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Blanquette de Veau (French Veal Ragout)

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Blanquette de Veau (French Veal Ragout)

Serves: 4-6
Cost: ~€8-14
Preparation and cooking time: ~2 hours
Calories: -

I should mention before I begin that I’m not really a fan of unethical food. I try to buy free-range meat, I always buy organic, free-range eggs (and am thankful that I live in a part of the world where those terms and their usage is actually regulated, as opposed to some countries where any egg company can print “Organic farm fresh” on a box, no matter what the condition of, or the feed given to, the hens). I shun foie gras (though I tried it once and feel dirty for saying it was so delicious), and up to this point I’ve gone through most of my life without eating veal. I don’t know the precise ins and outs of calf-rearing, but I do know that in recent years conditions have improved  a fair bit. The use of crates is now banned in Europe since 2005 – with the exception of Switzerland, interestingly enough – and for an industry as closely linked to milk production as veal is I do feel it’s a least a little hypocritical to consume one and refuse the other.

In any event – this isn’t supposed to be a post about the ethics behind the meat industry. Today I’m going to be making a blanquette de veau, known in English perhaps as a veal ragout, but it loses some of the charm of the name in translation I feel. One of the most important things in a blanquette is that the meat is not browned – at all. Many dishes start off with searing the meat on the edges, locking in the flavour, but there’s none of that here. The veal is boiled to create a stock, which is then thickened with a roux and a liaison of cream and egg yolk.

The result? Comfort food, French style! Pretty much everyone has had a blanquette de veau in France, and it seems that pretty much everyone loves it too. If you can’t get your hands on veal then apparently you can use any other white meat – rabbit, chicken, pork, or even lamb (according to Wikipedia, though I wasn’t aware lamb was a “white” meat).

Blanquette de Veau

I was very pleased to finally try this dish. The flavours were mild, and at first it seemed perhaps too mild, but after a few mouthfuls I realised that actually, that is no problem. These days, we’re so used to eating things which are heavily flavoured and spiced, sometimes it’s nice to just enjoy the basic flavours for what they are – meat, a delicately flavoured, deliciously smooth sauce, mushrooms and carrots. I also learned a lot about sauces from this endeavour as well. It’s quite an involved dish – it took me no small amount of time to prepare, but it’s the kind of dish which teaches you several core concepts commonly used in traditional French cookery.

I wanted to write a little about the history of this dish as well because this dish is seriously old-school – it’s been around for a long, long time, but a search yielded a great deal of information on “variations” of the dish, but not a great deal of concrete history, so – sorry about that. If anyone does know any history about the dish do please let me know and I’ll update the post here.

Anyway – I hope you get a chance to give it a try. I’ve made a few adjustments and modifications – hopefully for any blanquette aficionados out there it’s still relatively true to form. I’ll be back in a few days with something sweet! As they say here: “À plus”.

Blanquette de Veau

Translated and adapted from original recipe here

Ingredients

Blanquette de Veau ingredients

For the blanquette

  • 1kg of Veal (ideally shoulder or breast)

For the bouquet garni and stock flavouring

  • 200g Carrots
  • 2 sticks of Celery
  • 2 small Leeks
  • A few sprigs of Thyme
  • 3 Bay Leaves
  • A small handful of fresh Parsley
  • 1 large Onion
  • 3 cloves of Garlic
  • Salt

For the roux

  • 60g Butter
  • 60g Plain Flour

For the garnish

  • 250g Mushrooms (I used Oyster Mushrooms)
  • 250g Shallots
  • 60g Butter, divided into 2x 30g blocks
  • 1tbsp Sugar
  • Juice from half a lemon
  • 50ml Water
  • Salt

For the “liaison”

