Veal Fricassee (White Veal Stew)

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I’ve always been one to encourage cooking ‘seasonably’; that is, to cook with ingredients that are in season and create meals that are conducive to the current season or time of year. Our bodies naturally crave foods that are in season so it’s only fitting that we should cook according to what is readily available: hearty chili and stews with root vegetables in the cold Winter months, warm gratins in Autumn, strawberry shortcakes and asparagus salads in Spring and gazpacho, cold melon soups and fresh fruit cobblers with ice cream for the Summer months. Whatever the season, there is always an abundance of sun-kissed fruits, root vegetables and beautiful cuts of meat and poultry to satisfy our cravings.

The days are warming up now and it won’t be long before the dog days of summer are upon us. With the mercury rising, I was in search of a recipe that would satisfy my mood for something hearty without being overly heavy. I wanted to make something heavier than a soup but a stew seemed too dense and laden with tomatoes and vegetables. I skimmed the pages of an old recipe book which I have put together over the years (it’s actually a random collection of handwritten recipes that were developed and collected by my mum and I) and came across a stew that I haven’t made in years. The recipe was for a delicate white stew, called Veal Fricassee, with tender pieces of veal in a white broth of sorts.  

Fricassee [FRICK•a•see] is a classic French stew dish in which poultry or meat is first seared in fat, and then braised with liquid. The meat, however, is not braised according to the traditional technique of braising. The meat in a fricassee is not browned before the braising liquid is added. Instead, the meat is cooked in oil or fat but at a lower temperature, so that the meat stays white. This recipe is finished with a touch of cream to give it a beautiful white finish, but you can leave it out if you wish.

I had a late meeting with a client, so I left the stew and a fresh baguette on the counter for my husband with a little note saying “Enjoy! – please cover and return to fridge when done” When I arrived home, I found the dish by the sink with one lone piece of uneaten veal. The entire casserole dish was wiped clean! Clearly, he enjoyed  the stew more than I imagined he would. I had anticipated having some leftovers for the next day’s lunch, but alas, it was not to be. As I stood there in disbelief that he had consumed the entire dish of stew, my husband came down the stairs to greet me with the words, “What was that? It was so good! I think I ate too much” as he clutched his stomach for relief. I replied, “What’s with the one piece of veal?” gesturing toward the dish. “I literally couldn’t eat one more bite” he replied.  As I handled him a bottle of Perrier to settle his tummy, I was all smiles knowing how much he enjoyed the stew I so lovingly prepared. (I pushed the thought that he didn’t bother to leave any for me, out of my mind;)

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Hearty 9-Bean Stew

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Certain times of year beg for certain comforts. When mother nature cruelly ambushes us with frigid, sub-zero temperatures, a warm and hearty meal will always provide a delicious refuge from the cold. Keeping that in mind, I felt a moral imperative to share with you a recipe that will leave your family or dinner guests wholly satisfied and one which will really ‘stick to your ribs’.  Hmm, I never really understood that idiom, but it is definitely an apt metaphor for this hearty and filling stew. It is as delicious as the weather is cold and is the perfect stew to enjoy along with crusty french bread, by a roaring log fire.

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The Bean Roster: Top row:  light red kidney beans, black beans, green whole peas | Middle row: green whole lentils, black eye beans, small red beans | Bottom row: red split lentils, pinto beans, small white beans.

I happened to use 9 types of beans and lentils for this stew; largely because I picked up a container of 9 varieties of mixed beans from my local Costco store – it could have just as easily been called 5-bean stew if my pantry wasn’t so handsomely stocked! If you have membership at Costco, you will be doing your family a great disservice if you don’t pick up a container of these. They are the perfect medley of beans and have a variety of uses beyond this recipe. If you don’t happen to have 9 varieties of dried beans taking up space in your pantry, you can simply use any combination of the above, so long as they total 1 cup of dried beans for the recipe. [Note: the 1 cup of dried beans will plump up to 3 cups after soaking]  I decided not to add a whole lot of meat in this recipe as I served it as a second course in a meal which had a protein-heavy third course, but the recipe can be varied to add chicken, beef or veal. On the other hand, this recipe is not entirely vegetarian either. It’s a ‘meat stew’ by virtue of the beef broth which is used, as well as the turkey bacon.

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