Signature Dish of Joseph Littleshoes

Piece de Boeuf a la Cullier a l'Ancienne
(Braised beef in the ancient manner)

This dish is rarely produced to day although it was quite common in day's gone by. The recipe is given here more for the sake of interest than anything else. - JL

Choose a square or oval piece of beef, bearing in mind that when it is cooked it will have to be fashioned into the shape of a case. Tie it carefully and braise it in the usual manner taking care that it is almost covered with the braising liquid. Do not over cook it, but keep it just a little under done.

When ready, allow it to become cold under light pressure; trim carefully and remove the meat from the inside leaving a case about 3/5 of an inch thick at the bottom and sides.

In many old recipes the cooked meat is lightly pressed, this does result in some of the juices being lost and i have wondered about this not being mentioned in the recipe. Any juices can be incorporated into the filling if desired. However the primary purpose of the 'light pressure' is to make the meat conform to and hold the proper shape of a case. As the meat cools under pressure it 'sets' in the required form and when pressure is removed holds it shape while being hollowed out.

Coat the outside of the case with a mixture of beaten egg, fine bread crumbs and a little grated Parmesan. Sprinkle with melted butter and place it in an oven, sufficiently hot so as to cook the outside and form a well coloured brown crust.

Thinly slice the meat removed from the case and mix with slices of other meats, mushrooms or other item considered suitable. Cover with a sauce in keeping with the ingredients, e.g. sauce demiglace, Italian, perigueux and reheat it before filling into the prepared case. Place on a suitable dish to serve.

Notes:

It really is only presentation. The same thing can in essence be done with a 'rolled' beef steak or a 'stuffed' steak. And while a simulacrum of this dish could be made with a 'London broil' or a 'Chateauxbriand' the cut of meat described must, ordinarily, be special ordered.

The few times I have made it, on all but one occasion it was accompanied by an elaborate presentation. Usually as a centre piece to a buffet and surrounded by a number of other foods. On one occasion I piped a circular design of mashed potatoes on to it and served it alone on a lake of a garlic flavoured white sauce.

As an object it is quite stark. But when served at Versailles in the time of the 'grande siecle' it would have been highly decorated and surrounded by lobster tails and mounds of truffles or any of a number of other very elaborate decorations, garnishes, including edible flower blossoms and fruits on an equally elaborate serving platter.

There was a time when the King not only got very good food but traditionally, very large amounts of it would have been served him alone, of which, he might take 2 bites out of any single dish, the rest was then eaten latter by other people. Or as in the case on many of the Louis, but noticeably Louis XIV he might offer a chair to his brother "Monsieur" or a Lady of the court and then a plate and chair or stool were presented and they would sit and eat the Kings' food. Of which there was plenty for the King to easily offer a serving or 2.

People were often disappointed upon asking to taste the Louis XIV's wine, and finding that it was highly watered down.

p.s. don't try to make a 'lid' or top flap by not cutting it all the way off the top of the meat, it will curl up when cooked and look a bit odd, though I suppose one could work with it and find a way to incorporate it in to a pleasing appearance.

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