Sauté de veau

Veal stewed gently in wine, infused with garlic, tomato and herbs, and served with a touch of cream — this supremely French invention is far from the stews of my childhood. I first tasted it in the 1970s at the home of my friend Nicole, a superior cook. She liked to have people over for dinner on short notice, and one day as we chatted in the kitchen she prepared this succulent dish in what seemed like no time. I of course demanded the recipe.

Sauté de veau / Veal stewed in white wine

Nicole and I worked together as chefs around that time at an improvised bistro that took shape every Saturday night in a place that functioned as a day care center during the week. For 30 francs, or about $4.50, our merry customers were served a three-course meal with wine — a great deal, even back then. We cooked all afternoon and, as evening approached, various shaggy-haired friends of Nicole’s turned up to help convert what looked like a house for garden elves into a dining establishment. When the place filled up, it felt like a microcosm of hip post-May-’68 Paris. The people who came to dine at our bistro très parallèle were still riding high on the wave of revolt that had swept France ten years earlier — contesting the ordinary, seeking the extraordinary, engaged politically, hungry for life. It was the best crowd I’d encountered since arriving in France. And thanks to Nicole, I was soon becoming part of that scene.

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