Luscious Winter Braise from Provence

Tendrons de Veau a la Gardiane (Provence) (1) Winter isn’t over yet and if your culinary sensibilities are like mine you’re still in the “fire-up-the-oven” mode. There’s nothing cozier than a winter braise wafting through the house when the chill of the end of winter still lingers. Many people think warmth when they think of the Mediterranean, but the Mediterranean can be surprisingly cold in March. In Provence, the Camargue is a wild and beautiful region located south of Arles in Provence between the Mediterranean and the two arms of the Rhône River delta. It is a land of horses and the giardiane are the cowboys who tend these herds. Giardiane means “guardians” so they are a bit more poetic than cowboys.

A favorite dish in the winter made in a style attributed to them is Tendrons de Veau à la Gardiane or braised veal in the style of the cowboys or the Camargue.

The powers to be in sixteenth-century Arles launched a serious effort of reclamation that turned the malaria-infested Camarague into a land that could support modest stock rearing on its alluvial lands. Young calves were not in great abundance–they were little and skinny–but by the nineteenth century there were greater numbers of cattle and they found their way into braised dishes, a popular means of cooking because the pot could be left unattended.

Tendrons de Veau à la Gardiane
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
This recipe is adapted from Jean-Noël Escudier’s late nineteenth-century Provençal cookbook. It is excellent served with spaghetti moistened with the remaining sauce or with risotto alla milanese.
Recipe type: Braise
Cuisine: Provençal
Serves: 4
  • 10 ounces pearl onions (about 3 cups)
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • One 3½ -pound veal breast with bone in or veal rib roast, trimmed of fat
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 garlic cloves, lightly crushed
  • ¼ pound white (common) mushrooms, stems removed and caps thinly sliced
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup finely chopped fresh or canned tomatoes
  • 12 imported green olives, stoned and chopped
  1. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil and blanch the pearl onions for 3 minutes to make it easier to peel them. Drain and slice off the root ends with a sharp paring knife. Peel by squeezing to pop off the skins.
  2. In a small skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-high heat, then cook the onions until softened, 3 to 4 minutes, stirring. Remove and set aside.
  3. In a large flameproof casserole, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat, then brown the breast or rib roast on both sides, 4 to 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the garlic, mushrooms, and the onions. Stir to distribute around the casserole and pour in the wine and tomatoes. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 2 hours, stirring the sauce occasionally. Add the olives and cook another 15 minutes.
  4. Transfer the veal breast to a serving platter. Surround the breast with the remaining vegetables in the casserole using a slotted ladle. Spoon some sauce over the veal breast and serve.


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