March 12, 2012

Veal Stew with Spring Greens

It's not March 20 yet, but spring has...well...sprung in St. Louis already. High temperatures are expected near 80 this week. In fact, we've had an unseasonably warm winter. There was no real snow to speak of. Flowers and trees started blooming in February.

I've been so looking forward to the warm weather and longer days. I'm realized this year, more than ever, how much I am affected by winter's dark days. I've felt like I was constantly crabby; every one and every thing irritated me. I was annoyed at work, which has been difficult for me this year with teaching an extra class and encountering some challenging students/situations. I felt so overwhelmed with everything that I suffered from paralyzing anxiety. I was also very sad, often breaking down in tears at home (and once at school), usually for no real reason. Of course, I'm sure some of that was residual from my divorce in September. Still, I would say that I was actually depressed this winter.

But, now, I'm soaking up this lovely sunshine and ready to power through the last two months of school. Since we had no snow days this year, we are done May 22. MAY 22! I hate to admit it, but I'm just as anxious as the students are. Summer Kelly is much more fun and relaxed than School Kelly.

The change in weather always makes me change my eating habits. Winters are full of soups and pastas at my house. In the spring, I want vegetables and lighter dishes. This recipe, which I saw in Food & Wine magazine two years ago, is the perfect dish for early spring. It's hearty & comforting enough for those too-chilly spring evenings but light & bright enough to satisfy the cravings I have this time of year.

This is a very versatile recipe as well. Instead of veal, you could use lamb or beef or bone-in chicken (or any meat you'd like, really)...just choose a cut that is good for braising. Or, you could brown up some chopped boneless/skinless chicken breast & add the greens (without braising). It could also easily be made vegetarian by substituting garbanzo beans or tofu for the veal (skipping the braising steps).

Veal Stew with Spring Greens
slightly adapted from Food & Wine

photo from F&W

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon canola oil
3 pounds boneless veal shoulder, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup dry white wine
5 cups spinach leaves, chopped
5 cups sorrel leaves, chopped *
1 head of romaine, chopped
1 bunch of watercress or arugula leaves, chopped
1 leek, white & light green parts, finely chopped & rinsed
1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup finely chopped tarragon
1/4 cup finely chopped chives
1 cup creme fraiche

* If you can't find sorrel, which is a lemony-tasting green, you can double the spinach and add the juice of one lemon when you add the creme fraiche. 
  • Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. 
  • In a large enameled cast-iron dutch oven, melt the butter in the oil. Meanwhile, season the veal with salt and pepper. Brown the lamb in small batches, removing the pieces before adding more to the pot. When all the meat is browned, add it all to the pot with any juices that have collected. Add the wine, cover, and braise in the oven for about 1 hour, or until the meat is nearly tender. Check occasionally to make sure the pot isn't going dry, adding more wine as needed.
  • Remove the pan from the oven & put it on the stovetop over medium heat. Handful by handful, add the spinach, sorrel, romaine, watercress or arugula, leek, parsley, tarragon, chives to the casserole, stirring each addition until it wilts into the stew. (I did this by mixing all the greens in a large bowl, then adding them a couple handfuls at a time.)
  • Add the creme fraiche (and lemon juice, if not using sorrel) & stir well. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 
  • Serve over steamed rice or boiled noodles.

No comments: