Home on the Range

Hot pot for a cold snap

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Pot au feu means pot on the fire. The sort that sits on the back burner all day, bubbling. The French farm wife, puttering around her handsome, rustic kitchen, might toss in the spare turnip, sack of potatoes, marrowbone, pig knuckle, hunk of beef, string of sausages and whole hen.

Late in the day, her two-course meal is ready. She ladles the broth into bowls and spreads the marrow on toast. And follows with a table-side magic act: pulling from the caldron turnip, potato, pork, beef, sausage and hen — entertainment for a cold night and hearty appetite.

Lacking farmhouse, handsome kitchen and caldron, we still manage pot au feu. Not one teeming with pig knuckles and marrowbones, nor one simmered all day. But a reasonable stockpot reasonably crowded with carrots and pork shoulder, a dish equal to the challenge of cold night and hearty appetite.

We like to arrange the sharp turnips, smoky sausage and earthy leeks in earthen bowls, ones shaped and glazed by the family's newest potter. After all, pot au feu can also mean the pot itself. The earnest homemade meal looks at home in its earnest homemade pot.

Pot au feu

Prep: 45 minutes
Cook: About 1 hour, 45 minutes
Serves: 6

Ingredients:
2 pounds boneless pork shoulder (butt), rolled and tied
2 cloves garlic, peeled and trimmed
1 onion, peeled, trimmed and quartered
1 bouquet garni (thyme, parsley and bay leaf tied into cheesecloth)
1 tablespoon coarse salt
10 peppercorns
3 smoked sausages, such as andouille
12 slim carrots, peeled and trimmed
12 small, waxy potatoes (such as red or yukon gold), whole
3 leeks, white and pale green sliced into 1-inch rings, soaked and drained
2 turnips, peeled, trimmed and quartered
1 celery root, peeled, trimmed and cut into wedges
Dijon mustard
Horseradish
Cornichons

Skim:
Settle pork shoulder in a soup pot. Pour in cold water just to cover and bring barely to a simmer. Let simmer 15 minutes, skimming all foam.

Simmer:
Add garlic, onion, bouquet garni, salt and peppercorns. Simmer, covered, skimming as needed, 45 minutes.

Simmer:
Add sausages and remaining vegetables (and more water, if needed, just to cover). Simmer, covered, until meat and vegetables are tender, about 45 minutes.

Serve:
Discard bouquet. Pull out pork and slice thick slabs against the grain. Cut sausages into big chunks. Settle meat and vegetables on a platter. Ladle on about 1 cup hot broth (save the rest for making soup). Serve hot with mustard, horseradish and pickles.

Leah Eskin is a Tribune special contributor e-mail her at leahreskin@aol.com
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