Blanquette de Veau, a most popular French classic dish reputed to be THE French favourite of family dishes – most often translated as Veal Casserole in White Sauce.
But before you think of this as a boring white sauce stew, learn the secrets below how to make a light sauce, packed with flavour, good enough to serve for a dinner party.
What IS Blanquette de Veau?
Veal stew in white sauce or Blanquette de Veau is a pure and simple French Grandmother’s dish which has passed on from family generation to generation. It’s a popular classic casserole that’s so simple to prepare.
The term, “Blanquette” refers to the way it’s initially cooked: there’s no need to brown the meat. Instead the veal is placed in a large pot together with its partners in taste and, as it bubbles away cooking merrily, you can get on with other things.
White Sauce That Makes This French Dish so Popular
‘White sauce’ doesn’t sound exciting. It even sounds a bit bland. Before you’re thinking of dull images of a plain béchamel sauce with flour, milk and butter with boiled meat, READ ON!
This casserole couldn’t be further from plain. For a start, there is no flour in the sauce – it’s gluten free. The Blanquette is simply thickened by reducing the natural stock at the end – whisking in egg yolks, cream, a flourish of nutmeg and lemon juice, and adding a garnish of mushrooms and small pickling onions (I like to use Spring Onions).
The Secrets to Making A Good Blanquette de Veau
A good Blanquette de Veau is full of flavour. What are the secrets to making a good blanquette de veau? It has to have a creamy, fragrant sauce. Added with a hint of lemon and the touch of cloves just gives it that extra touch of warmth.
When it’s packed with such flavour, you can see why the French consider it their favourite national stew. It may be seen as family fare but serve this version at a dinner party and it works a treat – ça marche.
It only really works, however, if you carry out the necessary extra steps at the end, otherwise the taste is nothing like the real thing. I’ve seen recipes that just use crème fraîche and don’t take the time to whisk up the classic sauce using egg yolks to complete the dish. We’ve tried them together as a family and the resulting taste is less rich and downright BLAND. Frankly, that’s like making a curry without any spices!
Which French Region is Blanquette de Veau From?
Blanquette de Veau is from our Ile-de-France region around Paris. Our local butcher (just west of Paris in Ile-de-France), Monsieur Le Corre, is passionate about hunting and takes great pride in his best quality meats, often showing me the simplest way to prepare some classic cuts.
For a blanquette, ideally use a mixture of best quality veal: mainly breast and shoulder and cut off any excess fat. If you can’t get good veal, then chicken will also work well (use free-range, if possible) – and I’ve also seen many fish blanquette versions too.
Take the time in the last couple of steps to thicken the sauce. However, if you do want to cut corners, use frozen small onions. Otherwise use fresh spring onions which are quicker to prepare.
How to Make a Popular French Blanquette de Veau
Tip: Fry mushrooms at first without any oil or butter in a non-stick pan until they have given out all of their juices. This concentrates their flavour. THEN add the butter and the lemon juice and set aside. Sauté the onions in a small pan with the rest of the butter until golden.
Lift the lid of the casserole dish and smell these flavours! Discard the bay leaf, thyme and parsley stalks. Remove the meat and vegetables with a slotted spoon and transfer to a large serving dish, adding the cooked mushrooms and pickling onions. Set aside and keep warm in a cool-moderate oven.
How to Make the Best Blanquette White Sauce
Boil the cooking liquid over a high heat until reduced. Meanwhile, in a bowl, hand-whisk the crème fraîche, lemon zest, yolks, grated nutmeg, and season with salt and pepper.
Blend in 3 tablespoons of the hot stock then quickly whisk in the yolk mixture back into the stock. Stir constantly until thickened but do not boil (it will reduce its subtle flavours). Whisk until the sauce is smooth and velvety.
Pour the sauce over the meat and serve with rice from the Camargue. This dish is also lovely reheated the next day. For busy gourmets, this dish can be prepared the day before a dinner party. Just prepare steps one and two in advance, cool then chill in the fridge. Make the sauce on the day of serving and voilà!
Antoine serves this with a delicate white wine, such as an Alsace Riesling or Pinot Gris, otherwise a St. Véran, Marsannay or other Burgundy will be fabulous.
Blanquette de Veau (French Veal Stew)
- 1.2 kg (2lb12 oz) veal mixture of breast & shoulder, cut into chunks
- 1 large onion
- 3 cloves
- bouquet garni 1 bay leaf, 1 large sprig thyme, 3 sprigs parsley
- 1 leek white part only, sliced
- 2 large carrots cut into chunks
- 250 ml / 9 fl oz white wine
- 300 g (11oz) mushrooms (champignons de Paris) about 24, halved or quartered depending on size
- 18 pickling onions or spring onions (or use frozen)
- 25 g (1oz) butter
- 150 g / 5.5 oz crème fraîche
- 3 large egg yolks
- 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- grated zest of half lemon unwaxed
- 1/2 tsp fleur de sel salt (plus few turns of the peppermill) to taste
- Stud the onion with the cloves. Place the veal in a casserole dish and add the carrots, onion, leek and bouquet garni. Pour in the wine and add just enough water to cover the meat and vegetables. Bring to the boil, skimming the surface for the first 10 minutes of any scum. Cover and simmer gently for about 2 hours.
- About 45 minutes before the end of cooking, prepare the garnish. Wash mushrooms, pat dry and cut into halves or quarters, depending on their size. TIP: Fry them at first without any oil or butter in a non-stick pan until they have given out all of their juices. This concentrates the flavour. THEN add the butter and fry the onions. When cooked, add the lemon juice and set aside.
- Lift the lid of the casserole dish and smell these flavours! Discard the bay leaf and herb stalks. Remove the meat and vegetables with a slotted spoon and transfer to a large serving dish, adding the mushrooms and pickling onions. Set aside and keep warm in a cool-moderate oven while preparing the sauce.
- Boil the cooking liquid over a high heat until reduced. Meanwhile, in a bowl, hand-whisk the crème fraîche, lemon zest, yolks, grated nutmeg, and season with salt and pepper. Blend in 3 tablespoons of the hot stock then quickly whisk in the yolk mixture back into the stock. Stir constantly until thickened but do not boil (it will reduce its subtle flavours). Whisk until the sauce is smooth and velvety then pour over the meat and vegetables.