Pot au Feu
We are back home after a 2-week trip to NY in which we saw great art, heard great music, watched great theater, and ate like pigs. My stomach needs to recuperate, so I am going back to basics. I need to lay off everything fried, or covered in sauce, or full of sugar. Good, basic food is just what the doctor ordered. So I offer this dish, one of my all time favorites, and a definite must-have on your list of classic preparations.
Pot au Feu means “pot with fire” and refers to a one-pot meal, cooked slowly for several hours. There are several variations of this dish throughout the world, including the Flemish hochepot, the Italian bollito misto, and the New England boiled dinner. What’s the difference between these dishes and a stew? It’s the broth. These pots of fire produce clear broth because the meat is not browned prior to boiling, and no flour is added to thicken the gravy.
Why does this recipe call for sprigs of fresh herbs? It’s to keep the broth clear. Dry herbs make a speckled broth, even after straining. Some chef use a bouquet garni (a sachet of herbs tied in cheese cloth), which can be easily retrieved. We tie the meat up in twine for the same reason. These cuts of meat will easily fall apart in such prolonged cooking which can cloud up the broth and make them hard to fish out for slicing.
2-3 lb. beef short ribs
2-3 lb. Beef chuck roast
2-3 marrow bones
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 sprig fresh thyme
1/2 tsp. black peppercorns
3-4 quarts cold water
1 tsp. salt
8 new potatoes
4 carrots, diced
3 leeks, sliced in quarters lengthwise
8 diagonal slices French baguette, toasted
- Tie each piece of meat securely with twine to hold it together. Place the meat in the pot with the onion, carrots, celery, bay, parsley, thyme and peppercorns. Cover completely with cold water and bring to a boil over high heat. At the boil, reduce the heat to low, and cook at a bare simmer for 3 hours.
- After three hours remove the meat to an oven proof dish, cover and keep warm in a 200˚F oven. Strain the broth to another large saucepan. Add the salt, potatoes, and bring it to a boil over high heat. Cook for 15 minutes then add the carrots and leeks. Cook another 15 minutes until vegetables are tender.
- Thinly slice the chuck roast, divide the short ribs into serving portions. Arrange on a platter with the potatoes, carrots and leeks. Remove the marrow from the bones and spread it on the toast. Serve the broth and croutons as a first course, and the meat and vegetables second with an assortment of condiments including horseradish, mustard, and cornichons.