For this Catalan veal stew recipe, we call for chocolate. Using unsweetened chocolate as an ingredient in savory European dishes dates back to the sixteenth century, when Spanish explorers first carried it back to Europe from Mexico. Today, the Catalan people of northeastern Spain continue to use chocolate in a number of preparations where its ability to thicken, flavor, and generally fill in the gaps is valued in stew making. Not immediately recognizable in the finished dish, the chocolate helps it become, like any good stew, truly greater than the sum of its parts, mingling here with the sweetness of prunes and succulent chunks of veal.–Stanley, Leon, Evan, Mark, and David Lobel
LC Butcher's Note
Meat from the breast and shoulder makes for the most flavorful veal stews. Breast meat, because of its higher fat and collagen content, cooks to a more tender, rich, and meltingly soft result, which for many is the hallmark of a great stew. On the other hand, cubed breast meat tends to fall apart, so that the finished dish has fewer prominent chunks of meat than stews made with other cuts. Additionally, veal breast has alternating layers of fat and lean, much like pork belly, and you may find yourself having to separate the soft flavorful meat from the remaining pieces of fat as you eat. None of this poses a problem for us, though, because the taste and texture of a stew made with veal breast is rich, silky, and simply without peer.
For a chunkier Catalan stew and less fat to contend with, choose shoulder meat. It is nearly as good as breast meat, and the cubes retain their shape and gently collapse in your mouth. Because the veal shoulder has less fat, as it cooks there’s less skimming in the end. Each cut is delicious and distinct in its own way. If you purchase boneless veal breast or shoulder, you will need 2 1/2 pounds of meat and 1 1/2 pounds of bones; ask your butcher to save the bones for you.
Catalan Veal Stew with Prunes and Potatoes
- Quick Glance
- Quick Glance
- 1 H, 20 M
- 4 H, 30 M
- Serves 4
IngredientsEmail Grocery List
Pitted prunes also work well here, so if you like, you can remove the pits. We think the stew looks best with plump, whole fruits with pits. If serving prunes with pits, just be sure to let your guests know.
- Make-Ahead Tip
If you skip the cooking of the potatoes in step 7, you can prepare the stew up to 2 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Reheat the stew gently, covered, thinning with a bit of water or stock if it seems too thick. Then, while it’s reheating, prepare the potatoes as directed, in step 7. When the stew is hot and the potatoes are cooked through and crisp, simply serve as directed in step 9.
- Wine Note
Because veal itself is fairly neutral, when thinking about wines to drink alongside this dish, we looked to the ingredients that surround it. Here, the ripe sweetness of prunes together with tomatoes, cinnamon, and a bit of chocolate steered our choices. As we’ve stated elsewhere, when there’s sweetness in a dish — even just a little — it usually tastes better with a white wine that has a touch of sweetness itself or a red that has a rich core of fruit flavors. In either case, what you don’t want are wines that are bone-dry, austere, or, for reds, tannic. Two whites and one red stood out in our Catalan veal stew tasting: Torres “Viña Esmeralda,” a lightly sweet, tangy, and aromatic Muscat-Gewürztraminer blend from the most important winery in the region; R. Lôpez de Heredia “Viña Tondonia” Reserva, a well-aged white Rioja that — surprise — was dry, yet still deliciously mellow with the stew; and Castell del Remei “Gotim Bru,” a warm and deeply fruit-filled blend of mostly Tempranillo with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, from the Catalan denominacón of Costers del Segre, west of Barcelona. From outside Spain, choose a moderately rich but easygoing red wine like the Steltzner Claret, a Cabernet-Merlot blend from California’s Napa Valley or, for a white, an off-dry wine like the Robert Mondavi Chenin Blanc.