One winter, when we had lunch at brasserie Le Commerce — what was to become one of our favorite restaurants in Autun, the kind frequented mostly by locals — I started with a cocotte of snails in a garlicky cream sauce. They were so good! The sauce was thick and velvety and I mopped it up with thick chunks of bread. As though that wasn’t enough cream and calories, for my main course, I chose the blanquette de veau à l’ancienne. It was my first time trying this classic French dish and I absolutely fell in love with it. Tender chunks of veal blanketed in a smooth, mild sauce with a side of fluffy, white rice. The epitome of comfort food! Every time we go back on a wine trip through Bourgogne, we always stop at Le Commerce and you can be sure that I will order blanquette de veau.
Oddly enough, it has taken me way too long to try my hand at my own version. But last night, I proudly served a blanquette de veau that was heaven on earth. Make this dish on a cold, winter night. I promise you, the first bite will feel like falling in love.
Blanquette de veau à l’ancienne
- 700g veal shoulder, cubed
- 1 ½ L water
- 1 onion, peeled and studded with 2 cloves
- 2 carrots, peeled and in large chunks
- 1 leek, in large chunks
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 clove of garlic
- 1 tsp mixed peppercorns
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- pinch of nutmeg
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tbsps butter
- 225g mushrooms, small ones halved, large ones quartered
- 6 small shallots, halved
- 30g butter
- 30g flour
- 1 egg yolk
- 100ml crème fraîche
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- rice, to serve
- parsley, to garnish
Rinse the veal really well under cold running water. Place the chunks in a large heavy-bottomed casserole and cover with the water. Bring to the boil, lower the heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes. Skim off any scum and then stir in the onion, carrots, leek, bay leaf, garlic, peppercorns, thyme, nutmeg and salt. Cover and cook gently for 2 hours. About 20 minutes towards the end of the cooking time, get your rice going. In a large saucepan, gently fry the mushrooms (they should not color) in 1 tbsp of the butter for 5 minutes and set aside in a bowl. Soften the shallots in the other tbsp of butter. Do this gently too, nothing should color in this dish. Drain the meat and vegetables, making sure to reserve 500ml of the stock. Reserve the meat and the carrots. In the saucepan where you fried the mushrooms and shallots, melt the butter over a medium heat and whisk in the flour. Add the hot stock while whisking. Once the sauce is thick, cook for 5 minutes gently. Return the meat and carrots to the pan. Also add in the mushrooms and shallots. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Whisk the egg yolk, crème fraîche and lemon juice (this is called a liaison) in a small bowl. Add this to the sauce while stirring well with a wooden spoon. The dish should be barely simmering. Leave on the heat for 5 more minutes while stirring occasionally. Serve with rice and a sprinkle of parsley.
Boy, it sure is cold out there! The kind of chill that cuts right through even the thickest of coats and leaves you wishing you could hibernate until spring, in front of the fire and with endless mugs of hot chocolate.
I am always in awe of people who start diets during the month of January. How can you live on cold salads and grilled chicken when the only thing your body screams is “FEED ME COMFORT FOOD!!” Not for me. Well, I’ve never believed in making new year’s resolutions to begin with. I think it’s only setting yourself up for failure.
Much more sensible to eat according to the seasons, if you ask me — and the winter season demands hearty food! Those who want the best of both worlds can make the following recipe. My rosé fricassée is warming enough to satisfy any winter craving, yet light enough if served with mashed cauliflower instead of the recommended mashed potatoes or buttered noodles. I’d stick with the last two though, if I were you.
