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I don’t know if it is possible for me to take a nice picture of a stewy-type dish, so please forgive me for the bad photo. This dish is really very good, I swear! Really, how can morsels of veal, slow cooked in a tomato-wine based sauce with green pitted olives and cèpes NOT be good? I made this dish following the idea of Boles de Picolat, a traditional Catalan dish that I love, but using cut up veal. We can get fresh cèpes here at certain times of the year, but frozen or dried are available all year-long. I always have a jar of dried cèpes in the cupboard, ready to liven up stewed dishes. These mushrooms, often called porcini in English, grow locally and their growing locations are often kept safely guarded secrets. Nothing measures up to the taste and texture of fresh cèpes, but for year-round stews, dried ones do the trick. Just remember to let them sit in hot water for about 30 minutes and then rinsed well before using them.

My children will eat anything that has pitted, green olives. The olives give a distinct flavour to the sauce but the children pull them out and eat them like candy. I HATED olives when I was a child, but my sister loved popping black olives in her mouth. I thought she was crazy… but now I do the same. Thank goodness for changes in the palate!

This is the kind of dish that never comes from a book recipe in my kitchen. It is a technique with ingredients that can be changed in so many ways! The meat is sautéed, then the onions and garlic. Other vegetables, if there are any, are added. Wine is added, whether red or white depending on the dish, left to evaporate somewhat while the pan is scraped of its yummy bits. Tomato and stock are added and when it all simmers, the meat is placed back into the cooking sauce. Covered and simmered gently. What could be easier??? I have different types of pots and pans for this kind of dish. Sometimes I like to prepare it all and then let it simmer in a “cocotte” in the oven. I find  the flavours infuse better, the sauce is a bit thicker. I don’t really know why, except that in the oven, the heat is one that surrounds the food, while on the burner, it comes only from the bottom. But I don’t always feel like turning the oven on.

And of course, these dishes are ALWAYS better the next day, so if you can think ahead and make it a day or two before you’d like to eat it, by all means do it!!!

I’ll admit something to you, that when I first saw this when I arrived in France twenty years ago, shocked me. But now I do it as well. When my childrens’ great-grandmother cooked a meal that was “mijoté” (slowly cooked in sauce), after the meal she simply left the pot or pan covered on top of the stove until the next meal or even the next day, when she would let it re-heat for a while before eating it. As a North American, I thought that was the most dangerous thing in the world and surely we would all fall very ill if we ate it, too. But this woman was over 70 and seemed perfectly fine. As a mother of a large family, I tend to make large quantities and so often a dish like this isn’t finished. So, the pot is just covered and placed in the cold oven until the next day. I never leave it more than over night and it is fully reheated (read BOILED) before it is eaten. So far, no deaths or illness. And it tastes so much better the next day! But I also don’t put my eggs in the fridge, do leave butter on the counter, eat raw eggs and meat, don’t wash chickens before cooking them. When I read North American magazines and cook books, I should technically be dead. But I do think there is a quality and handling difference between the countries. Food is simple cleaner here. (But that is another debate!)

 

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Veal with olives and cèpes

To write this recipe, I had to put quantities. Trust your instinct and add more or less according to your taste!

1 kg veal cut into large cubes

Some flour

Olive oil

50 g smoked bacon, cut into cubes (in France we just by lardons fumés or strips of thick cut ventreche fumé that we cut up ourselves) It adds incredible flavour!

1 onion chopped

3 cloves garlic chopped finely

1 small jar pitted green olives (drained)

1 handful of dried porcini mushrooms, rehydrated in hot water and then rinsed and chopped if the pieces are too big

200 ml red wine (OK, I just pour some in until it seems right!)

1 small can chopped tomatoes

2 tbsp tomato paste

500 ml veal bouillon (in France it is readily available but can be replaced with either beef or chicken)

A big handful of fresh herbs (in my garden, I have thyme, rosemary, oregano, sage and marjoram and I just take a bunch of all of them and chop it all up). Otherwise I just add a couple of Tbsp of dried herbes de Provence

salt/pepper

Parsley

In a shallow dish, add some flour. Toss the veal in the flour and shake off any excess. Heat a few tbsp of olive oil in a large sauté pan (with a lid) or a cocotte (wide cast iron pot with a lid – like Emile Henry) and sauté the veal pieces, not too many at a time so they brown on all sides. Season them and then remove them from pan. If there isn’t enough oil, add a bit and sauté the onions. Don’t let them burn or brown, just let them lightly colour and wilt. Add the bacon, let fry a bit and then add the garlic.

Pour in the wine and let simmer a few minutes, scraping up the bits stuck to the pan. Add the herbs. Add the tomatoes, the tomato paste and stir. Add the bouillon, the mushrooms and the olives, stirring. Season to taste but remember that the bacon and olives salt quite a bit, so be careful.

When it is all starting to boil, add the meat and make sure it is settled well in the sauce. Cover the pan, lower the heat and let simmer for about 40 minutes. If the sauce is still too liquid, take lid off and let reduce for a while.

Sprinkle some fresh parsley on before serving if you have some.

Serve with either potatoes or pasta. You can even place some cut up potatoes directly in the pot and let them cook with the rest. Or some white beans like the Bols de Picolat recipe.

I added some roasted red pepper this time as well.

Bon appétit!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jennifer is a Canadian/American, living in the South of France for the last 18 years. Married to a frenchman who's job forces him to spend a lot of his time overseas, she has learned to cope with all those everyday challenges brought about by her sometimes crazy life. Adapting to a new culture, raising children, taking care of animals, growing a vegetable garden, cooking for her family and friends, teaching cooking classes and trying to maintain a fairly organized and inviting home. Here are some of her thoughts about it all.

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