Pot-au-feu/ bollito misto
Pot-au-feu in France, bollito misto in Italy. This “peasant” hotpot of cheaper cuts is an absolute staple in many European households. It’s a bit of a contradiction of a dish, as at no point in the process does it show any semblance of the absolute beauty it delivers with a careful and considered approach. In fact, at the point when it is still a stock, it is downright ugly. However, when presented well, each element shines like a jewel – almost mimicking an exotic plate of sushi or other more glamorous dishes. For me, this simple meal is at the same time both the basis and the pinnacle of good cooking.
I love celebrating the staples – it brings a certain appreciation to the ritual of spending a day cooking one dish. It takes layering and observation to get the best result, an understanding of each element and high-quality ingredients as a starting point. It’s not about simply bunging ingredients into a slow cooker then setting the timer (although I do admit that method also can deliver when I have other things to do.)
Bollito misto is often served with condiments, such as chilli sauces and lentils. Here I serve it with salsa verde. The beauty of this green addition is it is such a great condiment to have in your fridge at all times. You can use any leftovers on sandwiches to really lift their freshness. It’s also an excellent way to use up surplus herbs. There’s no need to be too dogmatic about what herbs go into salsa verde, as long as there are capers and old bread as the base.
There is no doubt this is a protein-rich dish. But the same approach can also be used to create a vegetarian version, using seaweed in the stock and incorporating other “meaty” mushrooms. As winter looms, what could be better that this warming wonder?
2 beef cheeks
150ml light soy sauce
4 cloves garlic
20g dried porcini mushrooms
80ml balsamic vinegar
300g pork belly
2 fatty smoked sausages (I used pig’s head sausage from LP’s Quality Meats)
½ small cabbage
250g kipfler potatoes
1 bunch parsley
1 bunch dill
1 bunch mint
100g old bread
200ml olive oil
1 clove garlic
80ml lemon juice
Place the beef cheeks and oxtail into a heavy pot with four litres of water and the soy, garlic, mushrooms, salt and vinegar. Cook for two hours over a low heat.
Add the pork belly and the sausage and cook for a further hour. Then add the chicken and cook for a further 20 minutes.
Turn off the heat and let this rest for an hour (or even overnight in the refrigerator) before removing and setting aside the protein and adding the vegetables. Cook the vegetables in this stock for at least an hour.
Add the protein back in to warm through before removing all of the ingredients and straining the stock through a fine sieve.
Check and adjust the seasoning on the stock but don’t skim the fat.
For the salsa verde, roughly tear all of the herbs before combining them with the other ingredients and blending in a food processor until a fairly smooth paste is formed.
To serve, carve the solids into manageable chunks, then arrange either separately on a platter so diners can choose their own cuts or plate up individually with a little of the broth over the top and a generous spoonful of salsa verde.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on May 15, 2021 as "Play misto for me".
A free press is one you pay for. In the short term, the economic fallout from coronavirus has taken about a third of our revenue. We will survive this crisis, but we need the support of readers. Now is the time to subscribe.