Apparently November is NaBloPoMo, or something like that. The people at BlogHer challenge us bloggers to write in our blog every day, and today we're supposed to write about what we like the most about writing. That is, writing in our blogs, presumably.
The thing I like about it is that nobody edits me. This still seems so amazing to me, that I can write whatever I want to and publish it to the whole world, for free, instantly, with nobody telling me I can't or I shan't, as Dr Seuss would say. It may be the case that hardly anybody reads it. I don't care. It's out there, and it's published. I wonder if the first people to get printing presses felt this excited and liberated about their new-found power to wield a weapon of mass communication! Probably. But you still needed ink, and paper, and now we don't. And there's no printer to tell us he won't publish our broadside. The Gutenberg revolution fomented all sorts of other revolutions; may our information revolution foster more revolutions. Maybe it already has.
Now that that's out of the way, I can get back to business. Last night I made something really primal: pot-au-feu. Like creme fraiche, it sounds fancy and French. It is French, but it's just peasant food. What you do is you buy some cheap cuts of tough meat and some bones. This won't set you back much. Get some marrow bones too. I got a piece of brisket, some "soup" bones, some beef short ribs, and some marrow bones. I used a recipe from the March 2008 issue of Gourmet as a starting point. IT can be found here.
You roast the bones (except the marrow bones) and meat in the oven for an hour. They turn all nice and brown and smell wonderful. Also you put an onion and a carrot in the roasting pan to roast with the meat.
Then you put the roasted bones and vegetables in a big soup pot and boil for three hours. It sounds like a lot of time, but this makes the broth all beefy and dark and wonderful. You can add some herbs like bay leaf, peppercorns, thyme, and parsley.
Now for the marrow bones. Put them in a saucepan standing up. Pour some of your wonderful broth over them to cover. Boil for fifteen to twenty minutes, until the marrow is soft. Remove the marrow bones from the broth and keep them warm till supper time, at which point you will scoop out the marrow and eat it, either in your bowl or on a piece of toast. This is the part that's really primal.
(The broth you cooked the marrow bones in will be cloudy. If this doesn't bother you, keep it for another use. If it does bother you, feed it to a dog.)
Now simmer whatever vegetables you have on hand in the beautiful clear brown beef broth. When you're ready to eat, cut the meat off the bones, slice the brisket, put the meat and vegetables in a bowl, and ladle the broth over. Garnish with sour cream and mustard and horseradish.