Classic Pot Au Feu Recipe
It is difficult to know when the name pot-au-feu first appeared and when its meaning changed to describe the dish instead of the pot in which it is cooked. While pot was used to describe the rounded pot to cook on the fire at least since the 11th century there seems to be no written trace of pot-au-feu until 1673.
In 1600, King Henry IV of France (1553-1610) declared, “I want no peasant in my kingdom to be so poor that he cannot have a poule au pot on Sundays.”Poule au pot literally means “chicken in the pot” and the so-called traditional recipe resembles the one of “pot-au-feu”. However, peasants’ food was mainly based on bread (c. 500 g/day), root vegetables, in-season vegetables and soup. They rarely ate meat except salted pork, hog-grease, bacon, or other meat, whether it was during religious celebrations or when they dared to poach game from their lord’s land. For people living in towns, it was easier to buy inexpensive pieces of meat, which needed long cooking times.
The method of cooking all food together and for extended periods of time (the whole day sometimes) gave what was called a “pot-pourri” in French and imported into English in the early 17th century. The relation between pot-pourri and pot-au-feu was attested in 1829 in the Etymologic dictionary of the French language: “Pot pourri. The name our fathers gave to the pot-au-feu”
- 1 kg of beef cuts suited for stew ( flank, oyster blade low ribs, chuck steaks, oxtail, shank etc..)
- 500 grams of beef bones ( with bone marrow)
- 4 litre ( 1 gallon) of water
- 30 grams of salt
- 1 teaspoon of salt
Vegetable to flavour the stew :
- 150 grams of carrots
- 150 grams of onion ( 1 whole onion)
- 200 grams of leeks
- 10 grams of celery
- 3 cloves
- 150 grams of turnip
- 25 grams of parsnip
Vegetable fo the garnish:
- 2 leeks cut in chunks ( only the white and yellow parts)
- 4 carrots
- 2 turnips
- 1 kg of potatoes suited for boiling
- mayonnaise ( optional)
cooking time up to 3 hours or less if the meat are cooked before.
The evolution of this recipe is a bit different regarding the food preparation we usually do beforehand. And because the meat takes quite a long time to cook we will be peeling and cutting the vegetables later on in the recipe
Step 1 start cooking the meat.
In a large stock pot start by adding all of the bones and meats at the bottom of the pan. Cover with 3 litre of cold water then turn the heat on high and bring to the boil. As soon as the boils start a lot of impurities will start to float on the top (which is normal) and you will have to start scooping that scum out with a slotted spoon. When done add 330 ml of cold in the pan which will stop the boiling. Clear the excess of impurities on floating at the top and bring back to the boil.
You will have to repeat the process of cleaning and adding cold water to the pan 3 times in total so that you end up at the end with a total of 4 liter ( approx.1 gallon of liquid) so each time you add water it should be around 330ml which just a bit more than a cup)
After the third ‘clean” you meat should well on its way to cook and the broth should be fairly clear and clean without too much fat on the top. I isi now time to add the salt, peppercorns a well as the vegetables (see vegetable used for flavouring in the ingredient list). When reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pan with a lid (leaving an opening as large as 2 fingers wide for the steam to escape) and leave to cook up to 3 hours (or until your meat is cooked, which can depends on how thick or tough you met pieces are)
Step 2 discard the flavouring vegetables and finish cooking the meat:
After an 45 minutes to an hour discard the vegetables used for the flavouring, remove any impurities floating at the top again then put the lid back on (partly close) and leave the meat to simmer on a gentle boil until it is totally cooked (to know when the meat is cooked just take a piece out and if you can detach pieces of meat with your finger then it is ready) when the meat is totally cooked you can start cooking the vegetable use for the garnish.
Cooking the vegetable for the garnish:
It is now time to wash and peel the vegetables for the garnish. Once done leave the potatoes whole (or cut them in half if they are too big), cut the turnips in quarters, the carrots and leeks in medium size chunks too (make sure you only use the white and yellow part of the leeks)
The cooking of the vegetables need to be done separately so you will have to boil the potatoes in one pan and the carrots, turnips and leeks in another. Usually it is custom to use some of the beef broth as cooking liquid for the vegetable which will give them a really nice flavour. (see video for details instruction cooking the vegetables.
Serving the pot au feu:
It is important to remember that the pot au feu at its core is a simple family dish. So there is no expectations for fancy plating or anything of the sort. Typically for 4 to 6 patrons a pot au feu is served as follow:
- In one large dish, place all of the pieces of meat in the middle and arrange all the vegetables around the meats.
- Decorate with a bit of chop parsley
- Add on the table two little bowl with chopped gherkins and Dijon mustard (or any mustard you like). I personally like to add a bit of freshly mayonnaise as well on the table
- Finally you can also serve a soup dish with some of the beef broth so people can help themselves to it if they wish to.
If you want to serve this on plates or directly in individual bowl , watch the video I have below to see my take on it. After that it is up to you to get creative.