Besides being one of the most gracious hosts I have ever met, Diana is also an incredible cook. I knew that this would be a stew to remember. It cooks slowly, leaving the veal meltingly tender.
I've had veal stews that were white (generally made with white wine, cream, and stock) but this recipe is more typical of southern Europe. In fact, was quite similar to a traditional Montenegrin recipe for a classic stew of cheap veal cuts cooked in a beef stock sauce with tomatoes, carrots, bacon onions and herbs. Regardless of the recipe's origins, it made a delicious stew with which to celebrate the end of another winter week and the start of a long weekend.
Diana's Veal Stew
2 lbs veal stewing meat
1 onion, peeled and diced
two carrots, peeled and chopped
three celery sticks, diced
three cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup flour
100 g pancetta, chopped
1/2 bottle of red wine
14 oz crushed tomatoes
two whole cloves
Place the flour in a large zip lock bag. Season with salt and pepper. Place the veal in the bag, seal, and shake it to coat the veal with the flour, salt, and pepper mixture.
Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large stew pot. Brown the meat in the olive oil. Remove and set aside.
Add more oil to the pot if necessary. Brown about 100 g. of pancetta.
Place the onions, celery, carrots, and garlic in the pot. Let them sautee until the onions are transparent.
Pour the half a bottle of a decent red wine (I used a Barbera from Diana's beloved Piemonte) over the sauteed vegetables. After the alcohol evaporates, add a 14 oz. can of crushed tomatoes and the whole cloves. Put the meat back in the pot. Salt and pepper to taste.
Let it all simmer together for two hours. If the sauce gets too thick, add a little red wine to thin it down.
Serve the stew over polenta with some great wine and warm, crusty bread.
Diana adds the following tips: If, at the end, the flavor is too acidic and the sauce is too thin, you can mix a bit of melted butter with flour, and add to that a teaspoon of honey. Add this to the sauce and let it cook together.