Veal Ragu

posted by Polar Bear 08-27-100 4:51 PM

Veal Ragu (Braised with Vegetables)

Ragu in Italian means simply “sauce,” but as a dish refers to this preparation, where meat is seared, vegetables are glazed in the pan and both are braised with wine until tender. It’s the repeated glazing and deglazing in Step 3 that gives the dish its rich flavor. Then, traditionally, the sauce is simmered with barely undercooked pasta until the liquid is absorbed, forcing the flavor into the pasta. Exquisite.

4 Tbl. clarified butter (or olive oil)
2 lb. boneless veal shoulder (or 3 lb. bone-in) (see Note)
1 medium onion
1 mediumcarrot
1 stalk celery
2 clove garlic (minced)
2 cups veal (or chicken) stock
1 cup milk
1/2 cup dry white wine
8 oz. crushed tomatoes
2 Tbl. tomato paste
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbl. fresh rosemary (or 1 t dried)
1 medium bay leaf
1/2 tsp. each: black pepper; oregano; sage; thyme
1/4 tsp. cayenne
1/2 cup water
2 Tbl. fresh parsley (chopped)

Preferably using a well-seasoned cast iron or carbon steel pan, or failing that in stainless steel, sear veal on all sides in clarified butter over high heat. Reduce heat to medium and continue searing until well browned on all sides, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove to a plate.

Quarter onions and slice 1/4 inch thick. Cut carrots and celery into chunks. Saute all in same pan as veal until golden, 15 to 20 minutes, adding garlic for the last few minutes.

Deglaze pan with 1 cup stock; cook down until liquid evaporates; repeat with remaining 1 cup stock. Deglaze again with milk and cook down, taking care not to scorch. Deglaze one last time with wine and remove to a 3 qt. pot (if using carbon steel or cast iron).

Stir in tomatoes, paste and seasonings (place bay leaf and other herbs in a teaball or bouquet garni bag). Place veal over and simmer partially covered until tender, 2 to 3 hours. Remove to a plate and let cool enough to handle, about 30 minutes. Cut across the grain 3/4 inch thick, then slice thinly with the grain (the back of the knife usually works best).

Strain pan juices into a bowl; stir water into solids and strain into same bowl (discard solids); de-grease, preferably after chilling overnight (chill meat also, of course). Simmer veal in strained pan juices, partially covered and stirring occasionally, until very tender and crumbled into shreds, 1 to 2 hours. Stir in parsley and simmer 5 minutes.

Cook 1 lb. pasta just al dente and drain well; combine with veal-and-sauce mixture and cook covered over medium heat, stirring gently every few minutes, until the pasta has absorbed most of the liquid, 5 to 10 minutes. Or, spoon sauce mixture over Spaetzle or Potato-Vegetable Puree. Caesar Salad makes an excellent accompaniment.

NOTE: The meat is critical to this recipe. Most veal is too lean for extended braising. Only well marbled veal shoulder (chuck) or veal short ribs (see below) will work. The butcher may try to sell you a leg roast, but in my experience that almost always comes out too dry. And shanks won’t work because they’re too gelatinous. Shoulder usually can be ordered ahead (it’s what most butchers use for “stew veal”), but if unavailable switch to another meat rather than taking your chances with a leg roast.

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