Veal and mushroom stew, with just a touch of cream, is my idea of the perfect one-dish Sunday supper.
Ladled over toasted country-style bread, this piatto unico is Italian comfort food at its best. Share at the table with people you love–or follow my Sunday routine and take a tray to the sofa for an episode of Downton Abbey or Breaking Bad.
The dish is also good with lamb shoulder or stew meat, or you could substitute beef, but I prefer the delicacy of veal. The recipe belongs to the spezzatino category of rustic, gently simmered stews.
Italians would be more likely to serve the peas on the side, rather than as part of the stew. But I love the ease of one pour from the frozen-pea bag, and the pleasure of eating a few in every bite.
Veal Stew with Mushroom and Peas, on Toast
Makes 4 or 5 servings
(from Piatto Unico, my book on one-course Italian meals)
2 pounds bone-in veal shoulder steaks or 1 ¾ pounds boneless veal stew meat
Extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup chopped shallot or onion
1 thick-cut (1/4-inch) slice pancetta, cut in small cubes (about 1/3 cup)
10 ounces crimini or white mushrooms, halved, thinly sliced
Sea salt or kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons flour
½ cup white wine
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 ½ cups frozen baby peas
4 large slices white or whole-grain country-style bread
1. Blot the veal shoulder dry with paper towels. Trim it, discarding the fat but reserving the bones. Cut the lean meat in 1/2-inch cubes.
2. Over medium heat, heat enough oil (about 2 tablespoons) in a large straight-sided sauté pan. Cook the shallot and pancetta, stirring often, until the fat is rendered and the shallot and pancetta are lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in the mushrooms, cooking until they soften and release some of their liquid, about 8 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Scoop the contents of the pan into a bowl.
3. Heat a little more olive oil (about 1 tablespoon) over medium-high heat in the same pan. Cook the veal (in batches, if necessary) until lightly browned; season with salt and pepper. Stir and continue cooking until browned all over.
4. Lower the heat to medium. Sprinkle with the flour; stir for a minute or two. Add the wine, letting it sizzle while scraping the bottom of the pan with a spatula.
5. Return the reserved veal bones (if any) and mushroom mixture to the pan, and add ½ cup water. When it comes to a simmer, reduce the heat to low and cook, partially covered, until very tender, about 1 ½ hours; add a little water from time to time if needed.
6. When the veal is tender, remove and discard the bones (if any). Stir in the cream and peas, and cook a few minutes longer until the peas are cooked through and the sauce thickens slightly.
7. Toast the bread until crisp but not browned; slice in half diagonally. To serve: Arrange two toast halves in the center of each plate. Spoon the stew on top, letting it cascade over the sides of the toast.