Blanquette de veau

Quick, quick!
No, veal blanquette is not a cover you put on calves so that they stay warm during cold days. Veal blanquette, or veal blanquette, is one of those iconic dishes offered by what is called the French “bourgeois cuisine”, which simply means family cuisine, not expensive, not pretentious and not complicated. And very tasty too. When served in a restaurant, this is called Bistrot cuisine (generally spelled with final “T” in French). Although the term “bistrot” is said (there are other versions) coming from the Russian быстро (bystro) meaning “quickly*”, bistrot cuisine refers often to long simmering stew where all the ingredient aromas could develop together. Like pot-au-feu, beef Bourguignon…, veal blanquette is one of those very tasty stews.

* The Russian soldiers who occupied Paris following the Napoleon wars were not allowed to drink alcoholic beverage. Well, having obviously some difficulties to comply with this this abstinence rules, they used to urge the barkeepers to serve them rapidly to avoid being caught… I don’t know if this is a true story (it is now apparently challenged) but I like it.

White, white!

To make a good blanquette, you always have to keep in mind what its name tells you. Blanquette comes from “blanc”, meaning white”, and (almost) shall be white: white meat (which is the case of veal, but also chicken or monkfish in some non-veal variation of the blanquette), the meat, the onions and other ingredients shall not be browned (forget here about the Maillard reaction),white mushrooms,  and the compulsory sauce shall be white, using flour and crème fraîche… That said, although some English recipes, following to the letter the white requirements, bans the use of carrots in a blanquette, carrot is in fact a compulsory ingredient, bringing its flavor and sweetness to the sauce, and also contributes to enhance the whiteness of the rest of the dish! Or the other option to agree everybody... white carrots! Little precaution, if like me, you also use purple carrots, cook or steam them separately. Otherwise, they would dye your whole dish. You surely don’t want that, except if you want to make a “rougette” (red).

Level of difficulty
~30/40 minutes

> 2 hours

Ingredients - 4 servings


§  2 lbs of stew pieces of veal, such as breast or shoulder (I use here rump which requires more cooking time), cut in roughly 2 oz pieces
§  1 medium size carrot, peeled and cut in big segments (for the cooking)
§  1 piece of celery stem, cut in segments
§  2 medium size  orange (or white) carrots, sliced slantwise
§  Optional, replace 1 orange carrot by 1 purple carrot, peeled and sliced slantwise
§  1/2 white (of course) onion, cut in quarters
§  4 white pearl onions
§  Around 3 oz of white or peeled baby bella mushrooms (aka champignons de Paris) cut in halves or quarter (here, as I was too lazy to peel those brown baby bellas, I used the heads of beech mushrooms: it works superbly well, and it is even classier)
§  Optional: leek whites
§  Green onions
§  2 cloves of garlic
§  4 cloves studded in the onion pieces
§  ¼ cup of AP flour (for the roux)
§  2 yolks
§  ½ cup of heavy cream or crème fraîche
§  1 tbsp of neutral oil (sunflower, grape seed…)
§  ¼ cup of butter (for the roux)
§  ½ lemon juice
§  3 tbsp of butter
§  2 tsp of sugar
§  Salt
§  White pepper
The meat:
1      Rinse the meat under the tap and put it in a pot of cold water, put to boil and skim regularly the “dirty” foam formed on surface. Let boil for around 5 minutes.
2      Remove the meat, strained the water in a chinois with a coffee filter, and keep the clear stock so obtained
3      Put the oil in a cast iron (better!) pot and heat on medium-low, add 1 tbsp of butter and let it melt, add the carrot segments, the onion, the celery and coat them with oil/butter. Let cook for around 5 minutes
4      Add the pieces of meat, coat them with the oil/butter on each side and simmer during a couple of minutes without coloring them (you remember, white!)
5      Add the garlic, a little bit of salt, and use a part of the clear stock just to cover 1 cm above the meat.
6      Let simmer gently for around 2 hours, adding the pepper after 1 hour

The sides
7      Around half an hour before serving, put 1 tbsp of butter in a pan, on medium-low, and when the butter is melted, add the carrot slices (except the purple one, if any), coat them with butter, salt, add 1 tsp of sugar, and hardly cover the carrots with 1 or 2 ladles of the clear stock. Let simmer like that till there is almost no stock left and the carrots are almost cooked
8      In a small pan, heat 1 tsp of butter, add the pearl onions, add 1 tsp of sugar and cover with clear stock and let reduce till the there is hardly no more stock and the onions are glazed
9      Around 5 minutes before preparing the sauce, add the mushrooms in the carrot pan and let them for 5/10 minutes depending on their size

The sauce
10   When everything is ready , prepare a roux, mixing together on medium ¼ cup of butter and ¼ cup of flour, and reserve
11   Withdraw 2 ladles of the meat broth, strain it and put it back to boiling
12   Add this hot broth to the roux, whisking vigorously till obtaining a consistent liquid, and put it back to boiling till it thickens
13   Mix the yolks and the crème fraîche, and add it, out of the burner (both the yolk and the cream don’t like too high temperatures), to the broth. Whisk till obtaining a consistent texture
14   Add the lemon juice and adjust the seasoning
15   Put the meat and the white sauce in a pan or a service dish supporting the heat, and keep it warm (but not boiling) before serving

16   Serve with a rice cooked à la créole (i.e. like pasta), or fresh pasta or mashed potatoes…
17   Place the meat on the rice, with the carrot slices, the mushrooms, the peal onion and pour the whole with a generous quantity of white sauce
18   To keep on with the white note, serve with a dry Bordeaux blanc (Graves) or Alsace blanc (Riesling or Sylvaner)