Update 17, Part 2: New Year's Goal: Become an "official" Gourmess by August 2010

I was 32 when I started cooking; up until then, I just ate. --Julia Child

I tackled the second and final Demonstration in Session 9, Methods of Cooking Meat: Beef and Veal, and I must say this is one of my favorites so far, right up there with the Ratatouille. The recipe was for Blanquette de Veau à l'Ancienne avec Riz Pilaf (Old-Fashioned Veal Stew with Rice Pilaf).

I started with about 1.5 lb of boneless veal shoulder, trimmed the extra fat, cut it into cubes and rinsed it in cold water. Then I added it to my stew pot (rondeau) and covered it with about an inch of cold water. I brought it to a simmer and skimmed any muckity-muck that floated to the surface until it came just to a gentle boil. Then, I drained and rinsed the meat and set aside and was instructed to rinse out the rondeau as well.  I returned the veal to the rondeau and added a liter of veal stock (again covering by an inch) and some coarse salt, and brought it to a simmer, again skimming any scum that floated to the top. I added an oignon clouté (which was basically a half of a white onion with a whole clove stuck in it ) along with the separate bundles I had tied of carrots, leeks, thyme, parsley stems, and celery. My bouquet garni included 7 peppercorns and 2 cloves of garlic. I lowered the heat to a gentle simmer where it cooked, uncovered, for about an hour until the meat was tender.  (Don't let it boil or the meat will disintegrate -- and, to check for doneness, meat should crush between your fingers and not spring back).

Can I just say that this dish smelled absolutely WONDERFUL -- and it wasn't even complete. My mouth was watering the entire time I worked on this. While the veal cooked, I got to work on the garnish, which included cooking 16 pearl onions onions à glacer blanc (lightly glazed with butter/sugar so they wouldn't take on any color) and also cooking button mushrooms tossed with a bit of lemon juice in butter with a parchment lid for a few minutes -- again, not taking on color. When those were done, I seasoned to taste with salt/pepper and set them aside and kept them warm.

While I was still waiting for the veal to finish, I started the rice pilaf. I melted about 1.5 TBS of butter in a medium pan, and then some ciseléd onion (finely dicing in a way so juices stay inside). I let the onions sweat but not take on color, and then added in 1/2 cup plus 1/2 tsp of white rice, stirring until the rice was opaque. Then, I added in some warmed white chicken stock (13 TBS) and a bouquet garni. I added some salt/pepper and then covered with a buttered parchment round and a lid and put in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes, or until the rice had absorbed all the liquid and was cooked through. (If rice hasn't finished cooking and all liquid is gone, add a bit more in.)

Once the veal was tender, I drained it in a colander and reserved the cooking liquid. I set the meat aside in a covered small bowl and tossed out the vegetables and bouquet garni. I was also supposed to clean out the rondeau again. Then, in another pot, I made the sauce -- first, I made a velouté (white sauce thickend by a roux).  I made the roux with 2 TBS of butter, and 2 TBS of flour and cooked for about a minute before whisking in the poaching liquid from the veal. I whisked that over a low simmer for about 10 minutes until it had thickened, and lowered the heat and added in 3.5 TSP of heavy cream and whisked for about 5 minutes more. I then added in a mixture of one egg yolk and 3.5 TBS of heavy cream that I had tempered in a separate bowl with a few spoonfuls of the sauce mixture. I whisked in the egg mixture and stirred with a wooden spoon until just about simmering, then ran the mixture through my chinois and into the clean rondeau. In went the veal, onions and mushrooms, and I returned it to the heat to balance all of the flavors, adding more salt/pepper to taste. I wanted to just stand over the stove and eat the whole thing, it was that great.

The rice was removed from the oven, and then I was to toss some diced butter (1-2 tsp) into the rice and fluff with a fork (called engrainer).  I was then supposed to put it in the middle of the dish and surround it with the stew and sprinkle with fresh parsley. As I was reaching for the pot to move the rice into a bowl, I forgot it had been in a 350-degree oven for 20 minutes and grabbed the handle, burning the inside of my left hand in the process. There was a sizzle and a big welt on the inside of my hand so the plating was delayed until I could find some Burt's Bees Res-Q Ointment and some ice. I treated it for a few minutes, then ignored the pain and moved on. (Ouch, though.)

By the time I had cleaned up the kitchen and was ready to dig in, Chris came home. I can only imagine the homey feeling he felt when he walked in the door and smelled all this goodness. (He asked for a bowl soon after and declared it was REALLY good.)

It was really good.The whole dish gives off a comforting clean feel and it tastes wonderfully rich, with all of those aromatics I put in the poaching liquid shining through, as well as the onions and butter in the rice pilaf (I'll never make plain rice again!). Served over the rice in a big bowl with a simple salad and nice glass of wine, this could be a knock-out dinner party item. Or just cozy comfort food for a chilly spring day.

So, that's it for Session 9. (Are you as excited as I am? We've made it to double digits!) Session 10, Methods of Cooking Meat: MIXTE Cooking and Cooking Lamb here we come!


P.S.  Rocco was helping me, and decided he wanted to live with the pots for awhile.