  • 100ml Cream
  • 2 Egg Yolks

You’ll also need

  • Rice, for serving

Instructions

  1. Start off by trimming away any hard fat away from the veal and slice it into good-sized pieces, about the size of 2 large mouthfuls. Place the veal into a large pan of cold water and bring to the boil. Allow to boil for about 5 minutes, and remove any scum which forms at the surface with the aid of a slotted spoon. After the 5 minutes has elapsed, drain and discard the water and rinse the meat thoroughly in clean, cold water.
    Par-cooking the veal
  2. Next prepare the bouquet garni and stock flavouring. Trim the ends from the leeks, so only the white bottoms remain. Remove the outer layer and slice down the middle, then rinse under running water to clean them.  Trim the celery, and then peel the onion, garlic and carrots. Using kitchen twine, bind the leeks, celery, parsley, thyme and bay leaves tightly together. Cut the cloves of garlic in half, the onion into quarters and slice the carrots into bite-sized chunks.
    Creating the bouquet garni
  3. Place the veal into a large pan with a lid. Cover with water, so the water is 3cm above the level of the veal, add a little salt and then bring to the boil. Add in the previously prepared bouquet garni and vegetables, reduce the heat and cover. Cook for 50 minutes while you start to make the sauce.
    Making the blanquette
  4. Prepare the roux by melting the butter gently in a pan and then pouring in the flour. Whisk rapidly for several minutes over a medium heat to allow the roux to brown gently. This will give the final sauce the delicate colour, as well as ensuring the sauce won’t have an uncooked flour flavour. Once the roux has browned, remove from the heat and allow to cool.
    Making the roux
  5. Next we’ll prepare the vegetables for the garnish. Peel and chop the shallots coarsely, and wipe the mushrooms clean and chop them into chunks. In a frying pan melt 30g of the butter, add in the onions, the sugar, a little salt and about 1/3 of the water. Stir well and cook through until the water has evaporated. Remove the onions and set aside, and then melt the remaining butter with the rest of the water, the lemon juice, and a litle salt. Add in the mushrooms and cook over a high heat, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes, before removing and setting aside.
    Cooking the onions and mushrooms
  6. Once the veal and stock has cooked for 50 minutes take out the veal and carrots from the pan and set aside. Discard the onion, garlic and bouquet garni from the stock and measure out about 1 litre of the liquid. You can either discard or save the rest for use at a later date. Pass the stock through a sieve or conical strainer and add into the roux. Place the pan onto the stove and whisk well while you bring the sauce (called a “velouté”) to the boil, then reduce the heat and allow the velouté to cook gently for 10 minutes.
    Mixing the velouté with the liaison
  7. Next we’ll prepare the liaison – the thickener for the sauce. Whisk together the cream and egg yolks. Remove the sauce (velouté) from the heat and then gently whisk the liaison into the velouté. Return the sauce to the heat and bring to the boil for a few seconds to thicken. At this point, taste the sauce and season to your taste with salt and pepper. Add the carrots, mushrooms, onions and veal into the sauce.
    The finished blanquette de veau
  8. Heat the pan through gently and your meal is now ready. Serve with rice, top with a little parsley, and enjoy!
    Blanquette de Veau

 

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47 Comments

  1. When I was a kid we had this at least once a month using different meat or chicken or turkey. My French grandmother would tell us it would grow hair on our chests and my sister and I refused to eat it. My mother explained that we weren’t going to get REAL hair there so we’d eat just a few bites, just to be sure. :)

    Reply
    • lol, hair on your chests :D You crack me up Maureen! :D

      Reply
  2. I can certainly see how this dish would be comfort food, it’s so velvety and rich. The earthy mushrooms and roux would be a delicious combo for the delicately flavoured veal. I haven’t been much of a veal eater for similar reasons. I don’t think ‘organic’ is regulated here, other than the price, so I don’t buy it. But I do buy ‘free from’ and ‘free range’ as much as possible. Fois Gras is something of a conundrum — it surely is delicious, but I’ve only had it a couple of times and usually only in tasting menus.

