Pot-au-feu is a simple and wonderfully flavorful old-school French classic. My version is slightly varied from the pot-au-feu recipe in Charles Virion’s French Country Cookbook. Although I found a wonderful version in The River Cottage Meat Book, I decided to be more thrifty and stick closer to Virion’s version. Virion recommends chicken giblets and feet for the stock in his recipe, but we were fresh out of those ingredients, so I just used beef shin. No biggie.
This dish is traditionally served in two courses. First, the delicious beefy broth is served with chopped fresh chervil or parsley, followed by the meat and boiled vegetables. As an added bonus, you should be left with quite a bit of beef stock that you can use within the next couple of days for other dishes. Woody made saffron lentils in beef stock the next day which benefited hugely from the sumptuous stock. Plus, I had my butcher slice a good marrowbone in half lengthwise, which I roasted and served with little buckwheat blinis and a shallot vinaigrette. It was indulgent and delicious. Just get a large stockpot, you’ll need a biggie.
5 lb. or more beef shin bones
3 lb. beef brisket (I had my butcher cut me the “flat end” as opposed to the “tip end” which was meatier and less fatty)
Bouquet garni in a cheesecloth bag: 1 sprig fresh parsley, 6 celery leaves, 2 bay leaves, 1/2 teaspoon peppercorns, 4 cloves, 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves)
1 Tbsp. good quality sea salt
Enough water to cover the beef shin and brisket by about three to four inches
6 carrots, halved lengthwise
3 large yellow onions
3 or 4 stalks celery
5 parsnips, halved (or quartered, if they’re oversized like American parsnips tend to be) lengthwise
4 leeks, outside leaves discarded, and cut down to remove the hard leafy ends and the roots
1/2 cabbage (which I left out)
5 or 6 yukon golds (I had some sweet potatoes on hand, so I went about half-and-half yukons and sweet potatoes)
Garnishes: 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh chervil for consommé (substitute parsley if you can’t find chervil) and 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley for the meat
Some good, grainy mustard and gherkins to enjoy with the brisket.
1) In a large soup kettle, place the shinbones, brisket, bouquet garni, salt, and water. Bring to a boil and skim the foamy fat off the top of the liquid often.
2) Reduce the heat and let the liquid simmer for 3 to 4 hours (no fewer than 3) until the meat is easily pierced with a fork and is becoming tender.
3) Add the vegetables and resume the simmering for 1 more hour, or until the vegetables are tender. Keep skimming the fat from the top of the water if it continues to collect.
4) When the brisket is tender and the veggies are cooked through, remove them from the broth. Remove the shin bones and the bouquet garni. Strain your broth and reserve it.
5) Serve the broth hot with chopped fresh chervil or parsley.
6) Place the soup meat in the center of a large platter and place the veggies around it. Sprinkle with finely chopped, fresh parsley. Serve after soup course with grainy mustard and gherkins.