Tags

, , , ,

pot au feu 042

As a kid, I remember that when my mother would pull out the large, chipped enameled pot that was the buttery soft yellow of an after dinner mint, it meant that the house would soon be filled with the heady fragrance of pot au feu – a beefy aromatic broth in which vegetables are simmered. Very basic, very French. Always revered.

While a lot of folks call it a stew, I beg to differ because, if you’ve never had it, that description is misleading. To me, stew connotes meat and vegetables bound together with a thickened juice. That’s not the case with pot au feu, there’s no thickening of the broth. Rather, think of it as the French version of a New England boiled dinner – sans brisket.

I remember this simple French staple as the culinary gift that kept on giving. The first evening, we’d have the vegetables – potatoes, carrots, Savoy cabbage, which my mother calls curly cabbage, and tender bits of beef from soup bones. Oh, and turnips, which I try to put out of my mind and far away from my pot au feu. The meal was served with copious amounts of bracing mustard.

On the second day, we’d enjoy the rich broth for lunch. It was boosted with tiny specks of pasta and little cubes of Swiss cheese that would melt and slightly cloud the broth while giving it an extra stringy dimension.

The final dish would end up as the loveliest cream of vegetable soup. Whatever soft and broth-soaked vegetables were left would find their way into the food mill and come out as a silky soup, without needing a drop of cream or knob of butter. However, it often was finished with a plop of sour cream after it made its way to our bowls.

It’s amazing how so few ingredients can end up giving up so much flavor, and the pot au feu (pot over the fire) is a prime example of this phenomenon.

I would give you just a few guidelines when making your own pot au feu, which you must make. The base of the flavor comes from the meat used in the broth. You need soup bones for flavor and to give the soup a bit of a backbone, which you’ll get from the gelatin in the bones. While my grandmother gladly scooped out and devoured the marrow from the bones after the dish was cooked, I think few of us these days indulge, so feel free to get marrow bones that are cut fairly thin (with less marrow) if those are easier to find. But, you’re going to want some meat to serve with the vegetables, and I found that the most flavorful and buttery soft beef in this dish comes from bone-in short ribs.

pot au feu 004

The bone-in beef short ribs are located at 11 o’clock on the platter above. That’s your money meat for this dish. Don’t skimp. At midnight, just below the yellow onion, you’ll see meaty soup bones. These are important for flavor and body. Definitely make sure you have several of these.

At about 10 o’clock you’ll notice lean hunks of boneless short ribs. I find these totally optional and would rather replace them with the bone-in beef short ribs. Without the bone and skinny layers of fat, these ended up being a bit too chewy and dry. They’re not invited the next time I make pot au feu.

And you can barely see them, but beneath the cabbage and the potatoes, you’ll notice thinly sliced beef shank with the bone. I like this cut because if offers a lot of flavor. However, it’s not nearly as tender as the bone-in short rib, but what is? So, the only meat I wouldn’t use next time are those boneless short ribs.

You’ll find that this is an easy, foolproof recipe. Really, you’re just making a simple broth, then removing the flavoring veggies (the dogs get them), and then adding carrots, potatoes and cabbage until tender, and that’s pretty much it. Your house will be as fragrant as a French kitchen, and everyone will be happy. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Pot Au Feu

The broth:

5 to 6 pounds of beef and soup bones

I used about 2 pounds of bone-in short ribs, 1 pound boneless short ribs, 1 pound beef shank with bone and 2 pounds of meaty soup bones

1 large yellow onion

6 bay leaves

2 large celery ribs, cut in half

3 leeks, just the dark green parts for the broth, reserve the white to cook with the other vegetables later on

6 garlic cloves, peeled and lightly crushed or sliced in half

1/2 teaspoon dried powdered thyme

1 teaspoon salt

Place the ingredients in a large stock pot and cover with water.

pot au feu 007

pot au feu 008

pot au feu 011

Bring to a simmer, but don’t let it boil. Start skimming the foam as it forms and continue for the first 30 minutes or so of cooking.

pot au feu 014

You can see how the foam (which I prefer over the term, scum) collects. If you don’t remove it promptly, you’ll end up with a cloudy broth that’s pretty unattractive to boot. It’s a bit tedious, but just do it.

pot au feu 015

Now, doesn’t that look much better? Yes, it does.

Let simmer for about 2-3 hours.

NOTE: Check the bone-in short ribs after 2 hours and if they’re tender, remove them from the broth, cover them with a little broth to keep them moist, and set them aside.

After about 3 hours, remove the meat, bones and vegetables from the broth. You can strain it if you like. Pick through the meat and place pieces you want to serve with the bone-in short ribs and discard (meaning give to the dog or cat) the rest, including the vegetables.

pot au feu 022

Place the broth back into the pot and add:

Three leeks, white and pale green parts only, cut into 1/4 inch pieces

2 pounds carrots, peeled and cut in two or three pieces

pot au feu 017

pot au feu 029

Simmer for about 20 minutes, then add:

4 or 5 waxy potatoes (red), peeled and quartered

Cook for about 10 minutes before adding:

1 small head Savoy cabbage, cored and quartered

(Savoy cabbage is much more tender and has a milder, sweeter flavor than regular green cabbage.)

pot au feu 037

And the reserved meat

Simmer about 10 minutes or until the cabbage leaves are tender.

pot au feu 038

Serve with French mustard on the side.

pot au feu 055

(Printer friendly version)

Pot Au Feu

The broth:

 5 to 6 pounds of beef and soup bones

I used about 2 pounds of bone-in short ribs, 1 pound boneless short ribs, 1 pound beef shank with bone and 2 pounds of meaty soup bones

1 large yellow onion

6 bay leaves

2 large celery ribs, cut in half

3 leeks, just the dark green parts for the broth, reserve the white to cook with the other vegetables later on

6 garlic cloves, peeled and lightly crushed or sliced in half

1/2 teaspoon dried powdered thyme

1 teaspoon salt

Place the ingredients in a large stock pot and cover with water. Bring to a simmer, but don’t let it boil. Start skimming the foam as it forms and continue for the first 30 minutes or so of cooking. Let simmer for about 2-3 hours.

NOTE: Check the bone-in short ribs after 2 hours and, if they’re tender, remove them from the broth, cover them with a little broth to keep them moist and set them aside.

After about 3 hours, remove the meat, bones and vegetables from the broth. You can strain it if you like. Pick through the meat and place pieces you want to serve with the bone-in short ribs and discard (meaning give to the dog or cat) the rest, including the vegetables.

 

Place the broth back into the pot and add:

Three leeks, white and pale green parts only, cut into 1/4 inch pieces

2 pounds carrots, peeled and cut in two or three pieces

Simmer for about 20 minutes, then add:

4 or 5 waxy potatoes (red), peeled and quartered

Cook for about 10 minutes before adding:

1 small head Savoy cabbage, cored and quartered

And the reserved meat

Simmer about 10 minutes or until the cabbage leaves are tender.

 

Serve with French mustard on the side.