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Favorites From Julia Child That Withstand the Test of Time

Wednesday, October 3, 2001; Page F04

Recipes appear here in the style of "Mastering the Art of French Cooking."

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This was the very first dish I cooked from my now tattered copy of "Mastering the Art of French Cooking." It didn't need fancy equipment, the ingredients weren't threatening, and the instructions were perfectly clear. If you followed the directions precisely, it looked (and was) foolproof. In the process, I learned some basic skills: to dry the stew meat, to assess the heat of the oil in the skillet, to remove most of that oil before browning the onions, not to salt the meat before cooking, for example.

In the tiny kitchen of my fifth floor walk-up apartment, I could imagine Julia Child's voice as I read the recipe, and I needed that -- especially for the step at the end that meant more work and another pot to wash so that the meat wouldn't be overcooked. If I was really ambitious and assembled all the ingredients for both dishes ahead of time, I made her delicious gratin of sauteed apples at the same time. I still do, presenting each of them in the flame-colored Le Creuset cookware that dates from the same era. Some good things really last.

-- Judith Weinraub

Saute de Veau Marengo (Brown Veal Stew With Tomatoes and Mushrooms)

The flavors of Provence go into this uncomplicated and hearty dish. Steamed rice or noodles go well with it, and green peas or beans. Serve a chilled rosé wine, or a strong, young white wine. As with all stews, this one may be cooked in advance and reheated just before serving.

For 6 people

3 pounds veal stew meat* cut into 2-ounce, 2-inch pieces
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil, more if needed
A 10- to 12-inch skillet
A 4-quart fireproof casserole
1 cup minced yellow onions
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups dry white wine or dry white vermouth
1 pound firm, ripe, red tomatoes, peeled, seeded, juiced and roughly chopped (1 1/2 cups) or 1 cup drained and chopped canned tomatoes or tomato puree
1/2 teaspoon basil or tarragon
1/2 teaspoon thyme
3-inch strip of orange peel 1/2 inch wide or 1/2 teaspoon bottled ground orange peel
2 cloves mashed garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 pound fresh button mushrooms or quartered larger mushrooms
1/2 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon water, if needed
2 to 3 tablespoons minced fresh tarragon, basil or parsley

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Dry the veal on paper towels. Heat the oil in the skillet until almost smoking. Then brown the meat, a few pieces at a time, and arrange the browned pieces in the casserole.

Lower heat to moderate. Pour all but a tablespoon of oil out of the skillet, and brown the onions lightly for 5 to 6 minutes.

While the onions are browning, toss the meat in the casserole with salt and pepper, then with the flour. Toss and stir over moderate heat for 3 to 4 minutes to brown the flour lightly. Remove from heat.

Add the wine to the skillet with the browned onions. Boil for 1 minute, scraping up coagulated saute juices. Pour the wine and onions into the casserole and bring to the simmer, shaking and stirring to mix the liquid and flour.

Stir the tomatoes into the casserole. Add the herbs, orange peel and garlic. Bring again to the simmer and season lightly to taste. Cover and set in lower third of oven to simmer slowly for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours or until the meat is almost tender when pierced with a fork.

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