Or – How to make a traditional French Potée (with a quirk)
10 a.m. Sunday morning, JP walks in on me as I am sitting at my desk in my gym clothes (having had the good intention of doing my aerobics workout about an hour previously, but having gotten sidetracked), my nose pressed to my computer screen, and says :
“In about an hour your stomach is going to start growling and you are going to want to rush to the market and it’ll be too late. The market will be packed!”
Sunday morning is traditionally market morning for us, but lately he hasn’t wanted to go out in the freezing cold or battle the crowds just to find something to eat. He loves cooking as much as I do and loves having a hot meal on the table, but not at the expense of his nerves. So this invitation to go shopping for lunch should neither be taken lightly nor menaced in any shape or form. Time is of the essence. So up I hop, I throw on my clothes and off we go. Luckily it is a bit milder today, so the walk there isn’t that unpleasant.
We make our initial “scoping out the scene” tour once around the marketplace, checking out the stalls, the seafood lady’s bins of mussels and crabs – JP does jump at the oysters, bagging us a dozen, a bottle of Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil from our wine guy, then stops in his tracks and turns to me. “How about a Potée? We can get some good sausages from the Alsatian butcher.”
Ok. I love it when he takes over, makes the decisions and offers to cook. I’m in.
But what is a Potée?
A Potée, he explains, refers to anything cooked in a pot, like a Pot au Feu, a hearty, rustic, normally inexpensive, country dish, a cross between a soup and a stew, a blending of a selection of meats, usually pork, and vegetables. And of course, like most things in France, it is also a regional dish, Potée Limousine, Potée Bretonne, Potée Auvergnate, each potée containing the special regional meats and sausages and locally grown vegetables, though almost always cabbage and potatoes.
First stop, our vegetable stall where he buys a small green cabbage, a few carrots, a head of garlic, potatoes, a turnip (blech!), a few tall, thin leeks. Then we head over to the butcher and, upon his suggestion, add 4 fat Montbéliard smoked sausages and a thick slice of poitrine fumée, like bacon, to our basket.
JP even agrees to allow me to snap photos and put the recipe up on my blog – as long as I don’t step on his toes. “Yay! A traditional French dish for my blog!” and he answered with a shrug of his shoulders “Traditional? Yes, but you know that when I cook it ends up being traditional, but with a quirk.”
JP’s POTEE TRADITIONELLE – sort of
1 smoked cooking sausage per person
Thick slab poitrine fumée or bacon, cubed
3 large carrots, peeled, cleaned and cut into large sticks
1 small head of green cabbage, sliced in 8 chunks
5 or 6 potatoes, peeled, cleaned and quartered
3 slim leeks, whites only, sliced but not all the way through
1 turnip, peeled and quartered
Pepper, ground and grains
Bay leaves, optional
Prepare the vegetables :
And the bacon :
Fill a pressure cooker with several inches of water and add the poitrine fumée or bacon cut into large cubes. Bring the water to a boil.
Add the cabbage, the carrots, the turnip, the leeks, all of the vegetables except the potatoes. Add a good grinding of pepper and throw in 4 or 5 grains as well. JP did not salt this as the smoked sausages and the bacon are both very salty. The vegetables should almost, but not quite, be submerged in the water.
Cover tightly with the lid to the pressure cooker and bring to the boil. Once it starts steaming, lower the heat and let cook for 20 minutes. At the end of the 20 minutes, remove from the heat and release the pressure.
Carefully open the lid (hot steam may escape) and add the potatoes and the smoked sausages. Cover tightly once again to pressure cook, bring to the boil, lower the heat and allow to cook for 10 minutes. Again, when the cooking is complete, remove the pot from the heat, release the steam and carefully open the lid.
Serve hot with a loaf of crusty bread and a glass of robust red wine. Now, I never cook with pork and I rarely eat it, but this dish was truly delicious! Beautiful for a hearty winter meal.
Made too much? What to do with the leftovers? Sometimes, JP takes my leftover couscous, removes any remaining lamb and chicken and purées the vegetables in the broth and serves this as a soup, adding a bit more water to correct the consistency if needed. So he decided to do the same thing here. Using a slotted spoon, we lifted out about half of the potatoes and meat. With a potato masher (electric mixers or mashers or puréers tend to turn the potatoes into a sticky, pasty mess), he gently mashed the vegetables left in the pot with the sauce to turn it into a soup. We cut the sausages, the bacon and the potatoes that we removed from the liquid into bite-sized cubes and then returned them all to the pot of what is now a soup.
I thought this was so delicious, I even preferred it to the original Potée, I think.