Slow-Cooker Veal Marengo

easy dinner dishes (2)

easy dinner dishes (3)

slow cooker veal (10)

The slow cooker, the Crock-pot™, the easy peasy dinner solution! Call it what you will, this one-pot kitchen tool is the answer to your dinner-time dilemmas! If you’re pressed for time or up to your eyeballs with work and trying to juggle parenthood with work and the minutae of daily life, you’ll want to read on! 

Most stews and saucy meat dishes can be adapted to use in a slow cooker which will allow you to cook the dish at a low temperature over a couple of hours. Imagine that: food can be set to slow-cook before leaving for the day or while you work at home, and will be ready on return or whenever your family is ready for dinner. The great thing about slow cookers is that you don’t have to slave over a hot stove and you never have to stir the dish as it cooks. Finally, even if you’re using a cheaper cut of meat which has lots of connective tissue, it will break down and become completely tender. 

I’m going off on a slow cooker tangent here so let me reel it in and focus on this delicious dish! So without boring you with the full history of this dish, according to food lore, this dish was created by Napolean’s chef who was forced to forage for food and improvise with ingredients such as meat, crayfish, eggs, oranges, tomatoes, and garlic to create a dish to feed the troops following Napolean’s defeat of the Austrians at the Battle of Marengo. Napoleon later associated this dish with his army’s good luck and insisted on being served this dish following each battle. 

I’m sure the Emporer is turning over in his grave as I write this, but I can safely say that we’ve successfully bastardized his original recipe to omit the crayfish and cooked egg and added pearl tomatoes, onions and even red kidney beans! However, I have stuck to tradition by keeping the orange peel. Over the years, this recipe has been modified to no end with the addition of ingredients such a kalamata olives, mushrooms and more. When I first tried this recipe, I followed Julia Child’s recipe almost to a tee and then, in true form, I made all sorts of little changes to make the recipe my own, with all due respect to Julia. 

This recipe is beyond easy, with non-threatening ingredients and very little prep time. You can even do the prep the night before and place it in the fridge. The next morning, before heading off to work or to drop the kids off at school, simply place everything in the pot and turn it on. The end result of this will find you face to pot with a delicious flavourful dish that is studded with tender pieces of veal, mushrooms, pearl onions in a delicious flavourful broth. You can serve it topped over rice or broad egg noodles (my preference) or it can be eaten just as a stew. 

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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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