A creamy veal stew with French origins

Blanquette de veau à l’ancienne  — veal simmered in stock, then served in a sauce made with the stock, enriched with cream and egg yolks.

Beck, Bertholle and Child, authors of a ground-breaking sixties French cookbook,  “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,”  provide a useful rule of thumb for determining yield — according to the notes accompanying their version of a blanquette, one should allow one pound of boneless meat for each 2 to 3 people, depending on the rest of your menu — my translation of that is to allow one pound of boneless meat for 2 people, not only because leftovers are never a problem in our home, but also because it’s great to have folks feel free to have a second helping rather than looking at the pot wistfully, wishing there was just one more pound of meat.  Also, a note about pots — if Le Creuset had not existed before “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” was published, someone surely would have invented it then.  Again and again in this sort of dish, that type of heavy, enameled cast-iron pot, saucepan or skillet is what you will want at hand.  Hope you have a few in your kitchen.  If not, look for heft and a lid — any lidded Dutch oven or large heavy pot, even an earthenware casserole, should do nicely.

3 pounds veal stew meat cut into 2-ounce, 2-inch pieces
5 to 6 cups cold white stock or good canned chicken broth
3 fl. oz (3/8 cup) dry white wine (optional)
2 medium-sized onions, studded with 2 cloves each
2 carrots, scraped and quartered
Herb bouquet with celery stalks:  
        8 parsley stems, not the leaves, which discolor a white sauce, a bay leaf, 1 teaspoon thyme and 2 medium celery stalks
         (all tied together in a cheesecloth bag)
18 to 24 peeled+ white onions about 1 inch in diameter (see note about peeling below)
½  cup of stock dipped from the simmering veal casserole
¼  teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter
4 tablespoons butter
5 tablespoons flour (Wondra works well in this)
3 ¼  cups of veal cooking stock
18 to 24 fresh mushroom caps, about 1 inch in diameter, tossed with 1 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt and white pepper
1 to 2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons cream or stock
3 egg yolks
½ cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons minced parsley
Optional:  10 toast triangles for garnish if serving on a platter

Place the veal stew meat in a 3- to 4-quart, fireproof, enameled casserole and cover with cold water by two inches.  Bring to the simmer and simmer two minutes.  Drain the veal; rinse rapidly under cold water to remove any scum.  Wash out casserole.  Return the rinsed meat to the casserole dish.
Pour on 5 to 6 cups cold white stock or good canned chicken broth to cover the veal by one-half inch.  Bring slowly to a simmer and skim as necessary for several minutes.  Add the onion studded with cloves, carrot, quartered, and the herb bouquet and celery stalks in the cheesecloth bag.  Taste for seasoning and salt lightly if necessary, which will probably depend on the choice of stock.  Cover partially and simmer very slowly for 1 ¼ to 1 ½ hours, or until the veal is fork tender.  Do not overcook.
While the veal is simmering, prepare the onions: 
Peel onions (see note below) and pierce a cross in the root ends.  Place the onions in a heavy-bottomed enameled saucepan or skillet with the ½ cup white stock dipped from the simmering veal casserole, 1 tablespoon butter, and ¼ teaspoon salt.
Cover and simmer very slowly, rolling the onions in the saucepan from time to time, for 30 to 40 minutes  The onions should not brown, and should be tender but retain their shape.  If all the liquid should evaporate during the cooking, add more by spoonfuls as necessary. 

When the veal is tender, pour the contents of the casserole into a colander set over a bowl.  Rinse out the casserole and return the meat to the casserole, removing any loose bones.  Arrange the cooked onions over the meat.

In an 8-cup, heavy-bottomed enameled saucepan, melt 4 tablespoons butter, add the flour, and stir over low heat until they foam together for 2 minutes.  Off heat, pour in the 3 ¼ cups of veal cooking stock, beating vigorously with a wire whip.  Return saucepan to the heat and bring the sauce to the boil, stirring.  Simmer for 10 minutes, frequently skimming off the film which rises to the surface.  Fold in the mushroom caps and simmer 10 minutes more, skimming as before.  Taste the sauce for seasoning, adding salt, pepper, and lemon juice to taste.

Pour the sauce and mushrooms over the veal and onions in the large casserole.  Film the top of the sauce with two spoonsful of cream or stock to prevent a skin from forming.  Set aside, partially covered.

About ten to 15 minutes before serving, reheat slowly to the simmer, basting the veal with the sauce.  Cover and simmer for 5 minutes.  Remove from heat.

Blend 3 egg yolks and ½ cup whipping cream in a 6-cup mixing bowl with a wire whip.  Beat in by spoonsful one cup of the hot sauce.  Then pour the mixture into the casserole, tilting it and basting the veal and vegetables to blend the rest of the sauce with the egg-yolk mixture.

Set over moderate heat, gently shaking the casserole until sauce has thickened lightly but do not let it come to the simmer.  (If not served at once, film the top of the sauce with a spoonful or two of stock, partially cover the casserole, and keep warm over hot but not simmering water for 10 to 15 minutes.)

Scatter parsley on top and serve from the casserole. Or, if you are having, trying to have, a more elegant dinner party, you can transfer the veal to a heated serving dish, pour the sauce over it, and garnish with toast triangles.  Serve immediately.

Yield:  If you use 3 pounds of boneless veal, you should be able to feed 6 folks.

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