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The Taste of Things: Learn to make the film's pot-au-feu

 (Curiosa Films/Gaumont/France 2 Cinema)
(Curiosa Films/Gaumont/France 2 Cinema)

In the cruel depths of February, The Taste of Things offers something of a reprise; a voyeuristic look at romance in rural France. It takes audiences to 1885, and is a story of gastronomy, and an unconventional romance.

It centres on the romance between a skilled cook, Eugénie (Juliette Binoche), and a renowned gourmet, Dodin Bouffant (Benoît Magimel). Bouffant is inspired by Swiss author Marcel Rouff's creation in the novel "La Vie et la passion de Dodin-Bouffant, gourmet" (The Passionate Epicure). In fact, it might be considered a prequel to the book. It is a film of lingering looks and loving touches, but one also of simmering stews and steaming plates.

But it is also a film with a new name; it was once known as pot-au-feu. The dish, a complex but traditional French stew, is made by Bouffant towards the end of the film; no other spoilers will be given here. But the recipe for this climatic piece of cuisine is below; it is tricky, it will require patience, and it will require time. But with those, the results should stun, as they do on the screen.

The acclaimed chef Pierre Gagnaire advised on the film. Does he have any tips? “Obviously the ingredients! Quality meats and vegetables are needed,” he told the Standard. “It also requires time because the cooking of each element is different, and it must be treated with the greatest attention. Aromatics are also very important, such as thyme, bay leaf, parsley stalks, raw mushrooms, mustard, coarse salt, and not forgetting the bone marrow and the toasted bread.” And does he have any thoughts on the link between love and food? “No need to elaborate, the link is so obvious: both sustain and give life.” There it is, then. Here’s how to make the pot-au-feu. May is sustain and give life.

Pierre Gagnaire, right, working behind the scenes to advise on the food (Press handout)
Pierre Gagnaire, right, working behind the scenes to advise on the food (Press handout)

Ingredients

For the pot-au-feu

  • 1 Eye Round of beef

  • 1 Veal shank

  • 1 Oxtail

  • Beef shoulder, as much as is wanted

  • 2 Pigeons

  • 6 Marrow bones

  • Cloves, to taste

  • 4 onions

  • 2 bulbs of garlic

  • A selection of vegetables, including carrots, turnips, a parsnip, a large celeriac, a celery-leaf, and leeks

  • 1 Savoy cabbage

  • A selection of herbs, including thyme, bay leaf, and curly parsley

  • Sheep-milk tomme

For the onion purée

  • 2kg onions

  • Fresh butter

  • Champagne

  • Beef and veal consommé

Method

For the pot-au-feu

  1. Tie the meat, cut the eye round into steaks, not too thick, and open the shank

  2. Place the meats in a pot and cover them with water and salt

  3. Remember to skim the water regularly

  4. Cut four onions in half and char them on a greased baking tray

  5. Peel the vegetables

  6. Clove two peeled onions

  7. Add the herbs, garlic, and peppercorns to the meat pot

  8. Then add the vegetables and the charred onion halves

  9. Bring the pot to a boil and cover with a cloth

  10. Leave to cook for 3 hours

  11. Then add the 2 pigeons

  12. When it is time to serve, cook the Savoy cabbage in the pot to keep its colour

For the onion puree

  1. Cut the onions into rings

  2. In an airtight casserole dish, alternately place three layers of onions and a layer of fresh butter until the casserole is full

  3. Pour in half a bowl of consommé, then a glass of Champagne

  4. Cook the preparation for thirty-six hours, on a very low heat in the oven

To serve

  • Place some onion puree in a soup plate

  • Cut up the various pieces of cooked meat and lay them on onion purée. Do the same with the cooked vegetables

  • Cut the sheep-milk tomme into small cubes and sprinkle it over the vegetables, and then place the plate in the oven to soften the tomme

  • Set the marrow on top

  • Dilute some wholegrain mustard and chopped chives with some pot-au-feu stock to obtain a gravy and pour it over the marrow

The Taste of Things is in cinemas nationwide, tasteofthings.film