We are soon approaching the end of our journey that has allowed us to discover many traditional recipes from my homeland. To end this trip, I am sharing a recipe that is definitely part of the French culinary heritage, a veal stew called blanquette de veau.
According to a survey carried out in 2006, this recipe from the French classic repertoire was voted the favorite French dish by the French, before couscous and mussels & fries, which between us, are not really of French origin. Our blanquette also came before other classics like boeuf bourguignon, pot-au-feu, rabbit in mustard sauce or coq au vin.
Even though veal remains the preferred meat for blanquette, other white meats such as turkey, chicken, rabbit or pork are often used for this classic of French bourgeois cuisine. The favorite veal cuts for blanquette are usually breast, shoulder or flank. The origin of the term “blanquette” comes from the color of the white sauce that coats the stew meat.
This sauce is prepared by making a liaison between egg yolks and the broth and incorporating fresh cream (creme fraiche). The blanquette is usually served with carrots, mushrooms, and pearl onion and is traditionally accompanied by rice but can also be served with pasta or potatoes.
Like many old traditional recipes, the origin of blanquette de veau is not really clear. Some historians believe that the blanquette would be the evolution of a classic recipe of the Middle Ages called brouet de poulet. In this recipe, the chicken is poached in a broth with white wine and verjuice. It is then cut into pieces that are browned in lard. These pieces of chicken are then served in a sauce prepared with the cooking broth that is bound with almonds, bread crumbs, egg yolks, and spices. This last operation is reminiscent of the white sauce of the traditional blanquette recipe.
Other versions attribute the paternity of blanquette to Vincent La Chapelle (1690-1746), a French cook who was the chef of Lord Chesterfield in England and then of the Prince of Orange-Nassau, before becoming the chef of Madame de Pompadour and finally Louis XV.
In 1733, he published the recipe for blanquette de veau in the first edition of “The Modern Cook” in two volumes in English. The last edition, in 5 volumes, was published in 1742.
In “Les Dons de Comus ou L’art de la cuisine” (1739), Francois Marin, chef of the Duchess of Gesvres before he worked for the Charles, Prince of Soubise, as a butler, published a multitude of classic recipes including blanquette de veau and boeuf miroton.
In 1752, the supplement to the Dictionnaire de Trévoux mentioned that “blanquette is a very common dish among the bourgeois when they are only with the family.” At that time, blanquette de veau was a dish prepared to make use of meat leftovers, often roasted, and that would therefore not be served to foreign guests.
It was only at the end of the nineteenth century that blanquette was truly democratized. One of the first recipes based on raw veal meat, cooked in a broth, was published in 1867 in the “Royal Cookery Book” by Jules Gouffé, chef of the Jockey Club. This recipe is very similar to the recipe as we know it today and that is served in French restaurants around the world.
In the French literature, two well known French police detectives, Maigret and San Antonio, have a weakness for this great classic.
The technique of the liaison of the sauce is reminiscent of that of avgolemono from Greece that I prepared last year. The first time I prepared a real blanquette de veau was for New Year’s Eve with my friends Thao and Stéphane who visited us for the holiday season about 5 years ago. I have made this recipe several times since, and although I am not a French police detective, I must say that it is one of my favorite classical French recipes, just like boeuf bourguignon.
At the same time, how can you resist this tender and tasty meat coated with a deliciously creamy and zesty sauce?
This recipe is validated by our culinary expert in French cuisine, Chef Simon. You can find Chef Simon on his website Chef Simon – Le Plaisir de Cuisiner.
- 2 lb veal , shoulder, chest or flank, cut into large cubes
- 1 onion , poked with whole cloves
- 1 bouquet garni (parsley, thyme, bay leaf, sage)
- 4 carrots , cut into large sections
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 10 oz. mushrooms , quartered
- 4 Tbsp butter
- ½ cup flour
- ¾ cup creme fraiche
- ½ lemon , juiced
- 3 egg yolks
- Put the meat cubes in a large saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and add salt.
- Skim regularly at the surface so that the broth becomes clear. After 20 minutes, add the onion stuck with cloves and the bouquet garni.
- Simmer for another 20 minutes, then add carrots and wine.
- Continue to simmer uncovered over low heat for another 45 minutes or until meat is tender. Add a little water during cooking if necessary. Remove the onion and the bouquet garni.
- Meanwhile, sauté the mushrooms in a frying pan for 2 minutes with a knob of butter. Add salt, pepper, add a ladle of broth and continue cooking for 5 minutes.
- Sauce (prepare a few minutes before serving)
- In a saucepan, melt the butter. Add the flour while whisking over low heat for 5 minutes.
- Gradually add cooking broth while whisking until a reaching a thick sauce consistency.
- Add creme fraiche as well as lemon juice, and continue cooking for 2 minutes.
- Take saucepan off the heat and add egg yolks. Whisk well to incorporate. Add this sauce back to the pan with the meat and vegetables. Add the mushrooms and gently stir to incorporate everything.
- Immediately serve the blanquette with rice.