Saturday, April 25, 2009

Day 38 - Veal Stew with Artichoke Hearts, Fava Beans, and Peas, and Long Grain Brown Rice

Here's another main course that's been on my mind for a while. Especially every time I pass the fava beans at Fairway. I was waiting for the shell peas to arrive, but they haven't, and I figured it would be better to substitute frozen peas for fresh than to pass up an opportunity to use fresh fava beans.

Veal Stew with Artichoke Hearts, Fava Beans, and Peas (p. 205)

This is definitely a workout. There are some cool things to experience while preparing this dish: making a sachet, working with favas, learning how to trim a fresh artichoke to use the heart, making a roux, making a velouté, and tempering yolks (again - twice in one week!). And it's not that anything is terribly challenging - it's just a lot of work. And dishwashing.

First, you make a sachet with herbs, spices, and vegetables (what Martha calls "aromatics"). This is only annoying if you forgot to buy a carrot and have to go out just for that.

Then you deal with the fava beans. This is probably the most aggravating part of the recipe. Shelling fava beans is a pain. Mostly, these pods don't spring open, so you're pulling and cracking and twisting, etc. My fingernails are still messed up from it. Meanwhile, I don't think I've chosen my favas well, since some of them are large (although not as large as I thought they'd be) and some of them are downright small.

Then you have to blanch them, which means waiting for the water to boil. Then you have to move them to an ice bath and drain them. (How many bowls am I going to have to wash for a lousy cup of fava beans?) Then, if all that wasn't bad enough, you have to remove the outer layer to get to the actual fava bean inside! Ugh. Too hard. No wonder Hannibal Lecter liked them. Preparing them could drive me to murder, too.

The veal goes in a saucepan with wine, water, and salt, which you bring to a boil. This creates a considerable amount of veal foam, which gets scooped away. Then you add the sachet and simmer for a while.

While that was happening, I got to work on the artichokes. In the list of ingredients for this recipe, Martha writes: "3 Large Fresh Artichoke Hearts, prepared as directed on page 296, and each cut into sixths." I am 99% positive this is a typo/mistake. Page 296 is a recipe for steamed artichokes, which are served whole. Page 305 is the recipe for Marinated Artichoke Hearts, which contains the exact information you need to prepare 3 Large Fresh Artichoke Hearts. (Is anyone paying attention, re: Second Printing? And just in case I have your ear, please note the misspelling of "beurre" several times on pp. 223-224.)

You may remember, the day I was making the salad that included Marinated Artichoke Hearts, there were no fresh artichokes in any market, so I had to skip it. But today, I got a crash course in getting to the heart of an artichoke. It took messing one up to really figure it out, but I think I have the hang of it now. It's a little dicey, because if you don't work fast enough, the artichoke turns brown. You have lemon water and a lemon half standing by to keep the artichoke well-colored, but if you drag your feet along the way, that little guy will turn so fast....

Making an artichoke heart is one of those things that I never thought I'd have to do in my life, but knowing how to do it makes me feel like a better person somehow.

Eventually, the artichoke hearts go in the simmering veal, as do the peas at the last second. Then the sachet gets removed (beware, a peppercorn slipped through the cheesecloth and ended up in FNBF's mouth - he was not happy - maybe it's best to use extra cheesecloth). The liquid gets strained off and the veal and friends are reserved for later use.

Then the roux: the saucepan is wiped out and butter is melted. Then flour is whisked in and cooked for a little. That's a "roux." Then the strained veal liquid is whisked into the roux. Now, it's called a "velouté."

Then you whisk an egg yolk with some heavy cream, and temper the yolk by adding some velouté slowly and whisking until it's incorporated. This is now called the "liaison," probably because it's what connects the yolk to the hot velouté. You add the liaison to the velouté and cook until the sauce is thickened.

At this point, my sauce is so thick that it's in the realm of Cream of Mushroom soup. Did I do something wrong? It looks so light and liquid-y in the pictures...

The veal and friends go back in, along with the favas, and a splash of lemon juice and a sprinkle of parsley finish it up.

It tastes great. It's a creamy, white stew, with Martha's signature layers of flavors. The frozen peas taste great - I can't imagine fresh ones tasting that much better. The fava beans are practically invisible, mixed in with the peas. The artichoke hearts are cooked perfectly, the veal is tender, and the whole package is really tasty. And crazily filling. But it's so much heavier than Martha's pictures. I can't help thinking that I overcooked the sauce somewhere along the way.

I'm so glad to have made this, but I daresay this will be the first and last time. (Too rich for my blood.) Meanwhile, there's a variation on this recipe that I will have to do, called "Blanquette de Veau," and I'm seriously confused about this one. Martha (or staff), if you're reading, could you specify whether or not there's a roux/velouté step? There's too little information in the book....

Jeff: B
(for over-thickening the sauce)
Martha: A

Long Grain Brown Rice (p. 412)

Here's another winner in the grains department. Martha's instructions, which again differ from those on the package, deliver a great end product. And the rice was well-matched with this stew.

Jeff: A
Martha: A

Incidentally, I also served a Martha green salad with Lemon Vinaigrette, topped with the leftover mussels from the other day. Creative, right?

Until we eat again....

FNBF ate his veal with fava beans and a nice Chianti. OK, it was actually Chenin Blanc.

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