Blanquette de Veau; Shopping Conundrums

Veal BlanquetteVeal_blanquette

I have concluded, in my vast and intensive study of my fellow humans, that everyone has a 'thing' which, totally out of proportion to the rest of his or her lifestyle, is deemed not worthy of expense.

The attitude is considered totally logical and even virtuous, by the holder and ridiculous and pitiable to the observer.

I knew two extremely successful physicians, married to each other, who refused to buy tissues (paper handkerchiefs). They considered it a waste of money. If one sneezed at their house, one was handed a roll of toilet paper. They carried a few folded sheets in their pockets for emergencies; but no Posh Puffs graced their vanity.

Sometimes, this arbitrary line in the sand can be political: paying $1.00 for a head of lettuce is acceptable but $1.10 is not. This same person might not bend over to pick up a dime on the sidewalk, but won't pay it for food when the price is considered artificially inflated or, simply, too high. (Please note: I don't actually know the price of lettuce.)

Sometimes it's just bizarre: a woman who happily pays $50.00 for a lipstick but refuses to pay more than $5.00 for a large jar of face cream.

Or a man who only buys his socks in the 5-for-$5.00 bags at the mall but has to buy 4 bags at a time because they wear out so fast.

Often it's age related.

It seems that at some point in our adult life internal inflation comes to a screeching halt. We start 'remembering' what things used to cost and refuse to pay more…. Even though 20 or 40 years have passed.

My mother won't pay more than $20.00 for a 'nice' sweater; my sister balks at $50.00.

There is also the quantity v quality philosophy:

Buy 5 inexpensive but totally fashionable sweaters, wear them all winter, by the end of which they are worn out and you pitch them to the rag bag, starting over next year.

Buy 1 expensive, classic sweater and wear it year after year. Buy another one next year… Or maybe the year after.

Why this discourse on shopping habits? 

The toilet.

We finally bought a toilet. 

I realized that our difficulty in coming to an agreement on something so basic and so basically simple was a philosophical one. Mon mari didn't see any reason to buy anything better than the cheapest toilet in the cheapest store.

One can buy a cheap toilet for under 40 euros. 

The toilet I wanted was 5 times that.

Now, you are probably curious (you know you are…) as to what there is to actually like about a toilet….

I'll be brief….. and no more descriptive than necessary: a seat that stays firmly attached, a lid that closes and fits, simple lines that are easy to keep clean, an eco-friendly tank/water usage system, a… no, that's quite enough….

We bought the one I wanted.

But he gets to choose the shower door…. He's rather fond of fancy shower doors….

We really need to get out more…. To something other than D.I.Y. stores.

We did get over to visit our neighbor on Saturday. 

It's a winery, if you recall. 

We had a lovely visit… and came home with a case of wine.

We won't even discuss wine buying. Suffice it to say that we can get very nice wines for under $8.00 and perfectly drinkable ones for under $5.00. 

There was a time when I cheerfully spent $35.00 on a bottle of wine.

Now I set my limits at $8.00… Or maybe $7.00… 

$3.00 for the everyday stuff… Or maybe $2.00… 

Which makes it very easy to add a glug or two to almost everything I make.

Veal Blanquette

Blanquette de Veau 

24oz (750gr) veal, suitable for braising
1 onion
2 whole cloves
1 bouquet garni
3 carrots
6 shallots
4oz (125gr) mushrooms
1 cup dry white wine
1 1/4 (10oz, 300ml) cup chicken stock, divided
2 tbs butter
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tbs cornstarch dissolved in
1 tbs chicken stock
pinch of nutmeg
1/2 cup crème fraiche or Greek yogurt

Cut meat into large chunks, 1 1/5 " (3.75 cm). Cut the onion in half and stud with cloves. Peel the carrots and cut in half the short way, then in half the long way. Place meat, onion, carrots and bouquet garni in heavy saucepan or casserole. Pour the white wine over and enough of the chicken stock (up to 1 cup) to cover, add water if needed. Bring to a boil over medium heat, cover, reduce heat and simmer, very gently, for 2 1/2 hours. 
30 – 45 minutes before veal is done start the vegetables: Peel the shallots. Brush the mushrooms, remove stems. Heat 1 tbs of the butter and the lemon juice in a medium nonstick skillet. Add mushrooms and sauté until golden. Remove and set aside. Add remaining 1 tbs butter and whole shallots. Sauté until shallots start to brown. Add 1/4 cup chicken stock, reduce heat and cover. Simmer for 20 minutes or until tender. Remove cover and cook off most of the liquid. Add mushrooms to pan, cover and turn off heat. 
Remove veal and carrots from pot, place in flattish bowl or on a platter, cover and keep warm. Strain cooking liquid, put it back into the pan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce to 1 cup (or so) While reducing, arrange shallots and mushrooms around veal and carrots. Turn heat under sauce to medium-low. Dissolve cornstarch in stock and thicken sauce. Remove from heat, add creme fraiche and nutmeg, stirring well. Pour some sauce over meat and vegetables and pass the rest.

