Blame the wonderful pot au feu Michael made Saturday for this Monday Mot, a two-fer! A pot au feu is much more than a traditional French country stew: this triumph of simple cooking cuts across class lines as the beating heart of Gallic culinary flair, a delightful mélange of (deliberately) cartilaginous meat, ham hock, sausage and/or thick bacon, garden vegetables…and the bouquet garni, the spices that take the dish to heaven. Like home cooks and chefs all over France do, Michael started with the broth. After the broth had gently (this is critical) simmered for a couple of hours, Michael fished out a little cheesecloth sachet from the casserole with his wooden spoon and proudly proclaimed as he showed me the tiny dripping bundle of herbs: “Look, my first bouquet garni!”
A bouquet garni is a bundle of aromatic herbs; bay leaves, garlic, thyme and parsley, simmered in the broth of soups, stews and sauces, and removed before serving. Bouquets garnis can be tied together into a bundle, or faggot, and then immersed, or as Michael did, tied into a sachet of cheesecloth.
Michael used black peppercorns, bay leaves, garlic, flat-leaf parsley, and thyme in his bouquet garni. We served Michael’s pot au feu for dinner that evening to eight of our friends. The reviews were great. It was a delicious dish for a cold winter’s eve…and the company of our friends made it a truly wonderful night.