- knob of butter
- 1 tbsp mild olive oil
- 4 chicken quarters
- fleur de sel
- freshly grated pepper
- 6 shallots, quartered
- 1 tbsp flour
- 300ml rosé wine
- 325ml strong chicken stock
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1 bouquet garni
- 250g white mushrooms, quartered
Melt the butter with the olive oil in a wide, heavy-bottomed casserole and brown the chicken on both sides, seasoning it well. This should take about 8 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pan, place on a dish and cover with foil. Carefully drain most of the fat. Lower the heat, add the shallots and flour and stir while cooking for about 2 minutes. Turn up the heat and add the wine, leaving it to bubble for a few minutes. Now also add in the stock. Stir in the mustard and drop in the bouquet garni. Return the chicken to the pan, adding any juices left on the plate. Lower the heat, place the lid on the pan, and cook the chicken for 30-35 minutes. Add the mushrooms, and cook with the lid slightly ajar for an additional ten minutes. Serve with mashed potatoes, thick egg noodles or garlicky cauliflower purée.
The forecast for tomorrow predicts snow. For some, wonderful news. For me, not really so. You see, I am okay with winter, and I’m even okay with snow when it starts falling. What I really dislike is the aftermath. No one cleans their streets here, and slippery streets have landed me on my butt a few times in the past. Not fun. Give me the summer (especially if it’s in France) any day. I’m also a bit of a worrier, so waving Hans and Kirstie good-bye when the weather is horrible means breathing a sigh of relief only after everyone has returned home safely.
The following recipe is a great snow day lunch. A spicy noodle soup with shiitake mushrooms, lots of garlic, zesty lime and juicy shrimp. Not only will it warm you up in no time, but it’s also a great boost to the immune system. My daughter Kirstie loves noodle soups and this is definitely one of her favorites. Enjoy — and stay warm!
Spicy Noodle Soup with Shrimp & Lime
- 1 pack wok noodles (248g)
- 1 tbsp sunflower oil
- 1 red chili pepper, finely chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, pressed
- 1 tsp freshly grated ginger
- 1,3 L vegetable stock
- 1 ¾ tbsp soy sauce
- 250g shiitake mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
- 300g chopped paksoi
- 250g jumbo shrimp
- 2 limes, halved, to serve
Cook the noodles according to package instructions, rinse with cold water, drain well and set aside. Heat the oil in a large pan and sauté the chili, garlic and ginger for 2 minutes. Add the stock and soy sauce and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat, add the mushrooms, put the lid on the pan and allow to cook for three minutes. Add the paksoi and cook for two more minutes. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the shrimp. Divide the noodles over 4 bowls. Top with the soup and serve with lime halves.
Whenever we go to France, I stock up on Puy lentils. Lentilles vertes du Puy are small, dark green lentils that hold their shape and don’t fall apart when cooking. Therefore, they are especially good in casseroles. I can’t imagine a winter without them.
Last night, in need of comfort food yet again (sorry ‘beach body’, whatever that may be), I made a filling lentil casserole with bacon and smoked Dutch sausage (rookworst). You can serve it as I did, with a lemony Belgian endive salad (recipe here tomorrow!). A plain, crisp green salad will work fine too.
Here’s the recipe:
Warming Lentil Casserole with Smoked Sausage
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 200g smoked bacon, cut into strips
- 2 carrots, finely diced
- 2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 sprig of rosemary, needles finely chopped
- 300g puy lentils, rinsed and checked for stones
- 750ml water
- 1 smoked Dutch sausage, or other smoked sausage such as kielbasa
- fleur de sel & freshly cracked pepper
- Dijon mustard, to serve
Heat the olive in a heavy bottomed casserole and brown the bacon. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain most of the fat, leaving about 1 teaspoon behind. Lower the heat, add the carrots, garlic, onion and rosemary and cook for about 5 minutes. Increase the heat and add the lentils and water. Bring to the boil, reduce heat, cover and cook for 35-40 minutes. Check after 20 minutes to see if you need to add a bit more water. At this time, you can season the lentils with salt and pepper. Heat the Dutch sausage in boiling water for 10 minutes, or according to package directions. When ready to serve, stir the bacon through the lentils. Chop the sausage into pieces and place on top of the lentils. A jar of Dijon mustard is not an option but a must! Delicious with my lemony Belgian endive salad — come back tomorrow for the recipe!