The Pièce de Résistance Elevating a French classic from excellent to sublime Although pot-au-feu, the national dish

of France, has been called "the foundation of empires," it's essentially just a soup that requires a knife and fork. The flavorful broth or bouillon is often served first, dotted with croutons and sprinkled with Gruyère cheese. The main dish, or bouilli—a platter of boiled meats and mixed vegetables—follows with gherkins and a variety of mustards and sauces alongside. The two courses can also be combined into one. View Full Image Tara Donne for The Wall Street Journal; Food Styling by Martha Bernabe BANG-UP: Sausage is indispensable to a flavorful pot-au-feu. In Marcel Rouff's classic French novel "The Passionate Epicure," the protagonist wows his dinner guests by floating artichoke hearts "…like treasure islands…laden with a butter-fried-stuffing in which carps' roes and mushrooms were mashed up together with cream" atop the broth and serves the dish along with an entire foie gras poached in Chambertin. I leave these marvels to fictional characters as they are not necessary; even the most basic potau-feu is both the epitome of simplicity at its finest and a deeply satisfying comfort food. It was during college—at Henri IV, my favorite Harvard Square restaurant back then—that I first experienced authentic pot-au-feu, a delicious far cry from the boiled dinners of my childhood. Once out of school and with a kitchen of my own, I began teaching myself to cook in earnest, working my way, à la Julie, through Julia Child. When it came time to tackle pot-au-feu, the results went far beyond my expectations, even better than I'd remembered from Henri IV. Pot-au-feu has always been in my holiday repertoire. It's a crowd-pleaser that's relatively easy to prepare; once the multitude of ingredients are assembled, making this one-dish meal is essentially just a matter of connecting the dots. Ingredients include boned beef, shin of beef, fresh pork, a stewing hen or chicken, smoked sausage and chicken livers as well as both soup vegetables and garnish vegetables. I recommend also including the optional veal knuckle, meat bones and chicken scraps as they elevate your pièce de résistance from excellent to sublime. Flavors deepen and mellow when made in advance so that on the day of, there is nothing to do but skim the fat from atop the cooled stew, reheat and relax. For dessert, nothing beats an apple or pear Tarte Tatin this time of year. Or just heat and serve a fruit tart from your local bakery. No one will be the wiser, and any dinner with pot-au-feu center stage will bring down the house. The Recipe (Serves 16) Meat: 4 pounds boned beef—a combination of two or more of the following: brisket, shoulder, chuck and top rib. 2 pounds shin of beef, with bone (All of the meats above should have excess fat removed and be tied up in string by the butcher to prevent their falling apart during cooking.) 8 chicken livers plus 2 pounds optional necks, gizzards, poultry scraps and/or carcasses 1 4-pound piece of pork from the butt, picnic, rolled shoulder 1 4-pound stewing hen (if unavailable use a roasting chicken but only cook for 1 hour.) Optional: 1 veal knuckle bone, 2 pounds beef or veal bones and/or 1 large marrow bone Soup Vegetables: 3 medium yellow onions, peeled and each one stuck with 1 whole clove 3 carrots, peeled 3 ribs celery 2 parsnips, peeled

Add garnish vegetable "packages" to cook with remaining meat or with just the bones if all the meat is done. transfer each piece of meat that is done to the bowl with the sausage. Cut strings short enough not to catch fire. unpeeled and cut in half 1 bouquet garni 1 2-pound piece of mild. While meats are cooking. and heap . 8. 1 large yellow onion. 3. wait 24 to 48 hours before step 8. 6. chicken. add it to bowl. 2. Continue simmering for 30 minutes. refrigerate for several hours and then degrease. check doneness. and potatoes in reduced broth. and carcasses. garnish vegetables. After meats and bones have cooked 2½ hours total. transfer packages to a platter to cool. Skim it off and repeat this process for 15 minutes or until only a bit of white froth remains. about 20 minutes. Immediately turn down to a simmer and add salt. transfer it to the bowl with the sausage. cabbage. washed 1 head cover by 6 inches. cover. cut into wedges and boiled until tender 10 medium boiled peeled potatoes. Surround meats with vegetables grouped by color.meats and vegetables -. Cook the other meats 2 hours more. When done. and any other solids in the strainer. check the chicken. bouquet garni and sausage. 4. A thick gray scum will accumulate on the surface. Adjust seasonings and reheat meat. leaving the strings hanging over the side of the pot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. scraps. The water will return to a simmer and more scum will rise up. If possible. or a mixture (enough to cover the meat by six inches) 2 teaspoons kosher salt or sea salt Garnish Vegetables: 5 very large carrots. Carve chicken and slice meats and place in the middle of a hot serving platter. At this point. halved after cooking 1 small bunch fresh chervil tied up in cheesecloth (optional) WHAT TO DO: 1. and moisten with several ladlefuls of cooking liquid. When rest of the meat is done. remove with a slotted spoon. 5 large leeks. 3 large parsnips.later on. Tie a long piece of kitchen string securely around each piece of beef and pork and also around the hen and add each one to pot on top of the bones. 7. Discard large bones and any small bones that have come loose during cooking. Cover and refrigerate. Place bones in bottom of a stockpot or Dutch oven large enough to comfortably hold all the ingredients. Add stock -. sausage. 3 medium turnips. When done. Transfer sausage to a bowl large enough for all the soup solids .2 whole leeks. Reserve broth. As ready. Remove and discard strings and cheesecloth. 9. Strain cooking liquid and discard bouquet garni. chopped and trimmed. To continue. trimmed. Continue simmering until all meats are meltingly tender. chopped and sautéed in butter or olive oil until brown 1 small white cabbage. all washed. When scum is thick and compact. tie garnish vegetables in 1 or more cheesecloth "packages" to facilitate getting them in and out of the pot. Add soup vegetables. Place chicken livers on top along with optional poultry giblets. 5. Remove any scum stuck to sides of pot. lightly smoked country or Polish sausage Approximately 12 cups of room temperature beef or chicken stock.and water if necessary -. simmer degreased broth with the sautéed onion for 5 to 10 minutes until reduced and intensely flavorful. Add ½ cup of cold water to stop the simmering. When cool. soup vegetables.

vegetables and potatoes. Pass any sauces of your choice (mustards or whipped heavy cream with horseradish are nice) as well as pitcher of broth to moisten meat. or chives for color as well as taste.cabbage to one side. chervil. 10. Serve the potatoes separately with a dusting of chopped fresh parsley. .

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