This is the perfect time of year for one of France’s winter recipes: the “Pot au Feu” (literally a “Pot in the Fire”). This classic French beef stew is a great cold-weather dish of stewed meats, beef broth, and vegetables.
It’s simple to put together but does take a few hours to cook. But the investment in time and effort is worth it: you can serve it several ways, freeze any leftovers, and your kitchen will smell wonderful!
A versatile dish that can be served several ways:
The classic way the French serve this dish is to present the stewed meat and vegetables on a platter and the beef broth separately as a soup.
If you have extra broth it’s wonderful to sip as a hot drink on a cold winter afternoon or at night by the fire.
It can also be used as a base for sauces in other dishes, soups or you can simply 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:
“Pot au Feu” French 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 kitchen twine and cheesecloth
Garnish for serving the traditional way:
- cornichons or small pickles
- Dijon mustard
- 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 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, 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 cheesecloth
-Boil the strained broth down another few minutes if you want a stronger, more concentrated taste. Add salt if needed
-Serve first 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
If you’re in the middle of a cold winter, it’s the perfect time to try this classic dish!
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.
French “Pot au Feu” Beef Stew is delicious and nourishing. The beef broth is also very healthy by itself. Added bonus: it makes your house smell wonderful on a winter’s day.
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 a walk in the snow.
While this recipe does take a long time to cook (try it over a weekend), once you set everything up, it doesn’t require a lot of attention.
And now you: Have you tried the traditional French “Pot au Feu” beef stew? Are you tempted to try and make it? Leave a comment below and let me know!
Photo courtesy of byothe at Pixabay