For this recipe, I was inspired by a Veal stew with peas post I saw a few months ago on Memorie di Angelina. Always a good read.
You can make this stew starting with a soffritto, a mix of finely diced onions, celery, carrot, sometimes including pancetta, but I preferred using an old French technique of using whole vegetables to flavour the broth, then discarding them as I did in my Blanquette de Veau. I essentially wanted the zucchini and peas to be the stars of this dish, and they were.
If you have a parmesan rind waiting to be used in your freezer, here is the time to use it.
One of the most memorable meals I have had was the Polpettine con zucchini e zafferano, from Biba Caggiano, so this was my second inspiration for this dish. I already knew that veal, zucchini, parmesan and saffron were a winning combination, and this is what I wanted to recreate here. A springtime veal stew, revisited.
The result was a deliciously complex and unique spezzatino that was just perfect for a spring meal.
750 g veal, cut into 1 inch (2.5 cm) cubes
3 tablespoons olive oil plus more to cook the zucchini
2 oz (56 g) pancetta, cubed
2 cloves garlic
1 rib celery
1 bay leaf
1 whole clove
5 sprigs thyme
1 parmesan rind
1 pinch saffron threads
1 cup dry white wine
3 cups (750 ml) chicken broth (approximately)
4 to 5 medium zucchini
1 cup fresh or frozen peas
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper to taste
1. In a heavy bottom pot or dutch oven over medium heat, cook the pancetta in one tablespoon olive oil until golden. Take the pancetta out of the pot and set aside on paper towels to drain. Increase the heat to medium-high. Working in batches, cook the veal cubes on all sides until golden all over in the residual fat, adding olive oil as needed. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer the meat to a platter and continue the process until all the meat is browned.
2. To the same pot, add the wine and the chicken broth, the thyme, the bay leaf, the saffron, the carrot, the garlic, the parmesan rind and the celery. Stick the whole clove in the onion and add this to the pot.
3. Put the meat back in the pot, cover, bring to boil and reduce to simmer and cook, covered, until the meat is tender, one and a half hour.
4. While the meat is cooking, prepare the zucchini. Slice the zucchini, not too thin, not too thick and coat the bottom of a non-stick pan with olive oil. Over medium heat, cook the zucchini slices in a single layer for a few minutes, until they start to brown, then turn them over and cook for a few more minutes, until tender. Season lightly with salt and pepper and transfer to a plate to cool. Do not overlap the cooked slices on the plate otherwise they may overcook. Continue with the rest of the zucchini slices.
5. When the meat is done, remove it from the pot with a slotted spoon and set aside. Remove the solids from the stock and discard. Strain the liquid through a fine sieve and set aside. You should have about 3 cups of liquid. If you have less, add a bit of chicken broth. If you have more, reduce it a bit.
6. In the same heavy bottom pot, melt the butter over medium heat and whisk in the flour. Cook for one minute, stirring constantly and add the broth. Stir with a wooden spoon until thickened.
7. Add the veal, the pancetta, the zucchini and the peas to the sauce. Cook over medium-low heat for five more minutes. Turn the heat off, cover and let the flavours blend for 10 minutes.
8. Enjoy on its own, with rice, over soft polenta or with a slice of crusty, toasted bread.