Ready an enameled cast-iron Dutch oven. This is certainly the time to break out your best one. And, by the way, if you're attempting this recipe, you're a serious cook, so the enameled stuff is supposed to be showcased on your range. Now you know.
BUILD A TASTY FOUNDATION FOR THE CHUCK
Fill the Dutch oven with 4 cups of cold water. If you'd drink it from your tap, then use tap. Otherwise, use filtered. Add the beef stock, too.
Rinse the beef under cold running water. Pat it dry with paper towels.
Rub 1/2 teaspoon of salt into the chuck. Think deep tissue massage.
Place the salted chuck into the Dutch oven.
Smash the peeled garlic cloves with the side of a chef's knife. Please make sure the blade edge is pointing away from your smashing self. Toss them in the pot.
Add the black peppercorns, the thyme, the cloves, and the bay leaves.
COOK THE BEEF--SLOWLY
Bring the temperature of the liquid up to about 200°. Whatever you can do to keep the temperature constant, do it. If you choose to put a lid on, skew it so you can clearly see inside the pot.
Now, do something else. For a while. Like 2 hours.
When you return to the pot, assuming you've been able to control the temperature well, the chuck will still look fairly gray and firm, though promising. Be. Patient.
There will be some gray froth floating on the surface of the liquid. Skim it off and discard it. You'll have the opportunity to nurture the pot a few times during cooking, so keep the skimming spoon and a small bowl at the ready for your purification ritual.
Do more of something else--for another 2 hours.
ADD VEGETABLES (MORE FLAVOR) TO THE POT
Get a clean cutting board ready, and prepare all the vegetables as outlined in the ingredient list.
Gently add all of the vegetables to the pot. This is a good time to grab a pair of tongs and marvel at the slow, steady transformation of the chuck.
Continue to cook the Pot au Feu, holding the temperature at 200° for another hour or so. The dish is done when both the meat and the vegetables are fork-tender.
SERVE YOUR POT AU FEU
Transfer the meat from the pot to a decent-sized cutting board. Let it rest for about 10 minutes. Either slice against the grain in 1/2-inch slabs, or gently break into portions using a pair of kitchen tongs.
Remove the vegetables from the pot using a slotted spoon. Arrange naturally on a big platter. Don't be fussy. This is peasant food.
Transfer the meat to the platter as well. Make sure to keep it rustic.
Ladle a small amount of broth on top and go celebrate with your guests. Wine? Yes.
Guajillo Chile Beef Variation:
Omit celery root. Double the garlic. Drop in 6 seeded guajillo chiles. Add juice of 1 lime. Add 1 tablespoon favorite Mexican hot sauce.
Ladle off half the liquid and blend with softened chiles. Return to pot. Fold to
Serve with lime wedges, chopped raw onion, and cilantro.
Calories 297; FAT 7.9g (sat 2.9g); Sodium 620mg
Vietnamese Pho-Style Variation:
Add the cinnamon stick, and double the cloves. Add a star anise pod and 2 teaspoons fennel seeds.
The charred onion becomes a must. Add a 1-inch piece of ginger, sliced lengthwise. Char that, too. Add to the pot.
To finish: Squeeze in the juice of 2 limes. Use 1 tablespoon fish sauce in lieu of salt.
Calories 311; FAT 8g (sat 3g); Sodium 545mg
Replace the water with canned crushed tomatoes, and use oregano instead of thyme. Omit the clove. Omit the celery root. Double the garlic.
Finish with a handful of fresh basil and some red pepper flakes.
Calories 332; FAT 8.2g (sat 3g); Sodium 667mg