WHITE TRUFFLE VEAL BLANQUETTE; POLENTA TARAGNA, CROSNES
I AM ALWAYS EAGER to dip into our French culinary legacy, to revisit the dishes of my childhood and use them as the foundation of a new dish. Here I was inspired by veal blanquette, a bourgeois, creamy stew named in reference to the prized “blanc” (white) of the meat and the sauce, often made with veal shoulder, and first described in 1735 by Vincent la Chapelle in Le Cuisinier Moderne.
For extraordinary tenderness, we choose veal cheek and poach it until the natural marbled gelatin dissipates, creating a lush melt-in-your-mouth kind of pleasure. In the sauce, we add a splash of vin jaune du Jura for a slight oaky taste with hints of hazelnut and hay.
We give our diners the opportunity to taste three different cuts and preparations to contrast the texture of the braised cheek, the crisp sweetbread, and a roasted, thyme-infused veal fillet. And at the table, as part of a truffle menu, we shave a white truffle from Alba on top of the blanquette for a touch of magic.
Strain the sweetbreads, transfer to a large saucepan, and cover with cold water. Simmer for 5 minutes, skimming any foam that rises to the surface. Remove from the heat and rest in the hot water for 5 minutes. Remove the sweetbreads from the water, pat dry, and transfer to a cutting board. Use a paring knife to trim away the fat and outer membranes. Place the sweetbreads in a shallow baking dish lined with paper towels, top with more paper towels, and place another baking dish on top. Fill the second baking dish with heavy objects (such as canned goods) to gently press the sweetbreads. Refrigerate overnight. Cut the sweetbreads into 6 approximately 1½-inch cubes and reserve, chilled.
For the Veal Cheek Blanquette
In a large saucepan, combine the veal stock with the veal cheeks. Simmer for 2 minutes, skimming any foam that rises to the surface. Add the onion, leek, carrot, celery, sachet, and a sprinkle of salt. Poach the cheeks at a light simmer for 1½ hours, or until fork-tender, skimming as needed. With a slotted spoon, transfer the cheeks to a shallow baking dish, wrap in plastic, and keep warm while making the sauce. Strain the poaching liquid through a fine-meshed sieve; measure 2 cups for cooking the polenta and reserve, chilled. Pour the remaining liquid into a large saucepan and reduce to 2 cups; set aside to cool.
In the saucepan that you cooked the cheeks in, melt the butter over low heat. Add the flour and cook, while whisking, for 3 to 4 minutes, without coloring. In 3 or 4 additions, slowly whisk in the reduced poaching liquid to make a smooth sauce. Simmer for 5 minutes, stir in the heavy cream, and return to a simmer. Add the vin jaune and season with salt and pepper. Pour the sauce over the cheeks and reserve, chilled.
For the Comté Croutons
With a ¾-inch-diameter ring cutter, cut at least 6 discs from the cheese and place on top of the croutons. Arrange on a baking sheet and, just before serving, transfer to a hot oven for about 1 minute to lightly melt the cheese.
For the White Truffle Polenta Taragna
In a large saucepan, bring the 2 cups reserved poaching liquid or veal stock and the milk to a simmer. Gradually whisk in the polenta. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the mixture thickens and the polenta is tender, stirring often, about 20 minutes. Just before serving, stir in the mascarpone, Parmesan cheese, and white truffle. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper and reserve, kept warm.
For the Glazed Pearl Onions and Crosnes
In a medium saucepan, combine the onions with the stock and butter. Simmer for 5 minutes, then add the crosnes. Continue cooking at a low simmer until the vegetables are tender and the liquid has reduced to a glaze (if the liquid reduces before the vegetables are tender, add spoonfuls of water). Season with salt and pepper. Remove 3 pearl onions from the pan and cut into quarters. Return to the pan and reserve, kept warm.
For the White Truffle–Infused Veal Jus
In a small saucepan over medium heat, brown the butter. Add the truffle and sauté for 20 seconds. Add the veal jus, bring to a simmer, and keep warm.
Preheat the oven to 300°F. Transfer the veal cheeks to the oven and heat, stirring every 5 minutes, for 30 minutes, or until heated through.
Rest the veal tenderloin and sweetbreads at room temperature for 15 minutes, then season them on all sides with salt and pepper.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat and add the tenderloin. Sear on all sides until browned, then add 2 tablespoons of the butter, 2 sprigs of the thyme, and 1 clove garlic. Cook, basting and turning, until the tenderloin reaches an internal temperature of 125°F. Transfer to a platter, cover with foil, and rest in a warm place for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in the sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the sweetbreads to the pan and sear on all sides to a light golden brown. Add 3 tablespoons of the remaining butter and the remaining thyme and garlic and baste until the sweetbreads are firm to the touch.
Remove the butcher’s twine from the loin and slice into 6 portions.
Transfer the spinach puree to a small saucepan over medium heat and stir until heated through.
Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a medium sauté pan over medium-low heat and add the shallot. Sauté until translucent, about 2 minutes; increase the heat to medium-high, add the mushrooms in a single layer, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sauté until the mushrooms are cooked and any moisture they may have released is evaporated. Add the glazed pearl onions and crosnes to the pan and toss to heat through. Adjust the seasoning if needed and stir in the sliced parsley.
For each serving, place 2 spoonfuls of polenta on opposite sides of a warm dinner plate. Place a braised veal cheek on one spoonful of polenta and a roasted sweetbread on the other. Cover the cheek with shavings of fresh white truffle. Place a spoonful of spinach puree and 1 slice of veal tenderloin in between the cheek and the sweetbread. Top the spinach puree with a whole pearl onion and a Comté crouton, and the veal with a sprinkle of fleur de sel and cracked black pepper. Arrange 2 spoonfuls of chanterelles and crosnes on opposite sides of the plate and garnish with 2 pearl onion quarters and a few leaves of micro parsley. Drizzle veal jus around the tenderloin.