I’ve been thinking about Napoleons lately. This dish takes a bit of time and effort, but it really is worth it.
There’s textural contrast, a beef sauce that goes really well with potatoes, and it’s just enjoyable to eat. I encourage you to try it.
2-3 lbs. beef bones
Stew beef (optional)
2 large carrots
2 celery stalks
Red wine vinegar
2-3 large potatoes
Crème Fraiche or sour cream
Start by roasting your beef bones for 1-1.5 hours (around 350 degrees). You’ll want to get a really deep brown color on these, but be sure not to burn them.
If you’re using stew beef as well, cut it into stew-sized chunks and sautée it in a bit of olive oil until it has a nice color on it.
Next, chop your vegetables (essentially make a mirepoix), and add them to a pot, along with your beef, bones, a bay leaf or two, and some peppercorns. Add 2 cups or so of red wine and add enough water to cover everything.
Bring everything to a boil and then simmer it for 2 or more hours.
You could do this part the day before, then cool it and store it in the refrigerator, but if you’re making everything all at once, you’ll want to remove all of the solids, then strain your stock.
Next, reduce your strained stock by about 90 percent. The is a big reduction, but it will really intensify the flavors.
When the reduction is almost reduced to the proper point, add a bit of Cognac and let it cook until reaches the proper thickness.
When it’s done, it’ll be much thicker and richer, and you’ll want to season with salt and pepper at this point.
Start by selecting a potato that’s large enough to yield a good sized wafer, then peel it, and square it off to create a rectangular cube.
Next, make thin, even slices and sautée them in olive oil. You’ll want these to be fully cooked, but not over cooked. The goal is to be able to cut through all of the layers on the plate, so that each bite contains every layer. If the wafers are over cooked it can be hard to achieve this.
Finally, when these are cooked, place them on a rack until you’re ready to plate.
Start by peeling and cubing a large potato, then boil them along with your potato scraps from the previous step in salted water.
When the potatoes are ready, drain them, then add them to a food processor with butter, milk, salt and pepper. This purée is essentially inspired by Joël Robuchon’s potato purée, and you can do this part on the stove if you like, but if the potatoes are hot when you do this, you’ll be able to achieve a very silky purée.
Begin to blend the mixture and add butter as needed. The portion for this dish is very small, so don’t be afraid to add butter here. When it begins to look silky, add enough milk to allow you to pipe it through a pastry bag, but still firm enough to support the Napoleon. The finished purée should remind you of pastry cream.
When it’s done, check for seasoning, and you’re ready to plate.
Start by placing a wafer on the plate to server as your base layer, then pipe your potato purée on top of that. Repeat this for your next 3 layers, then finish with a wafer on top.
Garnish each Napoleon with crème fraiche or sour cream, and chives.
Finish by spooning your sauce around the dish and enjoy.