Veau braisé aux épices

Slow-cooked veal with spices

This is not an everyday recipe in the sense that it takes more than one day to prepare — but the results are worth the wait. The dish emanates from my friend Vera, a spectacular cook who favors rich flavors and heady spices. The meat used is a boned veal shank — jarret de veau in French — although Vera says that a boned leg of lamb can also be used.

Order the veal shank ahead of time, as you will need to pick it up three days before you plan to serve it. Have your butcher remove the bone and roll and tie the meat into a roast. Ask to have the veal bone as well if possible.

On the first day, you will stud the veal with garlic and refrigerate overnight. On the second day, you will braise it with onions and spices for 90 minutes. On the third day, you will braise it again for 60-90 minutes, allow it to cool, slice it and return it to the pot for reheating just before serving.

As for the spices, you can grind or crush them yourself or use store-bought ground spices. Vera insists that it’s best to crush the spices yourself. She uses a hammer instead of mortar and pestle. ‘It’s faster and more efficient, and it’s more fun,’ she says. For reasons of expediency, I chose to use pre-ground cumin, cinnamon and allspice, and crushed the coriander seeds and cloves in my coffee grinder.

This is a generous recipe that will serve 8-10 people. You can serve it over two days — the second day it is even better. In the photo above, the veal (at the top of the plate) is served with pumpkin purée, braised finocchio and some tender salad greens. It marries well with other veggies, and with grains such as wild rice or spelt — use your imagination.

1 veal shank (jarret de veau), boned, rolled and tied
1 clove garlic
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. butter
1 large onion or 2 medium onions
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander seeds
1 tsp. ground fennel seeds

1 tsp. curry powder, preferably hot
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 tsp. sea salt or table salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 cup (25 cl) dry white wine
1 cup (25 cl) water
1/4 tsp. ground saffron (2 dosettes) or 10-20 saffron threads
several sprigs of parsley, preferably flat-leaf

Day 1

Collect the veal shank from your butcher, prepared as described above. Dry off the meat with a paper towel and place on a cutting board. Peel and halve the garlic clove. Cut the halves into thin slices. Using a sharp knife, cut slits into the meat and insert the garlic pieces. Wrap up the meat and refrigerate overnight. If the butcher has given you the veal bone, refrigerate that too.

Day 2

Heat the olive oil and butter to sizzling in a large stewing pot (cocotte). Add the veal and brown on all sides. This takes about 10 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat. Remove the veal and set aside.

Peel the onion and mince finely. If using whole spices, crush them now.

Measure out the spices into a small bowl: cumin, coriander, fennel seeds, curry powder, cloves, allspice and cinnamon. Do not measure out the saffron now — that will come later.

Cast off about half of the oil and butter from the pot. Place over medium-high heat. Add the minced onion and sauté, stirring, for about 5 minutes, until the onion is wilted but not yet starting to brown. Add the crushed spices and sauté, stirring, for about 1 minute. Add the wine and stir with a wooden spatula, scraping the bottom of the pot. Add the water and stir. Add the salt and grind in some black pepper.

Now return the veal to the pot — and the bone, if you have it. Turn the heat down to low, cover the pot and braise at a simmer for 90 minutes. Check from time to time to make sure there is enough liquid. If the liquid boils down too much, add a little more water. About every half hour, turn the veal over so that all sides spend some time in the liquid.

After 90 minutes, remove the lid from the pot and allow the contents to cool. When cool, cover and refrigerate overnight.

Day 3

Remove the pot from the fridge and allow to return to room temperature. Place over low heat, bring to a simmer and braise for 30 minutes.

If using saffron threads, soak them in a couple tablespoons of warm water while the meat is braising.

After 30 minutes, add the saffron. If using ground saffron, simply sprinkle it in and stir. If using the threads, add them with their soaking water. Braise for 30-60 minutes more, until the meat is very tender.

Turn off the heat and remove the veal to a cutting board. If you braised the bone with the veal, discard it now. Allow the veal to cool. Slice it gently. Return it to the pot, allowing it to sit in the sauce until you are ready to serve.

Just before serving, chop the parsley. Reheat the veal gently. Serve in a large serving dish with plenty of sauce, sprinkled with the parsley. Serves 8-10.

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