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
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)
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.