Cooking Boeuf a la Ficelle

As I mentioned earlier today, Anthony Bourdain warned me in the intro to his Les Halles Cookbook not to worry about screwing up when it comes to trying these recipes. His words echoed in my head by the time I finished making Boeuf a la Ficelle (Les Halles Cookbook page 122), a dish that boils carrots, onions, turnips and leeks before inserting a hunk of meat and then making a sauce out of the broth. It seemed really simple, but turned out to be a bit difficult, mostly because I bonered a few ingredients while shopping.

First off, I’ve never even tasted a turnip as far as my memory goes, so I don’t know what a good one looks or tastes like. I should have done more research. I grabbed four purple ones as they were the only my grocery store had. I also got a bag of baby carrots which I regretted as soon as I got home as they were a little slimy. The last piece that didn’t come together was the meat. The recipe calls for 2 pounds of beef tenderloin. I looked all over the meat section of my grocery store and didn’t see anything called that (again, I’m a novice, as if that needs to be explained). So I checked my phone and wound up with over 3 pounds of top round. A little more research (and with the pressure off) I realize now that that’s not even close. What I should have done was talk to the butcher, but my trips to the store with the baby can go sour fast and I wanted to get back home.

When I actually got to cooking the meal, things seemed to go pretty smoothly. I wound up using the whole bag of baby carrots, sliminess and all. I also got the bouquet garni together, which is a mix of parsley, thyme and a bay leaf wrapped in cheesecloth so you can get those flavors in whatever you’re cooking, but not deal with the herbs floating around. Then I chopped an onion in half and poured a little ground clove on it to take the place of actually studding them with cloves. Anyone know if this is a good substitute? I just kind of winged that one. Next I cleaned the leeks the way my wife taught me. Those guys get a lot of dirt between the sections, so you can soak them in a bowl of water, move them around a bit and the dirt sinks to the bottom.

With all the veggies in the pot, it was just a matter of waiting for the water to boil before inserting the meat. I realized that the extra pound of meat meant that I should have some more liquid and also that the cook time should be a few minutes longer. After boiling for about 25 minutes, I pulled the meat out, then got the veggies out. Seemed good. I even let the meat sit for a while like the recipe says, but when I cut into it was still really raw. Like purple-raw. So, I heated the broth back up to a boil and put the meat back in. Not sure how long that lasted. I pulled out again and decided to cut the slab of meat into smaller slices and then putting them back into the boiling broth. It was kind of a mess.

The meal wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t amazing either. The meat was kind of tough and the vegetables not the best. Using the wrong meat surely didn’t help matters and like I said, I don’t know from turnips but my wife said I didn’t wind up with very good ones. But, it wasn’t a total wash. I learned about checking on my ingredients and doing a little more research. For lunch today, I wound up putting some of that broth in a pan, heated it up and them warmed some chopped up beef and some leftover veggies and it wound up being not half bad.



  1. FYI – check the old standby cookbook – Betty Crocker. In the back is a section that explains the cuts of meat.


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