This is the perfect time of year for a classic cold-weather recipe: French “Pot au Feu” (literally a “Pot in the Fire”). This French beef stew is a great winter dish of stewed meats, beef broth, and vegetables.
It’s simple to put together but does take a few hours to cook. However, the investment in time and effort is worth it: you can serve it in several ways, freeze any leftovers, and your kitchen will smell wonderful!
A versatile dish that can be served in several ways:
The French traditionally serve this dish with the stewed meat and vegetables on a platter and the beef broth placed separately as a soup.
If you have extra broth, it’s terrific to sip as a hot drink on a cold winter afternoon or at night by the fire.
The beef broth can also be used as a base for sauces in other dishes or in soups. You can also add pasta to it.
Leftover meat can be served cold the next day with a salad.
The version below is slightly different from what you’ll usually find: it’s from Hugo Desnoyer, the Parisian butcher who supplies the kitchens of the French Presidential Palace, the Palais de l’Elysée.
This is the best version I’ve tried, so here it is:
French “Pot au Feu” Beef Stew Recipe for 4:
Prep time: 35 minutes Cooking time: 4 hours
- 1 pound 4 medium pieces of beef shank with bone
- 1 pound beef chuck
- 1 pound beef ribs
- 1 pound medium oxtail or beef marrow bones
- 1 large peeled white onion
- 2 whole cloves
- 1 bunch of dried thyme
- 1 Bay Leaf
- 2 stars of star anise
- 1/4 of a cinnamon stick
- 6 whole black peppercorns
- 4 leeks
- 4 carrots, peeled
- 4 turnips
- 1 celeriac
- coarse sea salt
You’ll also need a stockpot, kitchen twine, and cheesecloth.
Garnish for serving the traditional way:
- Cornichons or small pickles (Cornichons by Edmond Fallot on Amazon.com)
- Dijon mustard (French Dijon Mustard by Edmond Fallot on Amazon.com)
- Toasted bread, like a baguette
-Tie the beef shank, chuck, and ribs tightly together in a bundle with kitchen twine and place in a large stockpot.
-Wrap the marrow bones tightly in cheesecloth and tie them with twine
-Fill the pot with cold water, so the meat is covered, and bring to a boil for 10 minutes, skimming the top often
-Add the peeled onion pierced with the whole cloves
-Add the branches of thyme, the bay leaf, the star anise, the cinnamon stick, and the black peppercorns, all wrapped in cheesecloth and secured with kitchen twine
-Turn the fire down to a low simmer for 2 1/2 hours. Don’t let the water boil.
-Add more water if necessary to keep the meat covered
-Clean the leeks, removing most of the dark green part, cut lengthwise, and tie with kitchen twine
-Peel the carrots, turnips, and celeriac.
-Cut the celeriac in 8 quarters
-Add the carrots and leeks to the stockpot and let cook for 1 hour
-Then add the turnips and the celeriac and cook for another 30 minutes
(You can also serve this with potatoes but cook them separately, or they will thicken the delicious beef broth).
-Discard the onion before serving
-Place the meat on a serving platter surrounded by the vegetables and keep warm
-Strain the broth through a sieve and remove the spices in the cheesecloth
-Boil the strained broth down for a few minutes if you want a more pungent, concentrated taste. Add salt if needed
-Serve the beef broth in separate bowls like a soup with slices of toasted baguette spread with the marrow (removed from the beef marrow/oxtail bones).
-Then, place the meat surrounded by vegetables on a warm platter so everyone can serve themselves.
–Serve the garnish as sides to accompany the meat and vegetables for serving the traditional way:
- Cornichons (or small pickles)
- Dijon mustard
The French are known for their attention to seasonal ingredients when preparing meals. And the cuts of beef used for slow cooking – like in this recipe – are examples of seasonal ingredients in high demand in France during the winter.
Depending on how much you make, this recipe can yield several meals: Leftovers freeze well (I’ve even frozen the broth), or you can use them in the following ways:
- Serve leftover meat cold the next day with a salad.
- Use the broth as a base for other sauces and soups.
- Add pasta to the broth.
- Sip the beef broth as a hot drink by the fire after skiing or walking in the snow.
While this recipe takes a long time to cook (try it over a weekend), once you set everything up, it doesn’t require much attention.
If you’re in the middle of a cold winter, it’s the perfect time to try this classic dish.
The beef broth is also very healthy by itself. Bonus: the recipe makes your house smell fantastic on a winter’s day!
And now you: Have you tried the traditional French “Pot au Feu” beef stew? Are you tempted to try and make it? Let me know!
Photo courtesy of Pixabay