(recipe, Anthony Bourdain)
To make a Frenchman cry, Anthony Bourdain says, serve him a nice bowl of pot-au-feu, or what he calls “soul food for socialists . . . Who would have thought that a big pile of boiled meat and vegetables could be so good?”
- 1 lb. tender beef shoulder or brisket
- 6 pieces of oxtail, cut 1½ inches thick
- 6 beef short ribs
- 1 veal shank, on the bone
- 8 whole cloves
- 2 onions, cut in half
- 6 leeks, white part only
- 2 small celery roots, cut into quarters
- 4 carrots, cut into 4-inch lengths
- 1 bouquet garni (see Note)
- Salt and pepper
- 4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut in half
- 1 head of cabbage, cored and cut into 6 to 8 wedges
- ½ lb. cornichons
- 1 cup large-grained sea salt
- 1 cup hot prepared mustard
- In a huge pot, combine the beef, oxtail, short ribs, and veal shank, and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat, and as soon as the water comes to a boil, remove from the heat. Set the meat aside and throw out the water. Clean the pot. Seriously, do it. Then put the meat right back inside.
- Push 2 cloves into each onion half and add the onions to the pot, along with the leeks, celery roots, carrots, and bouquet garni. Season with salt and pepper and cover with cold water.
- Bring the pot to a slow simmer, gradually, and let cook over medium-low heat for around 2½ hours, or until the meat is tender. Skim the cooking liquid with a ladle periodically to remove scum and foam. Add the potatoes and cabbage and cook for an additional 30 minutes, until soft. You want to maintain the structural integrity of the meat and vegetables. Adjust the seasoning as needed.
- Put the cornichons, sea salt, and hot mustard into separate ramekins and set on the table.
- Remove the beef from the pot and cut into 6 pieces. Remove the veal shank from the pot and cut the meat off the bone, again into 6 to 8 pieces. Using a marrow spoon, dig out all that lovely marrow from the inside of the veal bone.
- Arrange the oxtails, the meats, the marrow, and the vegetables in an attractively disheveled fashion on the serving platter and spoon some of the cooking liquid over and around it. Serve the rest of the liquid in a soup terrine.
- Alternatively, you can arrange the meats uncarved, with the vegetables around them, swimming in broth in a big, beautiful pile in a deep serving platter, and let your friends just tear at it like the savage animals they are. (I’m getting hungry just writing this recipe.)
A bouquet garni generally consists of 1 sprig of flat parsley, 2 sprigs of fresh thyme, and 1 bay leaf, tied with a string and used for flavoring.