white wine until soft, about 30 minutes

A handful of new potatoes are boiled for 20 minutes to be served with the Blanquette de Veau

Fresh snow peas are washed and trimmed as an accompaniment to the Blanquette de Veau

Steamed and sautéed with a little butter, this was the way this dish was first presented when we first enjoyed it in Aix-en-Provance

Once the veal has simmered for 75 minutes, the broth is strained and the veal set aside with the pearl onions, while the sauce is prepared

Butter is added to a saucepan and melted over low heat

Flour is then added to the butter and whisked over low heat for 5 minutes

The veal broth is added to the roux and whisked for 10 minutes until thickened

The sliced mushrooms are added to the sauce and cooked for 10 minutes

The veal, pearl onions and fresh dill are then added to the sauce along with the cooked mini new potatoes

Finished with a little cream and garnish of fresh dill, the Blanquette is served

Dilled Blanquette de Veau à l'Ancienne
Serves 6

3 lb veal shoulder, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
8 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 large onion studded with a clove
1 garlic clove, minced
1 bouquet garni: 4 thyme sprigs, 8 parsley sprigs and 1 bay leaf tied with string
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups pearl onions
5 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 pound small cremini or button mushrooms, halved if necessary
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
Freshly ground white pepper
1/2 cup crème fraîche or heavy cream
5 tbsp finely chopped fresh dill

In a large oven-proof casserole, cover the veal with cold water, bring to a simmer and cook for 2 minutes. Drain the veal and rinse under cold water.
Wash out the casserole and return the meat to it. Add 7 1/2 cups of the chicken stock, large onion, garlic, 3 tablespoons of dill and the bouquet garni, and season with salt. Bring to a simmer, cover partially and simmer over moderate heat until the veal is very tender, about 75 minutes. 

Meanwhile, in a saucepan of boiling water, blanch the pearl onions for 30 seconds. Drain and transfer to a bowl of ice water, then drain again. Trim the roots and peel the onions. In a skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter and add the pearl onions and 1/2 cup of white wine. Season with salt, cover and cook over low heat until the onions are tender, about 30 minutes. 

Drain the veal, reserving the broth, and discard the onion, garlic and bouquet garni. Rinse out the casserole, return the meat and scatter the pearl onions overtop.

In a large saucepan, melt the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter over low heat. Sprinkle in the flour and cook and cook over low heat, whisking constantly, for 5 minutes. Add 3 1/2 cups of the reserved veal broth and simmer over low heat, whisking frequently until thickened, about 10 minutes, skimming off any film that rises to the surface. Add the mushrooms, season with salt and white pepper and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. Pour the mushrooms and sauce over the veal and add 2 tablespoons of the cream. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the crème fraîche and remaining dill, season with salt and pepper, and pour over the meat. Gently reheat, and transfer to a dish. Garnish with a little more fresh dill and serve with little new potatoes, white rice or noodles. However at Villa Gallici, where I first had this dish, the chef served it alone with a small pot of mange-toutes on the side. Magnifique!