New Orleans is a city with culinary roots that run deep and strong. Some of its oldest and most storied restaurants are among the oldest in the country, and the dishes created there have become perennial favorites. In 2012, Chefs John Folse and Rick Tramonto came together to give the French Quarter a shining new example of Louisiana dining of the finest sort. Inspired by the foods of the seven primary nationalities that settled the Bayou State, they began serving contemporary versions of Cajun and Creole classics at Restaurant R’evolution in the Royal Sonesta Hotel with 2009 Chef to Watch Chris Lusk at the helm.
Many of R’evolution’s dishes evoke a classic French sensibility, and this winter Chris plans on adding Blanquette de Veau, a timeless, creamy veal stew, to the restaurant’s Réveillon tasting menu. It’s a decadent and comforting dish that relies on a few traditional French techniques and is certain to wow guests at your holiday parties.
Tell us about your interpretation of Blanquette de Veau.
This is a classic French preparation of veal, and unlike most modern French dishes, you purposefully don’t add any color to the veal. We cure the veal first—which is our special spin—and then we blanch it in milk and cook it in a blond veal stock. Most veal stocks these days are brown. In this dish, the veal bones are poached, not roasted, so you get this rich, almost colorless stock. In the stew itself, you have a white mirepoix: instead of carrots, which add color, you’re adding leeks, fennel, celery, onions, a little bit of garlic, and cooking it slowly with a flavorful veal breast.
What was your first experience with this type of stew?
My grandfather used to make a potato soup, and the whole point of it was keeping it as white as he could. If he rendered bacon, he’d try to keep the least amount of browning possible, and the same with onions. I grew up in a pretty rural part of east Texas, so no one was really cooking blanquette de veau, but we’d make that potato soup. It was very creamy and very rich but well-balanced.
What advice would you give someone making this dish?
Looks can be deceiving. One of my cooks looked at this stew and told me she didn’t think it would taste good. These days I think everyone expects everything to be caramelized and browned and roasted. My tip would be to study other classic dishes like this, whether they’re French, Italian, or Spanish, because even if you don’t end up preparing those exact dishes, you can learn from the technique. The poaching of the veal in the milk, for example, is a great technique to use elsewhere.
There are lots of great flavors going on here, what would you pair with it?
For wine, probably a light Sauvignon Blanc, or something with some acid, possibly an unoaked Chardonnay. What would I drink with it? I’m a beer guy, so I’d drink a lighter bodied beer, maybe a Parish Brewing Canebreak.
What else could you do with this milk poaching technique?
Chicken salad is actually one of my favorite things to make, and you can poach chicken in milk, which keeps it nice and moist. The biggest problem with chicken is that if you poach it in water you lose a lot of flavor. If you use milk, you keep a lot of that flavor, and the chicken actually picks up some of the milk’s creaminess.
We also add a light salt-and-sugar cure to the veal in this recipe and let it sit for a day in advance. When the veal goes into the milk, the osmotic process has already begun. The salt and sugar have been pulling out moisture from the veal, so it’s like a sponge when it gets poached. It soaks up more flavor and creaminess. It’s a similar effect to brining
- 1 cup kosher salt
- ½ cup sugar
- 4 pounds boneless veal breast
- 2 gallons milk, divided
- 4 quarts white veal stock or low-sodium chicken stock
- 2 yellow onions, chopped
- 4 celery stalks, chopped
- 2 leeks (white part only), halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
- 1 Bouquet Garni (see note)
- ¼ cup unsalted butter
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 pound white pearl onions, peeled
- 12 cremini mushrooms, quartered
- 4 cups heavy whipping cream
- 2 to 3 teaspoons sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
- 2 teaspoons hot sauce (optional)
- ½ cup Creole cream cheese
- ¼ cup sour cream
- Juice of 2 lemons
- 4 large egg yolks
- Hot cooked potatoes (for serving)
- In a small bowl, combine salt and sugar. Spread salt and sugar mixture over veal, and refrigerate uncovered for 24 hours. Brush off excess salt mixture from veal, and soak in 1 gallon milk for 24 hours in the refrigerator; discard milk.
- Cut veal into 1 to 1½-inch cubes. In a large Dutch oven, heat 1 gallon of milk over medium-high heat to almost boiling; reduce heat, add veal, and simmer 30 minutes. Remove veal from milk mixture, and pat dry. Reserve ½ cup cooking liquid.
- In a large stockpot, add veal stock, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat; reduce heat, and simmer. Add veal, yellow onion, celery, leek, and Bouquet Garni. Skim any fat or foam that rises.
- In a large cast-iron skillet, heat butter over medium heat; whisk in flour until smooth. Cook, whisking until a blond roux forms, about 5 minutes.
- Whisk roux into veal mixture, and cook until veal is fork tender, about 1 1/2 hours; add pearl onions, and cook 30 minutes more. Add mushrooms and cream. Season to taste with salt, white pepper, and hot sauce, if desired.
- In a large bowl, whisk together Creole cream cheese, sour cream, lemon juice, and egg yolks, whisking thoroughly. Whisk in ½ cup veal cooking liquid, and add Creole cream cheese mixture to veal. Serve with potatoes.
- Bouquet Garni
- In a large square of cheesecloth, combine 5 black peppercorns, 4 sprigs fresh thyme, 4 cloves garlic, and 2 bay leaves. Gather corners of cheesecloth, and secure with kitchen twine.