Blanquette comes from the French word blanc, which means white. À l’ancienne means "old-fashioned". When à l'Ancienne is used when referring to meats, "it often means braised meat, stews or fricassees."
"The whole point of a braise is that it turns a somewhat tough piece of meat or an old bird into a succulent and juicy dish that is full of flavor."
— Elizabeth David in French Provincial Cooking
To keep the stew "white", the meat is blanched instead of seared and braised. As well, (white) veal is the most common meat to use in this dish, but you could use pork or chicken (or even rabbit — hey, if veal doesn't offend you, rabbit won't either, right!).
First, I created a flavorful broth of onions, clove, carrots, celery, parsley, thyme, bay, and peppercorns. After simmering this for a bit, I added the chunks of de-fatted veal shoulder. This mixture is simmered for about 45 minutes, skimming every so often, similar to making a white stock.
Roux, Stew and Liaise
After removing the vegetables but keeping the meat and broth, I made a roux to help thicken the sauce. Then, I slowly drizzled the broth back in, whisking it to remove any lumps. I added the meat back to the pan, and a bit of water to cover the meat. Finally, I simmered it very slowly, without boiling, just rippling, for about 1 to 1 ½ hours. At the end, I added a liaison of crème fraiche (or cream), egg yolk and lemon thicken the sauce and add some richness.
While the stew steeps away, I made the garnish of mushrooms and pearl onions. Both are cooked the same way, but in separate pots. I barely covered the onions with water and seasoned them with salt and pepper and a large pinch of sugar, for glazing. Then I made a buttered parchment paper lid, which allows some evaporation but protects the onions from caramelizing. Plus the butter on the parchment adds a touch of flavor. There's a great discussion about parchment paper lids here.
After simmering the onions under the parchment for 8-10 minutes, I took the paper off and let it continue cooking until the liquid had evaporated and the onions were nicely glazed. I did the same with mushrooms, but instead of sugar I added a tablespoon of butter.
If you don't know how to make a parchment paper lid, relive your paper snowflake-making days since the folding is the same.
When the stew was finished cooking, I added the onions and mushrooms and served it on rice.
You can find the recipe for Blanquette de Veau à l’Ancienne (White Veal Stew with Onions and Mushrooms) in the book Le Cordon Bleu at Home. To see how the rest of the Whisk Wednesdays group fared with this week's recipe, click here and then click on each blogger!
This stew is rustic, homey, hearty and delicious. The smell wafting through the house was wonderful. Plus, it reheated well for lunch the next day.
Next Week (October 1)
• Navarin d'Agneau Printanier (Braised Lamb Shoulder Stew) page 350-351
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Running total: $784.68 + $32.92 = $817.60
Butter used so far: 8 pounds
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We're cooking our way through a cooking school curriculum using the Le Cordon Bleu at Home cookbook. The "classes" are based on the curriculum found online and used as a guideline. Not all the items in the curriculum are in the cookbook, but most are. Where the items are not in the book, we try to find a suitable substitution. Find out more here.