If you had experienced today’s weather in Paris you would have reconsidered your daydreams about the French capital, believe me. When I saw the dark grey clouds this morning, spitting out that awful mix of snow and rain, my ways automatically led to my trusted butcher just around the corner in the ever more fancy Rue de Bretagne – and the
idea of a heart-warming pot-au-feu for dinner was born right away.
It’s a legendary dish of France, of course, but preparation is free of any miracles. You’ll need some not-so-noble (and therefore cheap!) parts of beef like brisket, flank or alike. I’m afraid though that only the real French cuts like macreuse, jumeau, paleron, plat de cote plus some original French marrow bones will do the trick.
Anyway: You have to put the meat and the bones into cold water and bring to a boil before you can really start cooking (that’s important to get rid of those greyish, unpleasant
impurities). After that, you clean everything and start all over: combine meat and bones with carrots, leeks, parsley (or parsley root which I prefer).
You MUST add two halves of burnt, yes, terribly burnt onions (they add color and taste, learn about the Maillard reaction, essential to all cooking!). Black peppercorns are needed, celery stalks, unpeeled cloves of garlic, coarse sea salt, a good pinch of thyme, one or two mushrooms are nice – and the rest is a waiting game.
Put everything in cold water and once your bouillon starts boiling, count three hours but not more than three-and-a-half to avoid a gluey texture. During the cooking time, stay by the pot like a mother watching over her loved ones and skim whatever scum may surface (that’ll end after 50 minutes or so).
Once done, the culinary possibilities of your broth/bouillon are endless: You can just eat it as it is – that’s what we’ve done tonight and it was a rustic, pleasant meal. You can sieve the whole thing, cool it, remove all fat – and you’ll have an excellent basis for soups, risotti, sauces or any kind of very healthy mash for your babies.
(Let me add that I had a conversation with Sissi today, she runs the wonderful blog With A Glass, about the splendour of Japanese dashi broth. It definitely is superior to beef stock for many reasons. But still, beef stock is so cozy!).