Veal Stew

"Well, you all," Polly said, "I've got another of those awful reading seminars downtown and I must dash." "Oh, darling," Wendy said, "must you?  You've barely gotten here."

"I must," said Polly.  "I'm seeing you for lunch tomorrow anyway, Mum, so you'll have tons of me.  These seminars are boring but invaluable, I'm afraid."

She went around the table kissing everyone good-bye...She kissed her husband on the top of his fragrant head.  "Henry, don't let the children eat another thing until I get home except for a glass of milk and a cookie at four.  I'll be home by six.  At five-thirty take the brown crock out of the fridge and put it into the oven.  It's veal stew...Good-bye, everybody."

--Laurie Colwin, Family Happiness, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1982

Family Happiness is one of my absolute favorite books ever - a beautiful portrait of domestic life and a frank, flawed love story (it's actually not a reading seminar; Polly is going to meet her lover).

In my slow-cooker book is this wonderful-sounding recipe for lemony veal stew with chickpeas and spinach.  I hardly ever eat veal:  formula-fed could break your heart, and organic, milk-fed, free-range veal costs a fortune.  But at last, I found some of the latter on sale and could finally try this stew.

It follows a very classic formula of preparation, much like the chicken stew or beef carbonnade.  You dredge the meat in seasoned flour and brown it in batches.  You then brown your vegetables, add the seasoned flour, deglaze the pan, dump it all in the cooker and let time do the rest.  This came out as wonderful as it sounded:  filling for a chilly fall day but still bright and fresh-flavored from the lemon and herbs.  Plus, because I only had 1 1/2 pounds of meat instead of the required 3, it was the perfect amount of food:  there is none left.  Now I will be snapping up organic veal whenever I see it.

Lemony Veal Stew with Chickpeas and Spinach

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 3 pounds boneless veal shoulder, cut into 1 1/2" cubes for stew
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 celery rib diced
  • 1/2 bag baby carrots, left whole (my addition because I cannot conceive of stew without carrots)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 cup white whine
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 15-oz can chick peas, drained and rinsed (because I only had half the meat in the recipe, I used two cans of peas)
  • Juice and grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 6-oz bag baby spinach, coarsely chopped

Mix flour, salt and pepper in a medium bowl or ziplock bag.  Add the veal and toss until the meat is evenly coated.  Shake off the excess flour and reserve seasoned flour.

Heat half the olive oil in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the veal in batches and brown lightly on all sides.  Transfer each batch to slow cooker.

Add the rest of the oil to the skillet.  Add onion, celery, and carrots and saute over medium heat until tender, but not browned, about 3 minutes.  Add the garlic, rosemary, thyme and ginger and stir once or twice.  Add the reserved seasoned flour, stirring until the vegetables are well coated.  Add the wine and chicken broth and bring to a boil, stir until slightly thickened.  Pour over the veal.  Add the chickpeas, lemon juice and zest, and bay leaf.  Stir to combine and cover.  Cook 3-4 hours on high, or 6-8 hours on low.

Stir in the spinach and cook for 1-2 minutes, until spinach is wilted.