For the past week, I haven’t known what to cook (or to wear, for that matter). One day it’s pouring down rain and cold, while another might arrive with plenty of sun and temperatures climbing into the 60s! So, during this season of mercurial New England weather, I try to cook entrees that will work regardless of the forecast. Such dishes have robust tastes, but are accented by fresh spring ingredients.
Veal Stew with Spring Vegetables is a perfect example. Hearty and satisfying, this all-in-one main course has light touches provided by a bounty of seasonal produce and a hint of lemon. Like most, this stew will require a little time to prep—count on 30 minutes to get the vegetables and other ingredients ready and another 25 for sautéing the veal and vegetables. After that you simply cover the pot and simmer the ragout, unattended, until the meat is fork tender.
A big bonus is that this dish is even better when made a day or two ahead because the flavors get a chance to meld. I made this stew last week on Thursday, a clear, warm sunny day, and shared it with friends on Friday night, a chilly, cloudy evening. Everyone ate with gusto, sopping up the sauce with baguette slices, and filling their plates with seconds.
Veal Stew with Spring Vegetables
7 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra if needed
2 1/2 pounds veal stew meat (See note.)
1 cup sliced spring onions, white and light green parts only, or use 1 cup chopped onion
1 cup sliced carrots, cut 1/4 inch thick on the diagonal (You can use peeled baby carrots as a time saver; cut them into 1/4 inch slices.)
3/4 cup sliced celery, cut 1//4 inch thick on the diagonal
2 tablespoons flour
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 cups reduced-sodium chicken stock
1 cup dry white wine
2 strips lemon peel, each about 3 inches long and 1 inch wide
3 medium garlic cloves, crushed and peeled
6 ounces Baby Bella mushrooms, quartered through the stems
4 ounces snow peas, ends rimmed and halved crosswise on the diagonal
1 cup fresh or frozen green peas (defrosted if frozen)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
3 cups cooked rice
Pat the veal dry with paper towels. Add 3 tablespoons oil or enough to coat the bottom of a large heavy pot (with a lid) set over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add enough veal to make a single layer. Saute, turning several times, until browned nicely, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove to a plate. Continue, adding more oil if needed, until all veal has been browned. Total time for browning the meat should be 20 to 25 minutes.
Add 2 more tablespoons oil to the pot and when it is hot, add the onions, carrots, and celery. Cook, stirring, for 3 minutes to soften very slightly. Return the veal and any juices on the plate to the pot. Sprinkle the meat with flour and cook, stirring 2 minutes. Season the stew with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.
Add stock, wine, lemon peels, and garlic. Bring mixture to a simmer, and then reduce heat. Cover and cook until meat is fork tender, 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours. (Stew can be prepared 2 days ahead; cool cover, and refrigerate.)
Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a medium heavy skillet over medium heat. When hot, add mushrooms and saute, stirring, until browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Add to the stew along with the snow peas and peas. Cook until snow peas and peas are tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Place a mound of rice in each of 6 shallow bowls. Spoon the veal stew on top. Mix together the dill and lemon zest and sprinkle over each serving. Serves 6.
Note: I used veal stew meat cut from the shoulder, and asked the butcher to cut it into 1 1/2- to 2- inch pieces, trimmed of all excess fat.