Veau, masculine noun (un veau, du veau, des veaux) = calf or veal (pronounced vo, you never hear the x in the plural).
This is one of the rare “meat” words in French that is the same for the animal and what one finds in the kitchen. In English, calf is the animal, veal is what we eat; pig is the animal, pork is what what we eat, and so on.
Expressions: pleurer comme un veau = to weep copiously; tuer le veau gras = to kill the fatted calf; c’est un veau = someone who is soft, a dummy, useless, or a bad racehorse, or a bad car… not very complimentary to calves all that.
When I buy veal, that is to say rarely, I always buy organic veal which has been raised sous la mère (under its mother). I personally think this is important for the animal, quite apart from the fact that the meat tastes better.
My recipe for today is blanquette de veau, a creamy, winter, country dish with veal and vegetables, usually served either with boiled potatoes or rice, so that you have plenty to pump up the juice with. But the original, old-fashioned recipe is complicated and needs small quantities of lots of ingredients. I have come up with a version which, although not entirely orthodox, is very good and much easier to do (don’t be put off by all the steps in the instructions).
For 4 people you will need:
- 1kg of veal from the belly and chest (see diagram above, flanchet, tendron, poitrine on its underside). It is a good thing to mix pieces with and without cartilage and bone, for more flavour.
- a large onion, peeled and stuck with 4 cloves
- 4 cloves of garlic, peeled
- 2 large carrots, sliced
- 2 stock cubes
- a bouquet garni (see picture below)
- 300gr small firm mushrooms
- 3 egg yolks
- 100ml liquid cream
- the juice of a lemon
- 1tbs plain flour
- salt, pepper
- Cut the meat into very large cubes (3-4cm).
- Place in a heavy pan, just covered with plain water, no salt, and bring to the boil. Simmer for one minute, and drain.
- Put the meat back into the same heavy pan, with the onion and cloves, bouquet garni, sliced carrots and stock cubes. Cover well with water (1½-2 litres) and bring to the boil. Simmer for 50 minutes.
- In a large bowl, put the three egg yolks, saving the whites for another preparation. Add the cream and whisk. Set aside.
- 10 minutes before the end of the cooking time, in a frying pan, put a couple of tbs butter, slice the mushrooms thickly on top (or quarter them), sprinkle with a little salt and fry gently for three or four minutes. Squeeze the juice of one lemon on to the mushrooms, stir, and take them out onto a plate with a slotted spoon.
- Add a tbs flour to the mushroom pan and mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon, scraping all the pan juices. Change to a whisk, remove any flour lumps, add one at a time about five ladles of stock from the veal pan, whisk, and simmer for a minute to cook the flour.
- When the veal is cooked, take a ladleful of stock and pour into the cream mixture, whisking briskly so that the hot liquid does not cook the egg.
- Pour the contents of the frying pan into the veal pan, stirring, and bring to the boil to thicken the sauce.
- Add the mushrooms to the veal pan.
- Off the heat, pour the contents of the cream bowl slowly into the veal pan, stirring.
- Taste for seasoning. Add salt and pepper if necessary.
- Serve in deep plates, with boiled potatoes or rice, and lots of the creamy juice.