Sunday, January 01, 2006

New Year's Comfort

Pot-au Feu . . .

Lizzy just wanted a hot bowl of “Cocida”. It was raining on the 10th straight hour and we were cold and wet. We needed sustenance. We needed warmth. We needed comfort.

You could see the disappointment on Lizzy’s face when our server shook her head, with a flat, “No cocida, today.” Instead, Lizzy settled on a single “Chile Relleno”. Phil and Ander both chose “Machaca”, with carnitas. (This place does not include green bell peppers in the mix. Perhaps, because this is not a typical item offered at the ready.) I had a bowl of “Pozole” with the usual fixings that come with the caldo. To my dissatisfaction, nowhere in that huge bowl was a single morsel of “pata” in sight! Oh, well, we made the best of it. After all, food was only secondary. We were there to continue our visit with Lizzy and Phil. We love their company. We talk, eat, and share about food all the time.

They turned us onto a new butcher, Ron Martindale. Fresh meat! We walked into the place. It smelled clean. There’s nothing like the smell of rancid, rotting meat that can send a carnivore directly to the nearest salad bar. This place will cut your porterhouse to order (eg. 2 3/4 inch thick). The New York strips were beautiful. The filet mignon was luscious. The “Cowboy” Rib steak, bone in, was exceptional. The chateaubriand, ooh-la-la. (By the way, “Chateaubriand” is a recipe, not a cut of meat. But, the recipe was so popular that the cut of meat has become synonymous.)

I selected about 3 Lbs. of beef shanks to use in my last minute choice for our New Year’s meal.

Pot-au-Feu was the perfect choice. Growing up, my Filipino family simply knew it as “Bone Marrow Soup”. It would have the standard, potatoes, carrots, celery, onion, garlic (our household always added garlic in anything we cooked, if appropriate) and occasionally a sliced head of cabbage. The meat would be boiling on the back of the stove in a large stockpot filling the house with the aroma of the cooking broth. Once the meat was “fall-off-the-bone” tender, the last of the veggies would be added. A nice bowl of hot rice would finish off the dish.

Our New Year’s Eve meal was simple and comforting. We had no plans of ringing in the New Year being out in the cold rain. We hunkered ourselves in our cozy little cottage and welcomed the New Year while watching the venerable Dick Clark’s return on his “Rockin’ Eve” show. We got “Skyped” by our family, the Luckenbachs in Southern California, several minutes before the midnight hour. With the aid of handy microphones and decent speakers, we were able to virtually be together for the countdown. Fireworks rang out in both our neighborhoods. Woo-hoo! My Mom, youngest sister and her husband, were celebrating in Vienna this year. Happy 10th Anniversay, Meng and Buddy! (Hope they "waltzed" in the new year.)

Our meal included a fabulous loaf of artisan walnut bread to sop up the rich, savory broth. (Sopping is a mandatory practice with such fare.) The coveted marrow, the “pipe”, the Coeur-a-la-crème, was spread on top of a piece of the walnut bread which we took immense delight in with each rationed bite. The broth brought extreme contentment with every slurp off the soup spoon. Each bite of the veggies would obligate one to blow out the fraction of steam trapped within the mouthful. Ahhh, such comfort, indeed.

We uncorked a splendid Cabernet-Merlot blend from Rosemount Estate’s 1999 vintage. (A Christmas gift from friend, Carol Berry. I'm sure she paid a pretty penny. That's her nature.) Bottled at their South Eastern Australia estate, it garnered a Silver Medal in the Perth 1999 Class 32 tasting. It claims a style of being “Generous, full flavoured with soft berry fruit” and provides the palate with “Vibrant raspberry characters of Cabernet…finely balanced by the smooth, velvety finish of Merlot”. I admit it. I AM, somewhat, of a wine snob. I’m biased. When it comes to wine, I’m a purest. Blame it on my training under the guidance of an award winning, triple gold, winemaker. Hands guided by the best. Winemaking is truly a labor of love. I learned quality begins with the soil, the vine, the grape. Give me Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot; 100% varietal. The only blends I care for are the high end Bordeaux or Chateauneuf-du-Pape. All in all, it made for a great New Year’s meal.

May the New Year of 2006, the Year of the Dog, bring inspiration, creativity, triumph over tribulation, peace, joy, prosperity, simple abundance and most of all, banquets galore!

Happy New Year!

(Pronounced: puh-tuh-fuh) - AKA France’s National Dish

Serves 6 with leftovers.

• 1 large garlic bulb
• 3 large onions
• 1 Tablespoon olive oil
• Salt and Pepper; season to taste
• 3 lbs. meaty beef shanks (with marrow)
• bouquet garni: in a square of cheesecloth, tie together: 2 Tablespoons peppercorns, 3 bay leaves, 5-6 sprigs parsley
• 3 chicken breasts (cut in half) or 6 thighs
• 6 small red potatoes, cut in quarters
• 3 medium turnips, peeled & quartered
• 1/2 lb. small carrots, peeled & cut into 2 inch pieces
• 3 ribs celery, cut into 2 inch pieces
• 1 lb. green cabbage, halved & cored
• 6 Tablespoons dry red wine
• For accompaniments (optional): toasted baguette slices, cornichons, 2 cups grated Gruyère cheese; vinaigrette; aioli

Preheat oven to 450°F.

1. Remove papery skin from garlic and peel one of the onions.

2. Coat the both of them with some olive oil, place on a baking dish and roast for 1 hour.

3. Season beef shanks with salt and pepper.

4. Place the beef shanks in same baking dish and roast with garlic and onions for 1 hour.

5. Place chicken in stockpot and cover with cold water. Over medium heat bring to a simmer. Reduce heat and cook for 15 minutes skimming off any scum that rises to the surface.

6. Add the roasted beef shank, roasted onion, roasted garlic and bouquet garni to the pot. Partially cover with enough water to come up at least three-fourths of the way up the sides of meat and chicken. Bring to a simmer.

7. Reduce heat, maintain the simmer and cook for about 1-1/2 hours.

8. Peel the remaining two onions, leave them whole and add to the pot, along with the potatoes, and turnips.

9. Simmer 30 minutes, adding water if necessary, to keep the vegetables covered.

10. When the potatoes and turnips are almost tender, add the carrots and celery. Cook an additional 10 minutes.
Season to taste. Bring to a boil.

11. Add the cabbage and cook until the cabbage is tender. Remove bouquet garni.

To Serve: Place one tablespoon of the red wine in each of 6 warmed soup bowls. Ladle the broth into each bowl. Place beef portions, chicken, vegetables in bowl. Float toasted baguette slices on side of bowl. Sprinkle cheese over soup.

Serve the meat and vegetables accompanied by more cheese, the cornichons, and if desired, the vinaigrette and aioli.

Martindale's Quality Meats and Deli
5280 Aero Drive
Santa Rosa, CA 95403


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