Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Pot au feu

I know for some spring is in the air, but for those of us in the Laurentians of Quebec it seems that winter is just beginning. Snow has finally fallen here and it is time to give a last salute to braised meats. Pot au feu is a classic and one I love making, eating and looking at so it is a perfect recipe for my blog. My kids on the other hand would take chicken nuggets over pot au feu any day so I hold back a lot on my braising urges. However their taste buds are starting to mature, and when all else fails there is nothing like having a great dessert lined up to threaten not allowing. It is not how I envisioned dinner with my family: vague threats uttered by me and a considerable amount of complaining by my children. Such is mealtimes with my little guys, and I am certainly never shocked by the lack of appreciation for my cooking.

Having said all this I did make pot au feu a few weekends ago. It was convenient because we would be out all day and I needed to serve a larger than usual crowd. I served it to my and a friend's children, and heard not a peep from any of them! They were not even aware of the dessert options. It gave me hope for a brighter tomorrow around the dinner table.

Beef Shank

There are two cuts of beef that I refer for Pot au feu. Blade roast or beef shank. If you go with a blade roast then ask your butcher for a few beef bones with marrow to add to the pot au feu.

Pot au feu
30 ml / 1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and freshly cracked pepper
1 large blade roast or beef shank* For the beef shank you will have to ask a butcher to prepare it for you as it is not a popular cut. It is very lean and contains a lot of collagen which gives great body to the dish. The marrow is delicious too!
250 ml /1 cup of red wine
1 large leek, cleaned and sliced
4 litres of beef or vegetable stock
5-10 vidalia or sweet onions, peeled but whole
5 large carrots, peeled and cut in three
5 stalks of celery, cut in three
5 parsnips, peeled and cut in large pieces
2 bay leaves
pinch of thyme
pinch of crushed peppers corns
5 garlic cloves, crushed
several sprigs of savory

Pre-heat oven to 93 C / 2oo F.

In a dutch oven or other large thick bottomed pot with a tight fitting lid, heat the olive oil on medium high. Generously salt and pepper the meat on both sides. Brown the meat on all sides and then remove and set aside. Saute the leek in the same fat for five minutes or until slightly browned. Deglaze the dutch oven with the wine and scrap up the brown bits with a wooden spoon. Return the browned meat to the dutch oven, then add the beef stock, the vegetables, and the remaining ingredients. Bring to a simmer on the stove top. Once simmering, cover and place in the middle rack of oven for minimum 4 hours and up to 8 hours. This recipe could easily be made in a slow cooker.

Blade roast

When you remove your pot au feu from the oven there are several ways to go. You can serve it as is, or strain out the liquid, reduce it and then add it back to the meat and veg. You can add cream to the reduce braising liquid and season it to your taste. You can slice the meat, and serve the vegetables and braising liquid separately. There are many ways to go here depending on the amount of time you have and how much you feel like fussing. I have also, on occasion, added a cup of barley for the last hour of cooking to absorb the liquid, and to add a no fuss starch. This dish is very versatile. If you have a lot of braising liquid left over you could make beef and barley soup. Pot au feu is traditionally served with mustard and pickled vegetables.

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