Pot au feu is the quintessential winter stew – and so easy to make. Today, I woke up early and washed and cut the leeks, onions and carrots. In the slow-cooker, I put a layer of leeks and carrots, then two large pieces of stew meat. I added two onions, quartered, and finished by packing the remainder of space with small potatoes. Then I scattered a few sprigs of rosemary and thyme over it, added water until barely covered, and set my slow cooker for 9 hours. When I came home from work, dinner was ready! All I had to do was warm the baguette in the oven, and voila!
You can use brisket, short rib, ox tails, or any mix of cheap cuts of meat. One lean and fibrous one, plus a gelatinous one is a good mix. I add a bouillon cube or two, depending on the amount of water, and that means I don’t salt it as it cooks. Use leeks, carrots, turnips, potatoes, parsnips – any winter veggie is good. But some take longer to cook than others. You can add pumpkin or squash cubes – as long as you add those last so they don’t turn to mush. You can also add cabbage – but don’t over cook it!
The French almost always add a marrow bone or two to pot-au-feu. The cooked marrow, which you coax from the bone, is delicious; it tastes rich and meaty but has the consistency of soft butter. Try some spread on toast, served with the pot-au-feu broth, topped with a sprinkle of sea salt.
Here are the details on using marrow bones in pot-au-feu:
• Use about 2 lb. beef marrow bones, crosscut by the butcher into 3- to 4-inch pieces
• Add the bones for the final 30 to 60 minutes of cooking.
• Remove the bones from the pot-au-feu when you remove the meat.
• Spread it on toasted baguette slices and serve with sea-salt.
Serve the pot au feu as both a soup and a main dish. Start with the bouillon in a bowl, and pile the vegetables and meat on a separate plate. Serve with pickles, sea-salt, and fresh baguette. You can also put a pot of mustard on the table for those who wish.
As the French say – Bon appetite!