The rain has begun. It has washed away the golden glow of autumn, the brilliantly blue skies have melted into unpolished pewter, the gentle cool breeze has yielded to the cruel, chill wind and icy patter of rain. Rain, incessant rain, has taken over our world and wrapped us in her gloomy blanket of gray. The dampness seeps into our bones and we huddle together for warmth. And we dream of stew. Soup is fine and dandy for some, but nothing warms you to the marrow like a thick, rich, hearty stew. Chunks of meltingly tender meat long-simmered in a rich broth infused with the earthiness of thick slices of carrots, onions, mushrooms heightened by the gentle tang of white wine all blended together into a perfect mellow sensation. Served over rice or homemade pasta to be slurped up with the last of the sauce as you push back your chair from the table, satisfied.
The first days of autumn, the bright sun adding a gentle warmth to the mellowing temperatures, the crackle of gold and red leaves underfoot, bring a joy to my heart and a spring to my step. It is absolutely my favorite season. Weekends are spent walking the dog through the vineyards outside of Nantes or taking strolls through the city. The summer fruits are making way for the burnt orange of pumpkins and sweet potatoes, the deep violets of figs and plums, the tumble of grapes and the pyramids of pale green pears and apples snuggled up next to the warm woodsy browns of the walnuts and chestnuts. But then all is suddenly washed away as the rains sweep in, calling our attention to the change of seasons like a slap in the face.
~ Billie Holiday
I love the rain. I love being snuggled up inside as the water drizzles down the windowpanes and spatters on the cobblestones outside. It is the ultimate in cozy: sipping coffee, nestled in one’s favorite armchair, book in hand listening to the rhythmic patter of raindrops on the roof. Even the flash of lightening and the distant groan of thunder are exciting when warm and snug inside. But when the rain and the cold let themselves in and bring with them an unexpected dampness, forgotten sometime through the heat of the summer, and sitting still for even a few minutes has us grabbing for a thick, down-filled comforter and slipping on a second pair of socks, then all I want to do is migrate towards the kitchen, push baking sheets of dough into the oven as the heat and the smell of cinnamon wash over me and I simply begin to chop vegetables.
This Autumn Veal Stew is simple, pure, uncluttered pleasure made with the most basic of ingredients: tender, slow-simmered meat, I chose veal today, the richness of tomato paste adding depth to the meaty sauce, a splash of wine and the hint of garlic bringing life and zing to the dish. The added texture and deeper, earthier flavor of a selection of mushrooms complements the usual, lowly carrot and onion and together they bring a luxuriousness to an otherwise simple stew.
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
I was extremely excited to have my Fouace Nantaise featured on Saveur.com as The Daily Fare and Life's a Feast added to their Sites We Love club. I was proud and honored.
AUTUMN VEAL STEW
28 oz (800 g) veal for stew *
1 cup (125 g) flour seasoned with salt, pepper & smoky paprika for dredging veal
2 Tbs (30 g) butter or margarine + 2 Tbs olive oil
1 large yellow onion, trimmed, peeled and slice into 8 - 10 wedges (depending on size of onion)
1 or 2 carrots, trimmed, peeled and sliced into ¼-inch (½ cm) thick coins
2 - 3 cloves garlic, peeled, cloves crushed
2 Tbs or 1 small can tomato paste (concentrate)
1 cup (250 ml) dry white wine
1 cup (250 ml) water
Bouquet garni or 1 large bay leaf, 1 branch rosemary & a few branches fresh or dried thyme
½ - 1 tsp smoky paprika, to taste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbs (30 g) butter or margarine
10 oz (300 g) fresh mushrooms of choice
* I used both ossobuco and veal shoulder. I found the ossobuco came out much more tender and I’ll use only this cut for future stews. You can also make this with chunks of lamb shoulder.
Heat the butter or margarine with the olive oil in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat. Rinse and pat dry the pieces of veal then dredge each piece in the seasoned flour, making sure all sides are floured and shaking off the excess. Brown both sides of the veal.
When the veal is browned on all sides, add the onion wedges, the carrot coins and the crushed garlic. Tossing often, cook the vegetables with the meat until the vegetables are beginning to color and are slightly tender.
Add the tomato paste, wine, water, herbs or bouquet garni, the salt, pepper and paprika. Stir to combine and then bring just up to the boil. Turn the heat to low, cover almost completely (I always leave the lid slightly ajar to allow steam to escape so the sauce thickens) and allow to simmer for 1 hour.
About 15 minutes before the end of cooking, clean and trim the mushrooms and cut into large chunks. Sauté the mushroom chunks in butter or margarine until softened and beginning to brown around the edges. Salt and pepper. Feel free to add a squeeze of lemon if you like. Add the cooked mushrooms to the stew for the last 10 to 15 minutes of cooking.
Check the meat and allow to cook a bit more if not yet ideally tender. Top up the sauce with a bit more water if it evaporates or thickens too quickly. Taste and adjust seasonings towards the end of cooking.
Serve over rice or pasta.