A few days ago, we invited two of my husband’s college students, who are brothers, to come for a home-cooked meal while they were in Paris. Then we learned that their parents were also in town, so we quickly extended the invitation. I had already planned the menu, and had chosen a veal stew with tomatoes and white beans to anchor the meal, a dish that could easily serve six.
In the City of Light, I entertain like my French friends, applying the “cook some, buy some” philosophy. I put most of my effort into the main course and sides, and purchase the rest. For openers, I bought two kinds of olives at a neighboring Sunday marché, and from a local Italian deli I purchased freshly made hummus that I garnished with toasted baguette slices and cherry tomatoes. After the main course, cheeses from a fromagerie were served with Medjool dates, clementines, and thin, crisp nut crackers. For the sweet ending, a tray of pastries–lemon tarts, chocolate ganache sablés, sleek hazelnut and chocolate bars, coconut and pineapple domes—from a near-by patisserie completed the menu.
The Provençal-style veal, tomato, and white bean stew, simmered slowly in wine and stock, and seasoned generously with herbes de Provence and fennel seeds, was fork-tender, served atop strands of fettuccine. What I like best about this type of classic French dish is that it improves in flavor when prepared several days ahead. At serving time I reheated it and popped the pasta into a pot of boiling water. Et voilà, it was time to call everyone à table!
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Provencal- Style Veal, Tomato, and White Bean Ragout
2 1 /2 lbs veal stew meat trimmed of excess fat, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
Freshly ground black pepper
4 tbsp olive oil plus 1 to 2 tbsp extra if needed
2 cups chopped onion
1 cup diced carrot
1 tbsp chopped garlic
4 tbsp flour
4 tsp herbes de Provence
2 tsp fennel seeds, crushed
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
One 28-oz can chopped tomatoes
3 cups chicken broth or stock
1 cup dry white wine
2 cans (14 to 15 oz each) white beans, rinsed well and drained
1 lb fettuccine or tagliatelle
1 to 2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 /2 cup grated Parmesan, preferably Parmigiano Reggiano
1 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
1. Pat the cubed veal dry with paper towels and season generously with salt and pepper.
2. In a large deep-sided pot (with a lid) over medium-high heat, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil until hot. Add enough veal to fit comfortably in a single layer. Sauté, turning, until browned on all sides, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove to drain on paper towels. Repeat until all veal has been browned, adding 1 to 2 tablespoons more oil if needed.
3. Lower heat to medium, and add 2 tablespoons oil to the pan. When hot, add the onions and carrots. Cook, stirring, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, and cook, stirring, 1 minute more.
4. Return the meat to the pan. Toss with 2 tablespoons of the flour and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Add herbes de Provence, fennel seeds, red pepper flakes, tomatoes, broth, and wine. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low, and cover. Simmer until meat is tender, about 1 hour and 15 to 30 minutes. Remove 1/3 cup liquid from the pot and transfer to a small bowl. Whisk in 2 remaining tablespoons flour to make a paste.
5. Stir the beans and the flour mixture into the pot. Cook, uncovered, 15 minutes more. Taste and season stew with more salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste. (Ragout can be prepared 2 days ahead; cool, cover, and refrigerate. Reheat, uncovered, over medium heat, stirring often.)
6. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain well and toss with a tablespoon or two of butter.
7. Place small mounds of pasta in 6 shallow bowls and ladle stew on top. Sprinkle with Parmesan and garnish with a sprinkle of parsley. Serves 6.
Copyright Betty Rosbottom 2018