Blanquette de Veau

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This classic French dish might be the most comforting stew ever - it is rich, creamy, and aromatic, but somehow delicate and light. Blanquette refers to a cooking technique in which you don't actually brown the meat; rather, you let the meat cook slowly and gently from start to finish. 

I first had Blanquette de Veau when Dave and I were visiting family in Paris. The French mother of the house appropriately served it to us on a chilly November evening in their old Bastille apartment. She used porcini mushrooms in place of traditional button, taking the stew to a new level of decadence. Now, I only ever prepare this stew with nutty porcinis. Yes, they are more expensive, but when dried the flavor is so concentrated that you don't need to use very many mushrooms.

Customarily, Blanquette de Veau is served with pasta or rice, but I find a crusty loaf of bread is the only thing that will do. It goes without saying you should seek out quality, free-raised veal. You can alternatively use beef in this recipe, but if you can find a butcher who has very good veal, it is well worth it, and you'll see what makes this dish so special.  

Blanquette de Veau (Veal Stew)

2 pounds veal shoulder, cut into large cubes

1 teaspoon salt, divided

1/2 teaspoon pepper, divided 

2 tablespoons canola oil, divided (1 for meat, 1 for veg_

1 onion, chopped

1 leek, halved and thinly sliced (pale green and white parts only)

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 celery sticks, plus leaves, chopped

2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch rounds

1/2 cup dry white wine

2 1/2 cups beef or chicken broth

7 sprigs thyme

4 sprigs rosemary

1 bay leaf

4 cloves

1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms

3 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup flour

1 egg yolk

2 tablespoons cream

Juice of 1 lemon 

Parsley, to garnish

Season veal with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

In a large stockpot or dutch oven over medium heat, gently warm 1 tablespoon oil. Add veal. Without frying, cook meat until colored all over but not deeply browned, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, 5 minutes. Transfer veal to a plate. 

Roughly wipe pan clean with paper towel. Turn heat up to medium-high and heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Add onion, leek, garlic, celery, carrots, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; sauté until vegetables are soft and begin to brown, 7-10 minutes. Deglaze pan with wine, stirring until most of wine evaporates, 2 minutes. 

Using kitchen twine, tie thyme and rosemary together. Add to pot along with cloves, bay leaves, and reserved meat. Stir in broth. Cover with lid slightly ajar, reduce heat, and simmer until veal is tender, 1 1/2 - 2 hours. 

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, cover porcini mushrooms with boiling water; steep 15-20 minutes, strain, and roughly chop. Set aside.

Using a large slotted spoon, transfer veal and vegetables to a large bowl.

In a small saucepan, melt butter. Add flour, whisking constantly until roux comes together. Add to stew pot, stirring until sauce becomes slightly thick and smooth, 2-3 minutes. Return veal and vegetables to pot. Stir in reserved mushrooms. Cover and simmer another 15-20 minutes. 

Remove stew from heat. In a small bowl, whisk egg yolk and cream to combine; stir into stew slowly. Add the juice of 1 lemon, stirring gently. Garnish with fresh parsley and serve.