Classical vs. Modern Veal Blanquette
Never underestimate the depth and breadth of a classic stew done really well. Take the classic veal blanquette (blanquette de veau), for example. The slow-simmered dish of tender veal and earthy, root vegetables layered with a rich, roux-based, white cream sauce has origins in French bourgeois cookery, but to this day remains one of the most popular dishes in the country.
“Some people feel stews like this are easy to make, but they don’t realize that they still need to build flavors, even when cooking ingredients low and slow,” says Joseph Leonardi, CMC, director of culinary operations for The Country Club in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, and a past member of the ACF Culinary Team USA for over 10 years. “What’s nice about the classical dish is that it is the mark of a great chef. You have to show strong knife skills, cook vegetables correctly, and properly simmer a tough piece of meat until tender and not dried out — that takes a lot of skills, even for a dish that seems so simple to prepare.”
Leonardi teamed up with Garrison Oliver, a 22-year-old aspiring chef from Hull, Massachusetts, a small town on the South Shore of Boston Harbor, and a student at Newberry College in Brookline, Massachusetts. This May, Garrison is on track to graduate with a four-year degree in culinary management.
Raised by a single mom, Oliver says his biggest culinary influence came from his father. “He taught me the basics of cooking and I was drawn to it at a young age,” he says. “As soon as I was old enough to work, I got a job at a local restaurant, first as a busser, and then as a food runner, and for two years after that I was given the opportunity to work the back of the house, which is where I knew I wanted to be.”
During his first year of college, Oliver worked at Chef Paul Wahlberg’s Alma Nove restaurant in Hingham, Massachussetts. Since first coming to The Country Club for a stage, he has been working at the restaurant for over a year. “Thanks to Chef Leonardi, my culinary experience and knowledge continues to grow day after day,” he says.
Leonardi says he was impressed by Oliver’s creativity and work ethic, noting, “He is a great worker and a young culinarian who wanted to learn, so knew I wanted someone like that on our team for this project.”
For the classic version of veal blanquette, neither the veal nor the butter is browned and the stew should be pale in color. Veal shoulder is commonly used in this recipe, but for the modern version, Garrison developed the recipe based on some recent work with under-utilized cuts of meat. “Garrison had a vision for the dish and I thought it was a clever idea to stuff the dumpling garnish with caramelized onions to give the dish an extra ‘wow factor,’” Leonardi says. “He was able to do a great job taking the flavors of the classic recipe and building his dish off of that.”
Classical: Blanquette de Veau
- The major difference between the classic and modern recipe is the cut of meat used. Classical renditions tend to feature tougher cuts of veal, like shoulder.
- Veal blanquette is a simple dish to prepare, but one that has an intense amount of flavor if prepared properly. The protein is blanched and slow-simmered with root vegetables in a flavorful broth until tender. That broth is thickened with a white roux and poured over the strained meat and veg to finish.
- The veal nor the butter is browned and the stew should be pale in color.
- Both dishes showcase root vegetables, however, each dish showcases different sides. A profiterole filled with foie gras mousse elevates the classical dish with extra elegance.
Be wary of temperatures: you don’t want to overcook the meat at high temperatures or risk drying it out.
Don’t let the roux brown. The goal is a white sauce.
Add the haricot verts during the last few simmering minutes to prevent overcooking.
Modern: Sous-Vide Veal Shank Blanquette
- The modern rendition features bone-in veal shank rather than the more traditional veal shoulder.
- This recipe uses sous-vide cooking to tenderize the shank with a controlled temperature and infuse extra flavor from the veal stock.
Sous-vide cooking also helps accidental over-cooking, which would otherwise cause the meat to dry out.
- Even though there is “help” from a sous-vide machine, this modern recipe still requires expert stock- and sauce-making skills.
- For an element of surprise, serve the veal shanks with potato dumplings filled with caramelized onions to signal the rich onion and root vegetable flavors of the classical dish.
Start with a flavorful veal stock on hand or make one prior to preparing this dish. You will need 2 quarts worth.
Trim the shanks and French the bones before starting the cooking process.
Cook at lower temperatures until the meat just falls off the bone to prevent drying out the meat.