Braised Veal Cheeks with Celery Root Purée

Braised Veal Cheeks with Celery Root PuréeThese tender veal cheeks will practically melt in your mouth. They are easy to prepare and, once in the oven, pretty much take care of themselves. An added benefit is that they are well suited to entertaining late-arriving guests. Once the meat and the purée have cooked, they can be kept covered at room temperature for up to an hour or so if necessary. Just quickly reheat them on the stovetop or in a microwave prior to serving.

Celery root purée may look like mashed potatoes, but it is lighter in texture and has a distinctive, yet subtle, herbal taste. The light-bodied purée and the rich veal cheeks provide a nice contrast. They will be best appreciated alongside a bold red wine such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, or Syrah.

1 yellow onion, coarsely chopped
3 carrots, peeled and cut into 1-in/2.5-cm chunks
2 leeks, white parts only, cut into rounds 1/4 in/6 mm thick and rinsed and drained thoroughly
10 fresh thyme sprigs
1 bottle (750 ml) dry red wine
4 or 5 veal cheeks (about 2 lb/910 kg total weight)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups/480 ml Veal Stock, homemade or made from a store-bought demi-glace (page 217)
2 celery roots (about 3 lb/1.4 kg total weight), peeled and cut into 2-in/5-cm cubes
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup/240 ml heavy (whipping) cream/double cream
1/4 cup/7 g minced fresh flat-leaf (Italian) parsley

In a large zippered plastic bag or plastic container with a tight-fitting lid, combine the onion, carrots, leeks, thyme, red wine, and veal cheeks. Seal the bag or container and let marinate in the refrigerator overnight or for up to 24 hours.

Preheat the oven to 325°F/165°C/gas 3.

Remove the veal cheeks from the marinade and pat dry with paper towels/absorbent papers. (Reserve the marinade.) Sprinkle with salt and pepper. In a Dutch oven or large, ovenproof saucepan with a lid, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. When it starts to shimmer, sear the veal cheeks on each side until golden brown on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer the meat to a plate and set aside.

Add the wine from the marinade to the pot and return to medium-high heat. Use a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 3 minutes. Add the stock and return to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 2 minutes longer. Add the vegetables from the marinade and return to a boil. Return the veal cheeks and any juices accumulated on the plate to the pot and nestle the meat pieces in the liquid. Cover the pot and transfer to the oven. Braise for 2 hours. The meat will be very tender, and the sauce will be thick and dark brown.

While the meat is cooking, in a medium saucepan, combine the celery root with cold water to cover. Bring to a boil over high heat,. Reduce the heat to medium-high and simmer until the celery root is tender, about 10 minutes. Drain the celery root in a colander, reserving 1/4 cup/60 ml of the cooking water. Return the, warm, empty saucepan to the stovetop over an unlit burner. Place the butter in the pan.

Transfer the warm celery root to a blender or food processor and process to a smooth purée. (If using a blender, you will probably need to work in batches.) Add some of the reserved cooking water as needed to reach the desired consistency. Return the purée to the saucepan with the butter. Stir in the cream and 1/2 tsp salt. Mix well, cover, and set aside until ready to serve.

To serve, gently reheat the celery root purée over medium heat, if necessary. Place a generous portion of the celery root purée on each plate. Place a veal cheek next to the purée. Divide the vegetables from the braising pot between the plates and pour the sauce over the cheeks. Garnish with the parsley and serve at once.

Serves 4