Stew Note:
5 March 2018

Over the weekend, I had another go at Mme St Ange’s blanquette de veau. On Friday, I simmered the veal in water, with a pinch of salt, and skimmed the pot constantly. When the simmering stopped producing scum, I turned off the heat. Now I had a pot of veal in a very nice and clear broth. 

On Saturday, I continued cooking the veal in its broth, along with four or five baby carrots; a large, cigar-shaped shallot, peeled and studded with a clove of garlic; and a bouquet garni that included celery leaves. Mme St Ange calls for cooking the stew on the stove, but I thought that the oven would be easier to regulate. My stovetop is not good enough to produce a steady heat high enough to simmer but low enough not to boil. Cautiously, I set the oven to 325º. This turned out to be too low. At 350º, the broth bubbled nicely, without breaking the surface. It remained quite clear.

Meanwhile, I boiled eight ounces of trimmed mushrooms, saving the trimmings. I have never, I think, boiled mushrooms in my life, but that’s how Mme St Ange wants garnish mushrooms to be prepared. 

The next stage, which I could have postponed until Sunday, when I planned to serve the stew, involved discarding all the vegetables from the pot and then removing the veal to a clean casserole. I added the mushrooms to the veal, strained the broth, and made a roux. This time, I was determined to make a sauce with a proper robe. It took forever, because I moved very cautiously. I brought the broth to the boil and whisked it into the roux. After reducing the sauce for a while, I added the boiling mushroom stock, which I had enriched during its reduction with the mushroom trimmings. When the sauce was almost thick enough, I stirred spoonfuls of it into a blend of egg yolk and cream, until the egg was tempered (I hoped). Having poured the egg mixture into the sauce, I continued cooking — stirring constantly — until a tiny bubble appeared near the side of the pot. That was my cue to turn off the heat. I poured the sauce onto the stew, stirred it nicely, and let it sit on the stove overnight.

On Sunday evening, I reheated the stew in a very slow oven. I served it atop tagliatelle from Agata & Valentina, and sprinkled the dishes with minced parsley.

I could see why Elizabeth David would dismiss blanquette de veau as insipid, but Kathleen loved it even more the second time, saying that she had been looking forward to it all weekend. I have yet to follow Mme St Ange all the way, by adding a garnish of pearl onions. That’s what I’ll do next time. I’ll also work in a dash of cayenne, which is my current miracle ingredient. There is something quietly magnificent about this dish, and the preparation is unlike any that I have ever undertaken. I take this to reflect the fact that it has not been rejiggered for American cooks. 

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