A Winter’s Tale: Pot-Au-Feu
About a month ago at a book signing, I picked up a copy of David Tannis’ new book, One Good Dish. The book celebrates “the pleasures of a simple meal,” and is completely in keeping with my preferred approach to cooking of late.
Sure I learned how to push a hollandaise into a béarnaise and on to a sauce valois, but I can’t tell you the last time I did either (or was fascinated by a recipe that required it). More likely, I’m roasting pans of whatever root vegetables are in season and making aioli to smear them with; dousing orecchiette with pesto; poaching eggs in swirling water for a frissée salad.
Is this a half-assed approach to cuisine? Maybe…but it’s delicious, likely healthier, and a helluva lot more manageable in a kitchen the size of a cronut.
So after a couple of blissful days of Thanksgiving leftover turkey sandwiches, I tried Tannis’ recipe (well, his grandmother’s grandmother’s recipe) for vegetable pot-au-feu. I needed something that could sustain me during a week of lunches at my desk and keep the cold at bay, and what better than a stew of vegetables?
A note on the recipe: I used half water and half homemade chicken stock because I had it—leftover from a recent Sunday roast—in my freezer, and though Tannis’ recipe tells you to peel your veg, I elected to to scrub not not peel my carrots and turnips, because I like their bright hues and their organic skin is too tender to be disposed of. As for the shelled peas, I couldn’t find any, so finished my pot-au-feu with fresh dill and parsley.
¼ lb thick-sliced pancetta or bacon (optional)
6 tablespoons butter
6 small onions, quartered
1 bay leaf
1 large thyme sprig
1 lb Yukon Gold or other yellow-fleshed potatoes, peeled & cut into 2-inch chunks
½ lb medium carrots, peeled & cut in half
salt & pepper
1 medium leek, trimmed & cut into 1-inch slices
8 small turnips, about 2 inches in diameter, peeled & quartered
1 cup shelled peas
Cut the bacon into ½-inch-wide lardons. Put them in a small pot, cover with water, and simmer for 2 minutes, then drain.
Melt the butter in a large cast iron pot over medium heat. Add the bacon and onions, turn up the heat to medium-high, and cook, stirring well for a minute or so. Add the bay leaf, thyme sprig, potatoes and carrots and stir to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Add 1 cup of water or stock and bring to a brisk simmer. Put the lid on and cook, adjusting the heat if necessary, for 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are just done.
Gently stir in the leek and turnips and add a little salt, if needed, and a splash of water if the pot seems to be getting dry. Replace the lid and cook for 5 to 8 minutes more, until the turnips are tender. Add the peas and cook for a minute or two. Make sure to spoon some of the pot juices over each serving…I knew I wanted mine brothy, so used extra liquid from the start.
Every day this week when I heat up my lunch, I might add some torn herbs, a crumbled pequin pepper or a dollop of aioli to keep things interesting, but these embellishments aren’t necessary. Not for this one good dish.
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