When I buy beef for pot-au-feu, it can be an affair of 2 days, or sometimes 3 days. A German friend will be visiting Colmar in Alsace this year. Colmar is near Hunawirh where at cru Rosacker the best Riesling in the world is made. I told him about fleischschnacka (“Fleischschnecke?”) and he was very curious, I decided that I would feed him my version of it.
On Friday I start the pot-au-feu, and I have half the vegetables in a bit of broth on Friday night. I let the beef broth improve overnight, and on Saturday I have my pot-au-feu with half of the meat with the rest of the vegetables. Finally on Sunday I make fleischschnacka with the rest of the meat rolled up in some noodles.
Traditionally for pot-au-feu we need three cuts of beef and marrow bone; muscular, fatty and cartilaginous. I chose shank, short rib, and oxtail. I am not making marrow bone this time. 200 g of meat per person is a generous portion, counting bones and two meals, I would go for over 1 kg of beef per person. I have here 700 g of short rib, 400 g of oxtail and 350 g of shank. I counted one meal of pot-au-feu and two servings of fleischschnackas.
Meat for pot-au-feu, short ribs, shank, and oxtail
Typical vegetables are onions, carrots, turnips, potatoes and leeks. I have two large onions, 3 medium turnips, 3 medium potatoes, 3 medium carrots, and 3 small leeks. Leeks must be cleaned carefully in running water and only the white part is used. The rest of the vegetables are peeled. One onion should be studded with cloves. For my bouquet garni I have a celery, bay leaf, thyme and rosemary.
Vegetables for pot-au-feu
Choose a large pot that will fit all ingredients and fill with cold water. Starting with cold water will mean the flavour of the beef will diffuse out into the broth, whereas plunging the beef in boiling water will keep it in the meat. I am having vegetables on Friday night and it would be nice to have them take on the flavour of beef, so start cooking the beef in cold water. Season the liquid with some salt, I go with 1 or 2 grams but others would be more generous — 5 grams is very generous.
Start beef in cold water
As it boils skim the scum and add all the vegetables and the bouquet garni. Control the heat to a gentle simmer. Fish out the vegetables as they cook through, first the carrots, then turnips, and finally the onion (leave the one with the cloves studded in), leeks and potatoes. Discard the bouquet garni. If making one meal out of this, simmer the beef for several hours, then add the vegetables in progression.
I will enjoy half of the vegetables with a bit of broth for my Friday dinner, while I will save the rest with more garlic and a lot of herbs in another pot. Short ribs are very fatty, so skim off the fat. The pot of beef should simmer peacefully for a while.
Vegetables for pot-au-feu
Continue to simmer the pot-au-feu the next day. To serve pot-au-feu, 30 before serving, return the turnips and potatoes to the simmering broth. To the rest of the vegetables add a ladle of hot broth, cover, and place in a hot oven. Before serving, separate the bones from the meat with kitchen gloves. Return the bones to the broth, and serve a third of the meat while reserving the rest. Fish out the turnips and potatoes, arrange on a deep dish. Arrange the vegetables from the oven along with the broth. Crack over some pepper and some herbes de Provence. Tadah! Saturday dinner is served. I love pot-au-feu so much, it is such a comfort food for me. A light red wine like gamay is nice with this; Brouilly, Fleurie and St-Amour are my favourites.
Sleep on it, and the next day we make fleischschnacka! The name translates to “meat snail” and it is Alsatian home cooking. The broth has simmered for a long time, so it will be dark, rich in collagen, and so very delicious. Another bouquet garni can be added on Sunday to compliment the heavier broth. During the day we start the noodles. The proportions are 200 g of flour, 100 g of semolina, 4 eggs, 100 ml of water, 50 ml of Alsatian white wine, and a pinch of salt. Mix together the flour, salt, and semolina. Gradually add the beaten eggs to it, and finally the water and wine. Knead with your hand, depending on the flour and size of the eggs, you may need more flour. It should be smooth and consistent enough so it can be rolled. Let rest on your counter covered for at least 1 hour. I have about 700 g of pot-au-feu meat. For this I will need 1 large onion, a slice of bread, 1 egg, a big spoonful of Dijon mustard, a big handful of chopped parsley, and a nod to my spiritual mother I add a generous sprinkling of herbes de Provence. Chop the onion and cook gently in some butter and olive oil. Process the bread into crumbs. Mix together everything with the meat that should be chopped. The fleischschnackas take about 20 minutes to cook, and depending on the thickness of slices and size of the pan, they may take 2 batches, so prepare ahead in time. Divide the dough in two and roll out a large rectangle on a floured surface, 2 mm perhaps. Spread out the meat mixture uniformly over the sheet of noodles, leaving a space at one end for a seal. Roll up the sheet tightly into a thick log. With a sharp knife, make thick slices, I have 3 cm.
In a deep frying pan, melt some butter in oil and colour the snails on each side. Ladle on some hot broth. The noodles will puff up with broth, so a good amount should be added. Add in a small glass of Alsatian white wine. Cover with a heavy lid.
Fleischschnacka noodles drink up some broth
Monitor the process as the noodles absorb the broth, add more broth as needed. After 20 minutes the noodles should be done. Arrange the fleischschnackas on a deep serving dish along with broth. Fresh parsley can be sprinkled on top. A refreshing glass of Alsatian white wine should be served along with a green salad. On this Sunday, I am having this with some watercress I have previously blanched in the broth, and a glass of Gewurztraminer from Trimbach. Trimbach makes dry Alsatian wine which is ideal served with food, and different from the sweet more German style whites.