    Reply
    • Hi Eva, foie gras is delicious indeed… it’s like eating meaty butter. I heard you can get ethically produced stuff these days, where no force-feeding takes place. I find the attitude towards such things in France horrendous. Many people don’t really care what takes place as long as they can have their “delicious noms” :(.

      Reply
  3. We’re just wrapping up our French cooking adventures. :) It’s been quite intimidating with all the choices out there! I never came across this dish though and I don’t know that we’ve ever cooked veal before. I do like the idea of a French comfort food meal. I bet we would all enjoy this one. I like how you tie the herbs to the leek. It looks so rustic and what a clever way for infusing the flavor, but then not having to skim everything out at the end. (I could have used that tip on our last dish. ;) ) Perhaps this summer I’ll have time to tackle this recipe. This time of year, the simpler the better though. The kids school stuff keeps us super busy, and then all the summer activities kick in! Phew. I think comfort food may be in order. ;)

    Reply
    • Hi Kristy, I really surprised that any recipe you checked out didn’t advise to tie the herbs together – maybe they thought it added more fun at the end… fishing around for marauding bay leaves! :D. Aah, school activities… I suppose I’ll have all that to look forward to one day!

      Reply
  4. The subtle flavours would probably make careful preparation of the dish even more important and it sounds pretty elegant in spite of being considered a homey comfort dish.

    Veal was rarely served at our house, maybe once a year in the form of veal schnitzel, most likely for Easter which my mother considered a more important occasion that Christmas or Thanksgiving. I’d like to try to make it one day just for the technique involved as I’ve never made a sauce in that fashion.

    Reply
    • Hi A_, I’ve never had a schnitzel. My German colleagues rave about it – is it really that good? I’m intrigued!

      Reply
      • Schnitzel is a simple dish without a lot of ingredients but it’s the crispness of the crust/breading that makes or breaks it. You can make it with veal, chicken or pork and add a wedge of lemon that you squeeze over the meat. You can serve your schnitzel with various potato side dishes, rice or even spaghetti with a simple tomato sauce.

        It’s also best eaten freshly made … you can NOT reheat this the next day. If the meat isn’t fresh or nice and tender, if the oil is old or you’ve burned the crust, it will give your schnitzel a bad taste. Almost anyone can make schnitzel … it’s getting a ‘good’ one that’s difficult. :)

        Reply
  5. Hi Charles, it’s interesting how we posted on the same food issues at the same time.
    I didn’t know the French name for this dish, but had it many times mostly made with rabbit (looking back I realized that I grew up eating rabbit, chicken, and pork or lamb on holidays. Beef and veal I had just several times before I moved to US).
    To find a bit more of the history of the dish go to the library and look into old books, very-very old books. However I thing those recipes came even before first book was written. :)

    Reply
    • Mm, speaking of rabbit, I’ve got some in my freezer right now, along with some duck and lamb (my wife bought me a box of meat for a recent anniversary!). I’ve never really cooked with veal, or duck, or rabbit (a couple things with duck, but that’s it), so it’s a voyage of discovery for me! :)

      Reply
  6. Hmmmm this looks so delicious! I’d love to come home to this meal. The name sounds fancy but the instruction you given is very clear and doesn’t sound too hard either. We love veal but never purchase to make it at home. This is such a comfort and delicious dish!

    Reply
    • Thank you Nami! The French have a knack for over-complicating dishes sometimes… same as the Italians. Seriously, I have an Italian cookery book (I should review it one day) and they have insanely “easy” recipes, with just 4 ingredients, but for some reason, the recipe is 2 pages long! Just crazy.

