Serve this Pot au Feu with the soup, bread and vegetables together. (Noel Barnhurst)
“Pot au feu” translates as “pot on the fire,” but is often referred to as a “French boiled dinner.” It is easy to put together, but takes awhile to cook, so plan on staying nearby. It’s a perfect dish for a chilly Sunday afternoon or evening. Most versions include a bouquet garni that adds extra flavor. (See below for how to make a bouquet garni.) While it is traditionally served in two courses, first the soup and then the meat and vegetables, this version is simpler to serve and more informal.
If you’ve never enjoyed pot au feu, think of it as a French version of corned beef and cabbage. Similar in technique, the two dishes are worlds apart in flavor and sophistication. New England boiled dinner features corned beef, cabbage and root vegetables in a slightly salty broth. Pot au feu is a slow simmer of beef brisket and beef shanks along with beef marrow, leeks, potatoes and carrots in a rich broth.
The brisket and shank meat require long, slow simmering to tenderize the meat. A definite bonus is the marrow in the center of the shank bones that is often considered a delicacy. It can be scooped out of the center of the shank bones and either spread on a slice of bread or served alongside the meat.
Don’t forget the horseradish cream, coarse sea salt, gherkins and whole grain Dijon mustard to serve on the side. Have your guests put a dollop of horseradish cream or mustard in the soup and stir it around to give a zippy flavor to the long simmering broth. A loaf of crusty bread is perfect for dipping into the pot au feu.
Pot au feu tips:
■To make a bouquet garni, cut a double thickness of cheesecloth into a 4-inch square; place 2 tablespoons of black peppercorns, 2 bay leaves, 1 small leek (white part only) on top; tie with kitchen twine.
■Use any leftover meat for salads or sandwiches.
■If you prefer to serve this in two courses, cook some tiny pasta with the broth and serve it first; than arrange the meat and vegetables on a platter and serve with the condiments.
Pot au Feu
3 quarts chicken broth or 3 quarts water
3 ½ pounds first-cut brisket
4 (¾ to 1 pound) beef shanks with marrow bone in center
1 bouquet garni
8 carrots, peeled and sliced in half crosswise
8 small red potatoes, cleaned
8 medium leeks, white and light green part only, cleaned and cut lengthwise, leaving the root attached
Salt to taste
Coarse sea salt
In a large soup or stock pot, combine the stock or water, brisket, beef shanks and bouquet garni on medium heat. Make sure that the beef is well covered with liquid. Bring to a gentle simmer, uncovered, making sure it does not come to a rolling boil, about 20-30 minutes. Use a slotted spoon and skim the scum and froth from the top.
Partially cover the pot, reduce the heat to low, and gently simmer the meat for about 2 ½ hours, or until the meat is fork tender. Skim the soup periodically to remove the impurities. Remove the meat to a platter, using a fork and a slotted spoon. Cover the meat with foil to keep warm.
Add the vegetables and salt, and gently simmer on medium-low heat for another 20 to 30 minutes or until the vegetables are just tender. Discard the bouquet garni.
While the vegetables are cooking, place the mustard, horseradish cream, sea salt and gherkins in small ramekins. Place on the serving table. Slice the bread and place in a basket for serving.
Place the brisket and shank meat on a cutting board. Thinly slice the brisket against the grain and break up the shank meat into pieces. Taste the soup and season to taste, if necessary.
Place some meat and vegetables in each soup bowl and ladle over the broth and serve immediately. Serve with the condiments. Pass sliced bread to dip in the soup. Serves 8.
Per serving (without condiments or bread): 627 calories; 24 g fat (9 g saturated fat; 34 percent calories from fat); 32 g carbohydrates; 9 g sugar; 186 mg cholesterol; 454 mg sodium; 67 g protein; 4 g fiber.
Diane Rossen Worthington can be reached at seriouslysimple.com