I was going to make a lamb and veal bourguignon, but never got around to it so decided to make another French dish, blanquette de veau which translates to English as white stew with veal.
There is something ubiquitous about French food. You would be hard pressed to find French culinary influences anywhere in the world. French cuisine is held as one of the best, the French know food and how to prepare it beautifully.
Two ingredients that tend to be associated with any French cooking is butter and cream. Alas I can not eat either of those, at least not in its authentic form, so plenty of delicious dishes I wish to try I either have to forgo completely or play around with the recipe to suit my dietary restrictions.
Luckily I was able to do so with this stew. Instead of heavy cream I used almond milk and replaced the butter with vegan butter. I would stick to mild flavoured milk alternatives, soy milk would also work.
The almond milk does darken the stew, it was more tan coloured then white but I see this as a small sacrifice in the name of good food. I also swapped out the pearl onions for shallots as I was unable to find pearl onions that day. It actually worked out nicely with the shallots so if you are in a similar predicament I suggest using shallots.
What you get is a rich, beautiful, creamy, melt-in-your-mouth stew. As you are not browning any of the ingredients first but rather simmering the stew you are left with tender meat and soft vegetables.
Flavouring is very subtle, you can note the bouquet garni and the mirepoix but really the main flavour comes from the sauce. The almond milk, stock and egg yolk are the key-note speaker of this stew.
For those unfamiliar, bouquet garni is basically a bundle of herbs that is tied together and cooked with the other ingredients but taken out just before it is finished. The best way is to use a cheesecloth or some string.
I used bay, thyme, parsley and garlic. How much you add depends on the cook, if you want the herbs to stand out add more, I usually add about a small handful of herbs and 2-3 cloves of garlic. Mirepoix is another way to add flavour. Onion, celery, and carrots are finally chopped up and added in with the stock.
Traditionally it is 2 part onion, 1 part carrot and 1 part celery. If you want to make a completely white stew you could swap the carrots for turnips instead.
Blanquette de veau traditionally is served with other white foods, such as white rice, celery root, or boiled cucumber but recent adaptations include carrots as a side.
As I wanted some more vegetable present in my dinner I opted to make a simple salade de carottes râpée (carrot salad) which was a nice addition. To add some colour I again went against the grain (no pun intended) and served the stew with wild rice. Next time I make this I may do roasted potatoes, traditional or not!
- 1 Pound cubed veal
- 1 Bouquet garni (bay, thyme and parsley)
- 1-2 Carrots or turnips, chopped finely
- 1 Small onion, chopped finely
- 1-2 Stalks celery, chopped finely
- 3 Cups stock, use vegetable or chicken stock
- 4-6 small shallots or 1 cup pearl onions
- 1 Cup button mushrooms, wiped of dirt
- 1-2 Tbsp vegan butter or real butter
- ½ Cup almond milk or real cream
- 1-2 Tbsp cornstarch
- 1 Egg yolk
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Place veal in large pot. Add enough water to cover. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Drain and rinse meat, return to pot. This step ensures that the meat does not turn the sauce grey.
- Add the bouquet garni, mirepoix and garlic to pot. Pour in the stock and bring to a boil. Once it starts boiling turn heat down to simmer. Keep uncovered and cook for 1 hour.
- Remove the bouquet garni from pot. Drain stock into a measuring cup. Check to see if you have approximately 1½ cups of stock, if not add some water.
- Melt butter on low and add in cornstarch to make a roux. Add the stock in whisking to combine. Keep whisking until all lumps are smoothed out and sauce becomes thicker.
- In a bowl whisk almond milk and egg yolk together. Add to pot and whisk into roux, you do not want to cook the eggs to the point it will scramble. It should stay a thick, smooth sauce.
- Add the meat mixture back into pot and add the mushrooms and shallots. Simmer for a further 20-30 minutes, or until shallots start to turn translucent. Season with a dash of salt and pepper.
- Serve with a side dish of your choice.