      Reply
  7. Charles, I love blanquette and yours looks absolutely delicious and so comforting indeed. I often prepare blanquette with turkey breast because veal is sooo expensive (I haven’t bought veal for ages… a meal for two would cost me as much as a foie gras lobe or more ). I wish I had a plate of blanquette now… it’s so cold and windy…
    As for Switzerland, I have never been interested in veal (too expensive and I buy only free-range anyway and in this case all the animals have very decent conditions) but all the other animals I buy meat from are reared in much better conditions. Rules are much stricter concerning the space, while in EU “standard” farms animals cannot even turn, not to mention walking. Moreover, battery chickens (in cages) are forbidden in Switzerland for more than ten years while in EU they announce it but it’s still being done.
    I no longer buy meat from animals reared in “basic” conditions, but if I had to, I would certainly buy Swiss meat because I know animals suffer less. Of course free-range and organic labels are similar in both countries.

    Reply
    • Hi Sissi, the sauce was especially good for this I found. I actually ended up making double the amount of sauce needed for the amount of veal I had and I couldn’t stop eating it. Every time I went past the refrigerator I was taking a spoonful of sauce, lol!

      Indeed, it was mainly US and Canada I was talking about – I heard there is no regulation at all about the labelling there, so the only way to really be sure is to buy them from a trusted local farmer. So sad that such things aren’t enforced and they’re free to trick consumers!

      Reply
  8. I’m with you on trying to eat ethically. I recently catered for a 21st and I made 200 cupcakes plus the birthday cake. The client was absolutely flawed at how much I charged her (only charged for ingredients) but it’s because she buys cage eggs and I buy organic – but I just can’t buy a caged egg. I haven’t heard of this dish. Perhaps we’re just too far from France down here. It does look like great comfort food xx

    Reply
    • Yikes, did you not agree on a price beforehand? Cage eggs are ridiculously cheap… like, stupidly so. I can understand it’s great if you’re poor, but personally I’d rather go without eggs (or only eat them once a week or something) than buy “bad” ones.

      Reply
      • Ahhh no! I foolishly didn’t. It was because I wasn’t sure how to quote as I hadn’t cooked those quantities before and because her son and my Archie are best mates, I agreed to do it for cost. It was $450 for the cake and the cupcakes and I don’t think she could understand that. But the cake was enormous (3 cakes stacked) and then just the paper cases and transport boxes for the cupcakes cost me over $100. You live and learn! xx

        Reply
  9. I love this dish. It’s simplicity is it’s charm. It doesn’t require bags of ingredients and because of that, I think the veal shines through which is a good thing as it is a delicate flavoured meat. My Mother-in-law makes a great Blanquette. I have made it a couple of times, not quite to your method, but still good. You have reminded me how much I love it so it’s going back on the menu plan very very soon! Thanks Charles x

    Reply
    • Hi Anneli, I hope you will share your recipe too some time – it’s always fun to see how other people make things. I think I will try it with chicken next time – veal can be so expensive!

      Reply
  10. I have a very good French pal who often used to cook me this. At first I thought it sounded a bit dull and bland but really, it’s not, it’s delicate and beautiful! And with regard to the ethics of veal, pink veal (not crated) is now available and here in Spain they just sell young cow and old cow (well, the labels don’t say that!) but it’s not crated either so I’m ok with that. Lovely recipe Charles!

    Reply
    • Hi Chica, I was totally the same – I didn’t have this for so long because I thought it really sounded so boring, but I’m so pleased I finally made it. It was a great dish, and a great cooking experience too!

      Reply
    • Hi Marta, I always think of it as a “blanket” of sauce covering delicious, tender meat :)

      Reply
  11. I love this dish, its so hearty, creamy and delicious. I made something similar before but with lamb shanks, they are tasty. Have a look here http://wp.me/pMp9M-qi

    Reply
    • Ah, hehe, so you did (you seem to have made EVERYTHING before, lol) – you don’t often see many English posts about “la blanquette”! I was researching recipes on Google… you know, the first recipe I encountered called for you to brown the meat in a pan… like, the very exact opposite of what should be done in a traditional blanquette :p.

      Reply
  12. Charles, it’s a dark and rainy evening here and this meal looks so warming and comforting! I’m one of those who doesn’t eat veal but all that aside, I love the ingredients and the method and would simply sub another meat of choice. Your photos are really nice too Charlies – I always like how you lay out your ingredients for us – it’s not only visually appealing, it also makes you realize just how much goodness goes into these recipes.

