Our Daily Dinner

Our Daily Dinner

February 13, 2011


I finally cooked pot-au-feu, the ultimate winter dish. I nearly gave up before I started because the various cook books I consulted called for bottom round, beef shanks, oxtail, short ribs, marrow bones and chicken to start with. But where, I asked myself, was that written? Pot au feu, the classic French peasant dish, simply means pot on the fire. Like stone soup, you can put into the pot whatever you like. In my case I narrowed it down to boned beef shank, short rib of beef, one marrow bone thrown in by my obliging butcher, plus four vegetables.

Patricia Wells, one of my favorite food writers, makes a point of cooking the vegetable separately, arguing that each vegetable will retain its character and the finished dish will be less fatty.


Wine: Fleurie “Domaine de la Chapelle des Bois” 2008
Dessert: Chocolate

Recipe Pot-au-feu

Day 1 Meat

1 pound boned beef shank
1 pound short ribs of beef
Opt. one marrow bone
Bouquet garni (pepper corns, sprigs of Italian parsley, 2 bay leaves, dried thyme tied in cheesecloth)
1 large yellow onion, studded with clove

Tie the beef shank and short ribs into two separate bundles. Place into a stockpot to hold, together with the marrow bone. Cover with water. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Let simmer for about 40 minutes, continuously skimming the surface, removing all impurities or grease. (This is the most tedious part of the entire operation)

Season the liquid with coarse salt. Add the onion and the bouquet garni. Skim again and simmer for 2 to 3 hours or till the meat is tender.
At this point, I discarded the onion, bouquet garni and removed the string from the meat. I moistened the meat with some of the liquid, covered it, and put it into the refrigerator. I poured the liquid through a strainer and placed it, covered, into the refrigerator.

Day 2 Vegetables

3 carrots, peeled and cut into bite-sized portions
1 small celery root, peeled and cubed
3 turnips, peeled and cut into bite-sized portions
2 leeks, washed and trimmed to about 5 inches

Dijon mustard
Sea salt

Place the carrots and celery root into a pot, cover with the cooking liquid (surface fat removed), and cook for about 25 minutes. Add
the turnips and cook for another 15; add the leeks and cook for 10 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.

Meanwhile reheat the cooking broth. Slice the meat as desired and warm in the liquid.

To serve: Place the meat on a platter and arrange the cooked vegetables around it. Ladle a bit of broth over the pot-au-feu. Offer the condiments, together with pieces of lightly toasted baguette.

As usual, George’s observation was right. “No point cooking the vegetables separately,” he said. “After all, this is a one pot dish.”

Following the advice of my wine guru, Will Helburn of Rosenthal Wine Merchant, I had decanted the Beaujolais several hours before serving. It seemed pretentious, but Helburn insisted it would make a difference. “Most wines improve when allowed to breathe for a few hours,” he insisted. “Taste the wine before and after.”

Good heaven, he was right! While I didn’t particularly like the wine at first, it had morphed into superior Beaujolais which pulled the meal together nicely.

Am I going to cook pot-au-feu again? Unlikely. But it was an interesting experience.

1 comment:

Linda said...

This dish intrigued me and made me yearn to try one.
The next day, while perusing menupages.com, I spotted a local place that had pot au feu. I wonder if they follow the time-cosuming process that you did. I may try the restaurant route rather than attempting one of my own.