French restaurant RN74 elevates a version of pot roast with this magical pot of gold.
“THIS DISH SCREAMS wintertime to me,” says Thomas Griese, who until recently was the executive chef at the French restaurant RN74 in Seattle. “This is an elevated French version of a pot roast or pot-au-feu.”
Baeckeoffe (baker’s oven) is a traditional stew from the Alsace region. Traditionally made with leftovers or lesser cuts of meats such as pigs’ trotters, the dish today has many variations. Typically, a trio of meats is used: pork, lamb and beef.
In Alsace, people would pour a bottle of wine over the meat and let it marinate for a day or two. Then the stew was slow-cooked, often all day, to be enjoyed when the work was done.
Braised meat, onions, potatoes, wine and herbs combine in a hearty, flavorful stew.
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A simple dough is used to seal the lid to keep in the liquid. Griese says opening the lid is like a magic show. “You cut around the crust and open it, and steam fills the room with an incredible perfume. There’s a big wow factor.”
Griese first had baeckeoffe in Las Vegas when he was working at Le Cirque. David Werly, executive chef at the time, who grew up in northeastern France, would make the stew at his house. “The first time I had it, there were trotters on the bottom, lamb shanks in the middle and beef cheeks on top,” Griese recalls, adding that traditionally the most expensive meat would go on top, and the least expensive would go on the bottom.
Instead of prime rib or turkey at Christmas, Werly and co-workers would have baeckeoffe. “It was so delicious and special,” Griese says.
RN74 plans to serve the rich and flavor-packed stew in January, likely made from trotters, lamb and beef cheeks. The bones in trotters and shanks provide gelatin, which thickens the stew. For a home version using stew meat instead, Griese suggests this recipe from Saveur magazine.
Bones or no bones, family and friends will gather around the table for the magical unveiling. And your kitchen will smell fabulous.
1 pound boneless beef chuck, trimmed and cut into 1½-inch pieces
1 pound boneless pork shoulder, trimmed and cut into 1½-inch pieces
1 pound boneless lamb shoulder, trimmed and cut into 1½-inch pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 cups dry white wine
¼ cup parsley leaves, finely chopped
2 teaspoons juniper berries
5 cloves garlic, chopped
2 bay leaves
2 medium carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
2 medium yellow onions, peeled and thinly sliced
2 small leeks, trimmed and thinly sliced
2 sprigs thyme
¼ cup duck or goose fat (optional)
3 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and sliced
1 pound thick-cut bacon
1 cup flour, plus more for dusting
1. Place beef, pork and lamb in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Add wine, parsley, juniper berries, garlic, bay leaves, carrots, onions, leeks and thyme. Mix together, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or up to 2 days.
2. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Rub a 10-quart Dutch oven with duck fat, if using. Layer potatoes, marinated meat and vegetables in the pot, seasoning between each layer with salt and pepper, ending with a layer of potatoes. Pour in remaining marinade, and arrange the bacon on top, overlapping the slices slightly.
3. Mix flour and 5 tablespoons water in a bowl. Transfer to a floured surface, and knead briefly. Roll dough into a rope, and place it around the rim of the pot. Press to adhere, and cover with lid. Bake 3½ hours.
4. Using a paring knife, carefully break the seal and remove lid to serve.
Recipe from Saveur magazine