Serves: 12
Cooking time: 2 hours

Pot-au-feu, literally “pot on the fire,” is one of the most basic—and possibly the most beloved—dishes in the French canon.


Ingredients

  • 3 whole veal shanks
  • 2 onions
  • 4 cloves
  • 2½ oz. (70 g) fresh ginger
  • 4 lemongrass stalks (optional)
  • 3 garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • 2 tbsp mixed peppercorns
  • 4 chicken bouillon cubes dissolved in 8½ cups/2 liters water
  • 12 sweet, crisp carrots
  • 6 parsnips
  • 12 leeks, white parts only
  • 4 fennel bulbs
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

To serve

  • 1 large tbsp per person of vermicelli noodles, cooked according to the package instructions (optional)
  • Mustard, assorted pickles such as cornichons and baby onions, baby pattypan squash, and baby beets

Directions

1Place the veal shanks side by side in 1 large or 2 medium Dutch ovens. Peel the onions and stud each with two cloves, peel and thinly slice the ginger, and quarter the lemongrass stalks (if using). Add the onions, garlic, ginger, peppercorns, and lemongrass to the pot(s), season with salt, and add enough chicken broth to just cover the veal shanks. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce the heat to very low, and cook for 1½ hours, or until the meat is fall-off-the-bones tender. Cook for an additional 15–20 minutes, if necessary.

2Meanwhile, prepare the vegetables. Peel the carrots and parsnips. Remove the tough outer leaves from the leeks, wash them, and cut all three vegetables into 2-in. (5-cm) pieces, or leave them whole. Remove the tough outer leaves from the fennel and cut the bulbs into quarters.

3Lift the meat out of the pot with a skimmer and transfer it to a large sauté pan. Add 3 ladlefuls of broth and strain the remaining broth through a fine-mesh sieve into a large saucepan—the broth should be perfectly clear. Discard the lemongrass and ginger. Add the carrots and parsnips to the broth and bring to a boil.

4Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 10 minutes, then add the leeks and fennel. Cook for an additional 10 minutes, or until the vegetables are al dente. Using a skimmer, lift the vegetables out of the broth and place around the veal in the sauté pan, if the pan is large enough. If not, place the vegetables in a microwave-safe dish and reheat in the microwave with a ladleful of broth just before serving.

5Taste the fragrant, clear broth and add more salt or pepper as necessary. If there is not enough to serve twelve people (about 24 ladlefuls), add more chicken broth or water. Serve the broth as a starter, with or without noodles.

6For the second course, gently reheat the veal shanks and vegetables. Transfer the veal shanks, either whole or with the meat in large pieces (it should easily break apart with a spoon), to a large serving dish. Arrange the vegetables around the meat, or serve them separately. Accompany with mustard and assorted pickles in small dishes, as sides for guests to help themselves.

Extracted from Enjoy: Recipes for Memorable Gatherings by Perla Servan-Schreiber (Flammarion, 2020).

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