White Veal Stew made into a Tart…
One of my favourite meats is veal. I love the mild flavour, the tender texture and it is so versatile you can cook it a dozen ways and never tire of it! While growing up in France, veal was as common on the canteen menu as beef, chicken or fish. It was rarer at home however, since it is quite expensive. Still, I remember delicious blanquettes de veau, escalopes, or grilled cotes de veau savoured during my childhood.
This culinary landscape changed, when I moved to Australia, nearly 30 years ago: here was the land of beef, lamb and seafood…plenty of it going cheap (compared to French prices!) Asking for veal used to earn me bewildered looks from the butchers, one of them even stating it was a waste of a good steak! It went on for a long time, and truth be told, it didn’t bother me so much: being lucky enough to travel back home once in a while, I would indulge in a “veal fix” then.
Actually, I found thru our cruising, that veal must be a European thing: France, Italy, Spain, Germany…they all know how to cook it and eat it. Move across to North and South America, and this white meat is not as prominent, except as a grilling meat. Closer to Australia, thank god for the French islands ( Polynesia and New Caledonia) and Vanuatu, where the former imports tons from the metropole ( French mainland) while the latter produces its own stock and in my opinion the best veal in the world! I remember seeing freezers full of whole legs of veal at Carrefour in Papeete ( for roasting on a spit ), shiny slices of calf liver and trays overflowing with veal T-bones at Le Bon Marche in Port Vila… Oh, how I went crazy for a few weeks wanting to make the most of this abundance, only to be told later by the Australian Quarantine officer that Vanuatu’s veal and beef are so highly regarded that they are actually allowed in Australia! Note for our next cruise…
So it was that one cold winter night, I had a craving for a blanquette de veau (veal white stew). Knowing how a foodie mecca Sydney has now become, I thought it would be easy to find veal cuts other than schnitzels. I was looking for veal shoulder, breast and liver. Beside the local supermarkets, I asked 3 butchers in my neighbourhood and was told very clearly, that I was in the wrong part of Sydney: I live in the Sutherland Shire, south of Sydney, where locals apparently like their veal crumbed as schnitzels, minced in meat balls, or braised osso-bucco. In other words, all the butchers bring in are legs of veal which they cut accordingly. When I told them what dishes I wanted to cook ( veal stew, calf liver in butter and parsley, even a roast shoulder!), the standard answer was “Oh, French dishes! No one cooks them here, you have to shop where the French are, on the north shore or eastern suburbs!” 45mn drive away and where things cost a lot more. The one exception was Paul Tasker of Burraneer Gourmet Meats, whose selection on display may have been limited but his customer service won me hands down. He happily offered to order a veal forequarter for me, cut it and package it to my own specs ( stew meat, breast, cutlets, bones for stock,…) charging one bulk price for the lot. A few days later, I collected my goodies and filled up the fridge with enough veal to cook 5 meals. Me very happy!
On to the blanquette. A very popular French dish, it is typically served family-style, meaning in one big pot at the table for everyone to help themselves, along with rice or boiled potatoes. Terry always fails to be impressed by the humble appearance of this white stew, preferring the rich colour of darker ragout (like beef burgundy or lamb curry!). But for me, the whole point of this dish is this white sauce and the delicate flavours of melting veal and vegetables. For his benefit, I add bacon for extra flavour and peas for extra colour, but that is totally optional. I love it so much I always cook enough for 2 meals (or extra guests!). Only that time, the family had seconds and didn’t quite leave me enough for a full main course the next day. That’s when I decided to create little savoury tarts, thanks to some frozen shortcrust pastry. They turned a lovely golden colour and served alongside a crisp green salad, made for a delicious weeknight dinner.
** I didn’t have a chance to take a photograph of the blanquette, it was mayhem in the kitchen that night. Made up for it by shooting the making of the tart, so you have an idea of what it looks like as a white stew AND a golden tart filling!
White Veal Stew Tart
Serves 12 as a starter or 6 as a main
Left over white veal stew (recipe follows)
3 frozen shortcrust pastry sheets
- Preheat oven to 200 deg C
- Cut out shortcrust pastry and line mini tart tins
- Warm up left over stew, adding 1 cup of frozen vegetables (peas, corn…) and 1 cup of cream
- Divide mixture into the 12 tart shells
- Place the tins in the oven and bake for 30 minutes or until browned and pastry is golden.
- Serve with green salad. Enjoy!
Blanquette de Veau ( White veal stew)
Serves 6-8 as a main
1.2 kg stewing veal (breast or shoulder or a mix of both)
2 tbsp duck fat
500g speck or bacon (optional)
150ml dry white wine
2 onions, peeled and stuck with 2 cloves each
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 sticks of celery, trimmed and sliced
1 tbsp dried herbes de provence (mixed dried herbs)
Salt and pepper
3 medium sized onions, peeled and quartered
500g mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
2 tbsp flour + 45g butter
3 egg yolks
3 tbsp pouring cream
Juice of 1 ½ lemons
- Trim the veal meat and cut into bite sized pieces (better still, have your butcher do it for you!). Cut the speck in thick slices, seal in a hot casserole dish ( Le Creuset style ) until browned all over, strain speck and set aside. Add duck fat to the same casserole, heat until smoky. Add the veal, turning regularly to seal on all sides, about 3 minutes ( you don’t want to brown the meat, it is a white stew after all!)
- Add the white wine, water, onions with cloves, sliced carrots, celery, dried herbs, salt and pepper and quartered onions. Bring the casserole to the boil, slowly and allow to simmer gently until the veal is tender, about 1 hour.
- When the stew is nearly ready, cook the mushrooms briefly in the butter, in a shallow pan. Set aside.
- Make the roux in a separate pan: melt the butter, add flour and mix until combined. Moisten with the veal stock from the casserole, up to 1 cup. Bring this sauce to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, beat up the egg yolks, cream and lemon juice in a small bowl. When the sauce is ready, stir a ladleful of it into the yolk mixture and then tip this back into the sauce. Stir it all together and pour over the meat stew. Add the mushrooms and their juice, salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.
- Enjoy with rice (traditional) or polenta (as I did)