July 12, 2009
Chicken and Veal Stew
by Gareth Mark
I needed a meal for four. I had chicken for two, veal shanks for two, and absolutely no desire to go to the store. A look into the pantry revealed potatoes and carrots. I had what I needed for a stew!
The first step was to braise the veal shanks. A braise will be successful if the meat is dredged in seasoned flour, then browned before beginning the actual braise. There's nothing fancy here, just some salt and freshly ground pepper in flour. Be sure to leave air around each piece while browning, even if you have to do it in stages, as in this case.
It isn't strictly necessary to use aromatics, but I really like to melt some mirepoix to make an extra rich broth. I didn't have celery, so I used carrots, onions, and red capsicum (bell pepper), better known as the Cajun trinity. I just cooked the trinity in some extra virgin olive oil until the onions were starting to look translucent.
You really need wine and stock for a good braise, although stock alone will work fine. I had some wild mushroom stock left over, and a goodly stock of dried wild mushrooms to make more. I put the shanks into the pan and added hot stock until it was about halfway up the shanks. This went into a 350°F/175°C oven, uncovered, for about three hours. After an hour or so, I turned the shanks over, and turned them back about two hours into cooking.
At this point I needed the oven to make bread, so I finished the stew on the stovetop. It would have worked just as well in the oven.
While the braise was working, I skinned two chicken leg quarters and visited the herb garden for rosemary, thyme, and parsley. The rosemary and thyme were wrapped in a scrap of cheesecloth and secured with a food-safe band--kitchen twine would have worked fine.
After the shanks had cooked to the point that the meat fell off the bone, I removed the veal bones and added the chicken quarters along with more stock and the now-reconstituted dried mushrooms used to make it, three cloves of garlic, and the herb packet.
I cooked this, covered, at a simmer until the chicken meat literally fell off the bones when I picked them up with tongs. At that point I added baby red potatoes, quartered yukon gold potatoes, and carrots. I continued cooking at a simmer until the potatoes were done.
Then I strained the liquid into another container and degreased it. Meanwhile the pot went back onto the stove with wine, which was reduced by one-half, then more stock, and finally the degreased juices from the braise and simmer. At this point I tasted the sauce, and added a bit of salt and pepper. Notice that this was the first and only seasoning, other than the small amount of salt and pepper in the flour used for dredging.
Cooking slowly for more than five hours extracted a lot of flavor from the veal and chicken bones, as well as from the meat. Wine has some sodium in it, and reducing the stock and juices concentrated the flavors. Thus, only a small bit of salt and pepper was needed. The parsley isn't there just for looks. A bit of minced parsley adds a subtle fresh note that really finishes a dish.
Turned out that I made too much. No one seemed to complain about having this stew two days running, and yes, it was better the second day!