a.k.a. Pot Roast

All of the Le Cordon Bleu colleges of culinary arts throughout the world are, by design, very French in their curriculum and approach to food and cooking. Even though the world's cuisines have a lot in common when it comes down to the actual physical act of cooking...frying is frying, simmering is simmering, roasting is roasting, so on and so forth in any language you speak or country in which you live...I find that many American students at LCB still tend to get caught a bit off guard when they realize that the curriculum and cooking techniques they are going to focus on are very much more French than American. It's part of my job to help them adjust.

One of the first complicated lessons we teach them has to do with forming an understanding of the seven classic French cooking techniques. They are easily translated, and a list of them reads something like this: Le Sauter, Le Griller, Le Rotir, Le Pocher, Le Braiser, Le Frire, and Le Poeler. You can most likely figure out the English equivalent for all of them except for maybe the last one. Le Poeler. What the heck is that? Well, it apparently doesn't have an exact English translation, so the best we can do is to call it something like a"humid roast".

When I first learned about it, it seemed so foreign and mysterious. Then I realized that we do pretty much the same thing all over the United States, but usually call the end result a "pot roast". The basic instructions for the technique read something like "after seasoning with salt and pepper, brown the meat in question on both sides in a heavy, lidded casserole; remove meat and add aromatics (onion, carrot, celery, garlic, bay leaf, thyme, etc.) to the pot; place meat on top of vegetables; place the lid on the pot and transfer to a moderate oven to cook until the meat is tender". It's really the lid being on the pot while the meat roasts that gives this technique its unique identity.

Oftentimes, the French definition of Le Poeler talks about how it is a technique reserved for pieces of meat that are too tough to roast or saute, but too tender and delicate to braise or stew into submission. Whatever the case may be, it's a great way to cook a whole range of items; chickens, duck, pork roasts, legs of lamb, and even rabbits. They all work very well. The flavors emerge deep and rich, and it's very easy to make a simple sauce by simply boiling down some good stock in the pot after the meat comes out and is resting on a platter off to the side. When the stock boils down to a glaze, turn off the heat, add a big chunk of butter, some salt and pepper, and a handful of your favorite chopped fresh herbs. Stir until the butter melts, then pour over the meat. Use the remainder to pass around at the table. Whether you call it pot roast or Le Poeler, it's a really great way to cook meat.

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