Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Pot au Feu and the suggestive butcher...

While I love shopping the open air markets in Italy and France for produce, my go-to market for everything I may need was the Super U in Beaulieu~sur~Mer. This is the largest market in the "golden triangle" {Beaulieu~sur~Mer, St. Jean ~ Cap Ferrat, and Villefranche} so it is a busy, high~volume proposition even in the off~season.

One of the great things about the Super U is that they always offer good suggestions for dinner. One day the butcher had all of the meats for a traditional French Pot~au~Feu, packaged up and ready to go. Pot~au-feu is a fundamental meal in France that has been around since the first caldron hung over an open fire {feu} filled with meat, vegetables and flavorful broth. Traditionally served with mustards, horseradish and cornichons, this is a great meal to serve for a cozy Sunday supper. The meat needs to cook for several hours to become tender, and it will make your kitchen smell fantastic. You could cook the meat a day or two before you want to serve it, and then finish the dish off, by cooking the vegetables in the broth, just before you are ready to serve.

The produce man got into the act too, packing up traditional vegetables and herbs for the brew, my kind of meal.

As you can imagine, there are as many recipes for this one~pot~meal as there are pots in france. Since my ingredients were pre~packaged for me, I am just going to take you through my process, with my notions on how to make this as easily and deliciously as possible. At the bottom of the post is a good basic Pot~au~Feu recipe from Food and Wine magazine, to give you reference for quantities.

The F & W recipe, however, does not include one of my favorite things about a good Pot~au~Feu.. cabbage rolls. Some consider the cabbage rolls, which are more like a wrapped dumpling, to be optional, but I think they are mandatory!

So, we'll start with...

Splendid Cabbage Rolls
yield 6 rolls
2 eggs
3/4 cup bread crumbs {I used a day old baguette}
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped ham
salt and pepper

Pick unbruised outer leaves off of the cabbage, trim the ends and wash them. Boil them in salted water for about 3 minutes until they turn bright green and a pliable.

Mix the rest of the ingredients together in a medium bowl. Scoop about 1/4 cup of the mix onto each of the cabbage leaves,

 roll it up, not too tight {because the bread will expand},

and tie each of the rolls with kitchen twine, set aside until you are about ready to serve.

For the Pot~au~Feu, the first step is to make a flavorful broth while cooking the beef. In a large pot of water add a bouquet garni. Monsieur Produce was a little stingy on the herbs, so I added a bunch of parsley and more sprigs of thyme to this herby bundle.

I also add an onion studded with 4 cloves, and the tops of the celery and leeks. In the recipe below, she adds tomato paste and peppercorns at this stage, which also sounds tasty.

Once the water reaches a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and allow it to cook for 2-3 hours until the beef is tender and falling to pieces. Add more water, as needed, to keep the beef fully covered. Skim the soup as needed. When it is finish, put a colander over a clean soup pot and pour the soup through the colander. Reserve the beef and throw out the vegetables and herbs. At this stage, you could put the beef in the broth and refrigerate it for a day or two until you are ready to serve, or keep on going.

Put the broth and beef on the flame and bring to a simmer, then cook the vegetables in the broth. The recipe below is a little more complicated, I like cooking everything in the broth. Start with the potatoes {I actually used sweet potatoes} since they take longer to cook. When the potatoes are just tender, add chunks of carrots, turnips, celery, leeks and any other vegetables you'd like to use. 

When the vegetables are tender, use tongs or a slotted spoon to lift them from the broth and display them, grouped by vegetable, on a platter. Slice or shred the meat and put it on another platter.

Put the broth in in a tureen and allow guests to prepare their bowls.

Don't forget the mustards, horseradish, cornichons and those cabbage rolls.

Here is the recipe from Josette Rionadato, for Food and Wine. She recommends serving this with a Medoc wine, which is probably a more appropriate wine than the rosé I served, but I can't really drink red wines and I love the dry, crisp rosé from this region and think it tastes great with everything.

Here is the recipe for Pot~au~feu, 
contributed to Food & Wine by Josette Rionadato

  1. 6 quarts water
  2. 6 pounds beef short ribs, cut into 2-inch pieces
  3. 1 onion stuck with 4 cloves
  4. 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  5. 3 thyme sprigs
  6. 10 whole peppercorns
  7. Kosher salt
  8. 1 small green cabbage (2 pounds), quartered lengthwise and cored
  9. 8 leeks, white and light green only
  10. 2 celery ribs, halved crosswise
  11. 8 carrots, halved crosswise
  12. 2 large turnips, peeled and quartered
  13. 8 large boiling potatoes, peeled
  14. Dijon mustard, cornichons and freshly ground pepper, for serving
  1. Boil the water in a large pot. Add the beef and return to a boil; skim. Add the onion, tomato paste, thyme and peppercorns. Season with salt and simmer over low heat for 3 hours, skimming.
  2. Cook the cabbage in boiling salted water for 5 minutes; retrieve. Tie the leeks and celery into a bundle with string. Add the cabbage, leek and celery bundle, carrots and turnips to the beef and simmer over moderately low heat for 30 minutes.
  3. Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water until tender, about 20 minutes; drain. Add the potatoes to the beef and cook until all the vegetables and the meat are tender, about 20 minutes longer.
  4. Skim the broth. Remove the leek bundle from the pot and discard the string. Spoon the meat and vegetables into soup plates, ladle a little of the broth over them and serve. Pass the mustard, cornichons, salt and pepper separately.

bon appetite!


thefarmfiles said...

What a gorgeous table you have set there! I can't wait to try those cabbage rolls...thanks for the recipe. How clever that they package the produce together...makes things much easier on the cook!

Julienne said...

I love the little cabbage rolls. We used to call them "wasgoed bondeltjies" which translated means" little bundles of laundry" . There were many different variations, but always a hit!

Splendid Market said...

Farmflies: it was interesting how there are so many ways that they simplify the home cooking process. I assume it is because good food is such a way of life there, the kitchens, in general are quite compact compared to those in the US. Let me know if you have a chance to try the recipe and any yummy variations you come up with.

JK - the the bundle of laundry name, were they typically poached as well??