Green almond season has me thinking of ways to use this symbolic food, the first fresh green thing to appear in many orchards. Seeing veal in the local store gave me the idea to revisit an old chestnut, Veal  Marengo. It is a classic preparation for an elegant yet homey dish of veal stewed with tomatoes and mushrooms. Adding green almonds proved to be a lucky hunch. When cooked, the green almonds taste like cooked artichokes and their tartness is a welcome contrast to the rich sauce

There isn’t much to the technique of making Veal Marengo. You lightly brown the veal with onions and combine that with lightly browned mushrooms. Gently simmering the meat in a low oven helps tenderize it while capturing all the juices.

Food historians trace a connection to Napoleon Bonaparte in the origins of this combination. Some accounts credit a chef who prepared it in honor of Napoleon’s success at the battle of Marengo. Early versions include a garnish of crawfish, typical of the time. When Chef Pierre Franey told me this,  I started adding shrimp. We served that odd surf and turf combination at the Restaurant du Village. But today my tastes have changed, and I prefer this simple combination.

Kitchen Notebook

After almond trees bloom in February and March, they begin to form buds. These buds grow into what are called “green almonds.” They are a novelty, bright green crunchy fruit and symbols of spring.  We can all use a little spring inspiration right about now.

Each year, the lovely folks at Stewart and Jasper, almond growers in Newman, California, send me green almonds. For this I am eternally grateful.  I eat them whole as a snack. I use them in salads, sauté them with fish, stew them with lamb and turn them into a potent almond liqueur. You can buy green almonds from Stewart and Jaspers web site. The season goes by in a flash though.

Veal Marengo with Green Almonds

Yield: 2 to 3 servings

Veal Marengo with Green Almonds

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

1 pound veal shoulder cut into large pieces

Salt and pepper

1 medium onion, peeled and chopped

2 cups fresh green almonds, stem trimmed*

6 large mushrooms, quartered

One 14-ounce canned Italian plum tomatoes in juice

2 whole cloves garlic, peeled

¾ cup dry white wine

1 cup vegetable or beef stock

Chopped fresh parsley

4 – 6 slices of baguette, fried in butter

Directions

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil and the butter in a wide frying pan over medium high heat. Season the veal with salt and pepper. Sauté the veal and onions in the pan until the meat is lightly browned.
  2. Heat the remaining oil in another frying pan over medium high heat. Add the green almonds and mushrooms. Sauté until the mushrooms are lightly browned.
  3. Add the green almonds, mushrooms plum tomatoes, garlic, white wine and stock to the veal. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer until the veal is tender, for approximately 1 – 1 ½ hours.
  4. To serve, place the veal on warmed serving plates. Adjust the seasoning of the cooking juices and vegetables before pouring over the veal. Serve garnished with chopped parsley and a few croutons.

Notes

I you don't have green almonds, substitute canned or frozen artichoke hearts, drained. Or omit them entirely.