    Reply
    • Thanks Kelly – I like seeing all the ingredients all laid out, especially for “big” dishes like this, and it’s a good excuse to force myself to do the whole “mise en place” thing :).

      Reply
  13. veal is one of those meats that I rarely eat but Love it when I do. The only way to eat it in my opinion is what an oustanding sauce so you can sop of the sauce with your french bread. This sauce/ragout and the veal is ideal

    Reply
    • Thanks KB – it was a really tasty meal, I’m glad I finally had a go at making it!

      Reply
  14. Charles, Have you ever heard of Temple Grandin? You really need to look her up if you haven’t. She is responsible for much if not most of the evolution of the meat industry into human treatment and care of the animals being raised for food. The most remarkable part is that she has autism and has a PhD in animal science! Amazing woman! I have always had a hard time eating veal, but like you, I try to know where it came from first. Your dish looks delicious! I love that your gravy isn’t so thick and heavy that it overwhelms the veal. I can certainly taste this dish!

    Reply
    • Hi MJ, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of Temple Grandin (and what an interesting name!) – thanks for the tip, I shall look her up. She sounds like a good person!

      I don’t (very, very rarely eat veal… can’t even remember the last time I had it actually before this) and probably not something I’ll have again for a while. Nice as an occasional thing to try out new dishes though! :)

      Reply
  15. That is a dish that I miss the most in Goa. I haven’t found somebody yet who actually sells veal meat here, it’s as if it was something weird. You should see the sellers reaction (as if his meat was organic). I would certainly love to try your version of the blanquette de veau Charles. :)

    Reply
    • Hi Helene, not to worry, you can satisfy yourself in the knowledge that you get like, a million different types of berries and fruits that I’ve never even heard of here (yes, I’m still jealous about this, and probably will be forever!). I’d take the berries over the veal any day!

      Reply
  16. This is true French comfort food and your dish looks delicious. I like that you served it with a rice mix to soak up the delicious sauce.

    Reply
    • Thanks Karen, comfort food indeed – perfect for rainy days :)

      Reply
  17. This looks like some severe comfort food. Sometimes it is nice to take a step back and really enjoy the subtle flavours of the food just as they were meant to be tasted. I think I would love a nice piece of bread to lop up all of those gravy bits. How is your main little man doing? I bet he is getting so big already.. Take Care, BAM

    Reply
    • Hi Bam, it’s exactly what my wife said. Sometimes it’s so important to enjoy the simple things… the things which haven’t been spiced into oblivion. We forget the old-style stuff sometimes I think!

      My son is doing great thank you – growing teeth all over the place and crawling along super fast! :D

      Reply
  18. This looks so nutritious and healthy, I bet it can be done in a slow cooker too. I have to try it one day although it requires lots of work :). Good job my friend.

    Reply
    • Hi Amira, I’m certain it can be, although I wouldn’t know the best way for that. Since the sauce requires some work I couldn’t think what the best way might be, but I’m sure you can find some adaptations online!

      Reply
    • Thank you Laura, it made for a wonderful meal :)

      Reply
  19. Lovely work! Would you be happy to link it in to the current Food on Friday which is about veal? This is the link . I do hope to see you there. Cheers

    Reply
    • Thank you Carole, I added it, though I feel I made a bit of a mess of things. Wasn’t sure if I should add it again or maybe you could correct the title…?

      Reply
      • I’ve sorted it for you now, Charles – no worries. Thanks for linking in. I hope to see you again soon. Cheers

        Reply
  20. Where is blanquette de veau traditionally from

    Reply
    • Do you mean the name or the country/area?

      Name is from the process used in cooking – cooking meat without browning it first is to cook something “en blanquette”.

      As for area – well, of course it’s from France, but I’m afraid I don’t actually know from which area specifically.

      Reply

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