Have you ever made something and then seen it posted everywhere days later? The Accidental Locavore did that the other day, purely by accident, attempting my take on Rachel Khoo’s version of pot au feu. Then, in the Food 52 newsletter, what is the star of the show? Yup – or should I say oui? – pot au feu. You may know it as New England boiled dinner or bolito misto – no matter, it’s essentially some nice, big hunks of beef stewed for a long time with root vegetables (I can see you’re wondering, what makes pot au feu different from beef stew? With pot au feu, the liquid is a clear broth, which you get from cooking the meat slowly in water and skimming off any junk that floats to the top). You can eat it all together, or serve the broth separately. Part of the fun with it is all the side dishes: cornichons, pickled onions, mustards, horseradish and various sauces to add or not, as you see fit. It’s a great excuse to play with your food and make every bite different!
Traditionally, it’s made with a variety of beef parts and what they all have in common is that they’re usually inexpensive parts and they’re the bits that do well with long slow cooking. We happened to have some oxtails and beef shanks, courtesy of Susan at Brykill Farms who added them to our annual share of an eighth of a cow, knowing that we’d find something creative to do with them. Here’s a heads-up: if you, too, want to be on the cutting edge, look for beef shanks to be the next trendy “undiscovered” bit of beef soon to be trending upwards. And with Susan’s beautiful local grass-fed beef, I knew whatever I cooked was going to be great!
Rachel called for beef cheeks and oxtails in her recipe, Food 52 uses short ribs and Patricia Wells uses shanks, short ribs and marrow bones in Bistro Cooking. The idea is to have a mix with some hefty bones to flavor and enrich the broth. When the meat is almost ready to serve, you add in root vegetables. Things like carrots, parsnips, turnips that won’t turn to mush and cloud up your broth. Potatoes are an option but purists usually cook them separately and add them to the serving platter. Same with cabbage cut in chunks, which I like to add so you have the green veg thing working.
What’s your favorite accompaniment to pot au feu?