This week’s French Fridays with Dorie recipe, boeuf à la ficelle (p 248) was one I was a little leery of for a few reasons. Firstly, the recipe itself, including the headnotes is three pages. THREE pages! Very unlike Dorie! Secondly, it calls for you to basically poach a beef tenderloin. Really? Poach a beautiful piece of meat? Ok then…
I didn’t make my own bouillon from scratch but I did infuse a decent quality store-bought stock with the vegetables, herbs and aromatics listed in the bouillon recipe. Traditionally the broth is served as the first course with the meat and vegetables as the main but Dorie likes to serve the beef in a shallow dish of the broth surrounded by the veggies which have also poached in the stock before the beef, so that’s what I chose to do.
If you don’t make your own bouillon from scratch, this is a pretty easy dish and, as Dorie says, it’s perfect for entertaining because much of it is “do-aheadable” (yes, that’s a word in Dorie’s world!) and you can adjust the “doneness” of the beef depending on what the guests want. The beef as it’s cooked in the recipe (for 15 minutes) comes out fairly rare (as pictured) which is perfect for Neil, not so much for me. But as Dorie tells you, a little of the hot broth, poured over slices of the meat will continue to cook the meat while still keeping it tender.
I’ll admit I was dubious about poaching the beef but we had an excellent quality small piece of tenderloin (um, yeah, $30 for 600g) which I think is important with such a minimalist preparation. And you know what? This was surprising – and delicious. I loved the elegance of the presentation and ultimately, the simplicity of the dish which allows the ingredients to really shine on their own.
Oh and the name – boeuf à la ficelle (beef on a string)? Well yes, my beef was tied up with butcher’s twine and Dorie suggests that this can be used to pull the beef out of the broth when it’s finished poaching. I used tongs. But I guess bouef à la ficelle sounds a lot more fancy, right?
Would I make it again Probably but it’d have to be for a special occasion at that price for the beef!
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