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Corned beef and cabbage is considered a humble dish, something trotted out for St. Patrick's Day and eaten, it seems at times, almost out of obligation, as one eats traditional Thanksgiving dinner.

Yet it has a rightful place in the world's cuisines, alongside such dishes as France's pot-au-feu, Italy's bollito misto and even Vietnam's pho, to name a few traditional recipes that consist of meats, vegetables and seasonings simmered together for a long time.

There are always condiments served alongside and, in most instances, the broth is nearly as important as the ingredients that flavor it. France lifts the concept to its most refined expression, by serving the broth separately, as a first course, which is how traditional bouillabaisse is served, too.

Because St. Patrick's Day is on a Monday this year, you may want to cook your corned beef on Sunday. You might even invite friends and family for a leisurely midday meal, either traditional corned beef and cabbage or something more elaborate.

Then on Monday, you can either enjoy delicious leftovers or head to one of our many pubs and restaurants that will be offering a traditional meal.

Pot-au-feu is the classic boiled dinner of France and as you would expect, it is more refined than, say, New England boiled dinner or corned beef and cabbage. It is also a grand production and you shouldn't bother with it if time is an issue, as there are no shortcuts. But it is not difficult to make, especially if you turn up some good music and enjoy the process. If you have a television in your kitchen, you may want to pop in a French movie. Be certain that you have kitchen twine and plenty of cheesecloth before you start. You should also have a large beautiful platter for the carefully prepared meats and vegetables, as a grand presentation should part of the production. This recipe is adapted from one in Anne Willan's wonderful new book, "The Country Cooking of France" (Chronicle Books, 2007). The main liberty I have taken is to substitute tiny new potatoes for julienned celery root.


Makes 8 to 10 servings

2? pound chuck roast or beef brisket

3 pounds beef shanks

2 pounds beef short ribs

3 pounds beef marrow bones, cut in 3-inch lengths

1 celery stalk, diced

-- Bouquet garni of 3 thyme sprigs, 2 bay leaves and 5 parsley sprigs

1 cinnamon stick

1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns

1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more as needed

1 large yellow onion

4 cloves

2 pounds medium carrots, trimmed and quartered

10 leeks, trimmed, cut in half lengthwise and thoroughly cleaned

10 very small turnips, trimmed

20 tiny new potatoes

1 baguette, sliced and toasted until golden brown

3 tablespoons minced fresh Italian parsley

-- Whole grain mustard

-- Sel gris (sun-dried sea salt)

-- Cornichons

Tie the roast or brisket, the shanks and the short ribs tightly so that they do not fall apart while cooking. Set them in a large stock pot and add enough water to cover by at least 3 inches.

Wrap each marrow bone in a piece of cheesecloth, tie it shut with twine and tuck into the pot between the meats. Set the pot over medium low heat and bring to a boil very slowly, skimming off any foam as it forms. Do not let the water boil.

Wrap the celery, bouquet garni, cinnamon sticks and peppercorns in a piece of cheesecloth and tie it with twine. Add the package to the pot along with the salt.

Cut the onion in half and press the cloves into one half; add both halves to the pot.

Simmer, uncovered, very slowly for three hours; never let the liquid reach a full boil. Add more water as needed, pouring it in carefully, to keep everything submerged.

Meanwhile, wrap each vegetable in cheesecloth, i.e., the carrots in one package, etc. After the meat has been cooking for 3 hours, carefully add the packages of vegetables, pressing gently to submerge them and adding more water as needed. Continue to simmer gently until the vegetables are tender, about 1 hour.

Carefully transfer the packets of vegetables to a large platter that can hold their drippings. Transfer the meat and marrow bones to a cutting board.

Increase the heat under the broth to medium so that it boils; cook until it is reduced by about half and has a rich, concentrated flavor. If the vegetables release a lot of broth, tip it into the saucepan.

Taste the broth and season with salt as needed, strain into a clean saucepan and discard the onion and aromatics. Keep hot over very low heat.

Untie the meats and set them on a large serving platter. Remove the vegetables from the cheesecloth and arrange them alongside. Cover with aluminum foil and keep warm.

Untie the marrow bone packages. Scoop out the marrow and spread a little over each toasted baguette slice.

Serve the broth as a first course. Ladle it into soup plates, set 2 or 3 croutons on the rim of each plate and serve immediately.

To serve the main course, sprinkle the parsley over the meats and vegetables and serve immediately, with the condiments alongside.

In this almost traditional version of corned beef and cabbage, I have replaced half the onions with trimmed leeks for no reason other than that I love how they taste cooked in this manner. To turn this into a New England boiled dinner, see the variation at the end of this recipe.

Corned Beef and Cabbage with Leeks

Makes 8servings

1 raw brisket of corned beef, about 4 pounds

2 teaspoons black peppercorns

3 whole small dried chiles or 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 bay leaf

2 thyme sprigs

3 Italian parsley sprigs

3 medium onions, peeled and cut in quarters

3 to 4 medium leeks, white and pale green parts only, thoroughly cleaned and cut into 3-inch lengths

3 to 4 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 3-inch diagonal pieces

6 medium potatoes, scrubbed and cut into wedges

5 pounds cabbage, cored and cut into 3-inch wedges

? cup heavy cream

3 tablespoons prepared horseradish

2 teaspoons brined green peppercorns, crushed

3 tablespoons minced fresh Italian parsley

Rinse the corned beef under cool tap water. Set it in a large pot, add the peppercorns, chiles, bay leaf, thyme sprigs, parsley sprigs, half the onions and enough water to come about 4 inches above the brisket. Bring to a full boil over high heat, reduce the heat to medium low and use a large shallow spoon to skim off the foam and other impurities that rise to the surface.

Cover the pot, setting the lid slightly off center so that it is not a tight fit. Simmer 2 hours. Remove the lid and, using a slotted spoon, remove and discard the onions and herb sprigs. Add the leeks and carrots and simmer, partially covered, for 30 minutes. Add the potatoes and simmer until they are almost tender, about 20 minutes. Add the cabbage, pressing it down into the liquid (it will rise back up but don't worry about it). Cover the pot and simmer 20 minutes, or until the cabbage is tender but not mushy.

Meanwhile, put the cream into a small bowl and stir in the horseradish and 1 tablespoon of the minced parsley. Taste, season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Use a large fork or tongs to transfer the brisket to a serving platter; cover it loosely with aluminum foil and let rest 15 minutes. Slice the corned beef and return it to the platter. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the vegetables from the pot to the platter; sprinkle the parsley over the vegetables. Spoon a little of the cooking liquid over everything and serve immediately, with the horseradish cream on the side.

Variation: To make New England boiled dinner, cook 8 to 10 medium beets until tender, cool, peel and set aside. Add ?pound diced salt pork to the pot with the corned beef. Peel 3 small parsnips and 3 medium turnips, cut them into quarters and add them to the pot with the carrots and leeks. Serve as directed in the main recipe, adding the beets to the platter with the other vegetables.

Michele Anna Jordan hosts "Mouthful" each Sunday at 7 p.m. on KRCB 91.1 FM. E-mail Jordan at michele@micheleannajordan.com.

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