a simmered supper

Tune in to MPR’s Appetites, aired during All Things Considered, for my discussion with Tom Crann about the hidden charms of the simmered supper. Boiled beef, it’s a lot classier than the name suggests!

The arctic arrival is late this year, even here in the super-north, but I know it’s settling in for good now because every morning the path from the house feels stiffer beneath my feet–the ground is freezing up. Large pots of simmering broth, cloudy fumes of steam fogging the windows, standing in our wool slippers at the edge of the pot, scooping up froth from the broth . . . this is the kind of mind-and-mood therapy we will increasingly need.

Happy skimming, all!

Boiled Beef with Apple Horseradish Sauce

To make this into a really fancy meal, add a pound of beef tenderloin to the pot for the last 20 minutes, poaching it gently until the internal temperature reaches 125 degrees F.

12 cups water

4-5 pounds beef chuck roast

2 teaspoons salt

1 large vidalia onion

3 dried bay leaves

1 head garlic, sliced crosswise

1 teaspoon black peppercorns

5 juniper berries

1 teaspoon allspice berries

3 sprigs thyme

Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper for serving

5-6 medium whole potatoes, skin-on

5-6 medium carrots, peeled

4-5 parsnips or small kohlrabi, peeled

Apple Horseradish Sauce

makes 1 1/3 cups

2 rounded tablespoons lightly packed freshly grated horseradish

1/4 cup heavy cream

4 teaspoons lemon juice

1/8 teaspoon salt

freshly ground pepper

pinch of sugar

2/3 cup freshly grated apple (2 large)

For the beef, begin about 4-5 hours before serving.

Bring 12 cups of water to the boil in a large stockpot. While it heats, set a cast-iron pan over medium high heat and line it with a square of heavy foil. Slice a vidalia onion crosswise (leaving on the thin peel) and set it cut-side-down onto the foil. Cook it like this, without any oil, until it blackens evenly. (This, what is known as a bruleéd onion, adds caramelized color and flavor to the broth.) When the water boils, add the beef and the salt. Skim any gray scuff and fat at the surface. Add the salt, the bruleéd onion, and the bay leaves. Make a sachet from cheesecloth and enclose the garlic, black peppercorns, juniper berries, allspice, and thyme, and throw it into the pot.

Keep the broth at a steady simmer and cover halfway with an offset lid. Skim any collected fat and scum from the surface every hour, checking the meat for tenderness with a skinny fork. After 3 1/2 hours, the meat should feel fairly tender. At this point, when it can take another hour of cooking, add the potatoes, carrots, and parsnips or kohlrabi, and simmer until the vegetables and meat both feel tender. Taste the broth and add salt if needed; it should be highly seasoned.

For the apple horseradish sauce, simply mix the ingredients together in a small bowl and reserve.

When ready to serve, lift the vegetables from the broth, smashing a potato on every plate, garnishing it with butter and seasoning it with salt and pepper. It’s important to salt each component of the boiled dinner on each plate. Plate a chunk of beef and some vegetables, seasoning each, and then ladle broth over the meat to soak. Serve with a dollop of apple horseradish sauce (and Dijon mustard, if desired.)