What do I refuse to spend money on?

I was lying in bed this morning, pondering that….

Pajamas. I think they are an utter waste of money and resources.

Too much information?

8 thoughts on “Blanquette de Veau; Shopping Conundrums”

  1. I’m tickled pink that you’ll have a toilet in the bathroom!!! LOL! and a shower door to match it!
    It seems that at some point in our adult life internal inflation comes to a screeching halt. We start ‘remembering’ what things used to cost and refuse to pay more…. Even though 20 or 40 years have passed.
    Love that.

  2. It’s so true — we are all extravagant about some things and completely and irrationally tightwad about others. But about toilets — well, there you really have to get the one you want, as you will spend lots of time with (on!) it.

  3. a wonderful story – i have similar feelings about not wasting money. i spend very little on paper napkins for the kitchen table – we like to use washable old-fashioned fabric napkins

  4. It is funny how we “draw the line,” isn’t it. I love wine here and usually draw the line at 10 euros for special occasions, because when I’ve gone over I’ve sometimes been disappointed. When my wine merchant tells me a wine is a good deal, he’s almost always right.
    I just splurged on some champagne to celebrate the week’s events, though! I usually never buy champagne, preferring all of the great “crémants” or “méthode champenoise” from other regions that also fall in my under ten euro “budget.”

  5. I’m glad I’m not the only wine scrouge with good taste 🙂 Of course, wine is much cheaper in Europe than the U.S., particularly due to the tariffs. When I am in Germany or England, I can find a perfectly acceptable bottle of white for 5-7 euros. A comparable bottle in the U.S. may be 10-15 dollars, retail. However, I always look for new discounts when at our state-controlled stores, and sometimes can walk away with a wonderful Chardonnay or Shiraz for 7 or 8 dollars. We once found a white Burgundy for 10 dollars — and it was, surprisingly, fantastic. But, there was also that $20 bottle of dry Merlot, on sale, that was well worth the money. It wasn’t a $200 bottle of wine, but it’s a moment when you pride yourself on searching out quality rather than a price sticker and a name.
    As for PJs, I must concur hehe None needed for bed, and if I want to lounge around the house, yoga pants and a hoodie suffice just fine. Besides, PJ availability makes people think it is ok to venture out in public in them.

  6. One year, my husband gave me a wooden toilet seat for Christmas. I was thrilled.
    I prefer to buy almost all my clothes from second-hand stores. But I won’t buy second-hand (foot??) shoes. They have to be new. And invariably, the ones I choose are ridiculously expensive.
    Your blanquette de veau looks lovely, even though for my taste, the carrots are rather large (I’m weird about cooked carrots; it’s a major failing).
    I WISH we could get decent wine for $3 a bottle here! Our every day wine is around $7 for 750ml: a really decent Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot (imagine how much it would cost in Chile???). We used to be like you and buy wine for as much as $50 a bottle but now when we splash out, we won’t pay more than $20…. unless we’re buying a Blanquette de Limoux. Which is almost impossible to get here. But it’s oh so good! (It would be very good with your Blanquette de veau.)

  7. Tanna, I’ve heard that eventually we all turn into our mother’s….shudder… (joking)
    Val, and when we lived in Andorra it was even cheaper!
    Lydia, my sentiments, exactly!
    Maria, we haven’t had paper napkins in years… You are so right on that one!
    Betty, we are getting less willing to pay a lot for wine every year we live here. It’s much more fun trying the less expensive, local ones and most are very drinkable; some quite wonderful. When we first moved we were amazed that we could get good wine for under 20… now we’re happy with 6.
    Cymri, I was amazed on my last trip back to see people in public in pajamas…. Have they no sense/taste/pride?
    Elizabeth, I’m with you on the shoes. I have to admit, in my past life I spent rather a lot on clothes… buying quality. I hardly ever buy anthing now, except cheap stuff to paint and garden in… and even that’s rare as stuff gets recycled downward.

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