Friday, January 11, 2008

Bargemen's Beef a la Plagiariste

I want to test here the notion that two wrongs make a right. I have plagiarized Modern, which plagiarized some internet site that plagiarized a cookbook I heard about but can't remember the name of or author of. The recipe is, if I recall right, from the bargemen of the Rhone river, painted in all their romantic simplicity by van Gogh. And it's so simple and so meaty. And the best part is the marrow.

I am neither a militant carnivore, nor militant plagiarist, though I have sympathies with both. One of the best meals I ever had was at St. John Bread and Wine in the East End of London, where they serve abats and all thats. I love very basic meats roasted or braised until it falls off the bone.

I also think that recipes like this one--ancient, earthy, local, simple--defy the concept of plagiarism. On the other hand, some enterprising American must have gone to the wilds of France to bring back the details of this great dish. And it must have appeared in some beauti
fully illustrated cookbook. And then it was purloined by some plagiarist to the internet, and ceaselessly re-stolen to this day. And yes, by me. And if someone will tell me where it is, I will credit it, chapter and verse, then change my recipe slightly so it is not plagiarism. This is why Creative Commons must be the rule for foodies. This preparation, though, I found elsewhere and have brazenly copied it. It's from the Rhone area of France and it's very hearty.

  • 4 slices beef shank, bone-in, fat trimmed
  • 1 teaspoon oil
  • 2 lbs. onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 3 sprigs thyme
  • salt & freshly ground pepper

To accompany the meat:
  • 4 large garlic cloves, peeled. . . .
  • 5 parsley sprigs
  • 4 oil-packed anchovy fillets, patted dry

  1. Preheat oven to 300° F.
  2. Smear the oil on the bottom of a dutch oven that is large enough to hold the shanks in one layer.
  3. Spread half of the onions on the bottom, sprinkle with salt. Put the shanks on top of the onions.
  4. Season the shanks with salt and pepper and add the thyme sprigs. Top with the remaining onions. Sprinkle on some more salt.
  5. Cover tightly and place in the oven. Braise for 3 hours
  6. In a food processor, process the anchovies, garlic and parsley into a paste. Spoon into a serving bowl.

To serve:

Transfer the shanks & onions to a serving bowl. Degrease the pan juices and pour them over the meat. Serve accompanied by the anchovy paste."

A note on time and temperature:
The beef in the photo above was taken direct from the freezer and put put frozen solid, with the onions and thyme, into the oven at 215 degrees at 7:45 am and taken out at 7:30 pm. 12 hours. It was delicious. This recipe is hard to mess up, except perhaps by cooking at too high a temperature for too short a time. I did thicken the juices with a tablespoon of Wondra dissolved in a tablespoon of brandy, while I chopped the garlic and parseley. Five minutes.

Van Gogh - Coal Barges on the Rhone River

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