In Recipies on March 12, 2013 at 4:12 pm

Speak of the Devil and you hear the flap of wings. No sooner do I take a slap at pot-au-feu in a Phyne Dyning feature covering sauce Béarnaise and I end up making the dish for Shabbat guests.


It’s not that I don’t like Provence’s ‘pot on the fire’ stew. It’s that I always cringe whenever I boil a nice bit of beef. Boiled beef is the stuff of merchant sailors not far removed from HMS Bounty.

The French concoction is a delightful sort of stew.

The true peasant’s version uses larger odds-and-ends of beef. A more elegant presentation can be had by using a 2-3 pound ‘cheaper cut’ of beef. Look for a lean chuck roast. A top sirloin has a bit better flavor than bottom sirloin. A clod roast is also acceptable. Chuck can be a bit tough and cartilaginous unless cooked long and slow. So, for pot-au-feu, it is ideal.

Next, select your vegetable accompaniment.

I use a couple of good-sized leeks. Just be sure to clean them well, or your jus will have grit in it. Celery is indispensable and is added as cut blunts about 2-3 inches long. Large, whole carrots add color and a half of a large yellow onion (well minced) gives the dish a savory character. Several waxy potatoes are optional, but highly traditional.

A little garlic goes a long way. Two or three cloves, neatly sliced, is just about right. Or, a large, minced shallot can substitute for the garlic. A dozen trimmed green onions are added a few minutes before service.

This French classic gets much of its characteristic flavor from the added bouquet garni. You can purchase a dried blend. Or, you can make you own like I do. Now that I have fresh herbs growing indoors year-round, I like making my own little bundles of flavor.


Use several 2-4 inch cuts of thyme, rosemary, and parsley. Lay them in the center of a 10-inch square of cheesecloth. Lay in two bay leaves and a dozen or so fragrant peppercorns. Some marjoram leaves are a nice option, as are sage leaves. Now, fold all of the herbs into the cloth and tie it up with twine or butcher’s string.

Here’s what you’ll need to finish your pot-au-feu:

2-3 lb roast (see notes above)

1 large onion

2 stalks celery, cut into 2-3” lengths

4-6 large, whole carrots

6-10 green onions, trimmed

2 leeks, cleaned and chopped (white and tender green parts)

2-4 large cloves garlic, sliced thin

or 1 large shallot minced

2 TBS canola oil

3 TBS cognac

1 TBS red wine vinegar

1 bouquet garni (see notes above)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a large, deep skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Pat the roast dry and brown all of it’s exposed sides. Remove the meat to a platter and de-glaze the skillet with the cognac. Stir in the chopped onions and garlic (or shallot), seasoned with a bit of salt and pepper and cook over medium heat until soft and just turning golden. Place the bouquet garni in the bottom of the pot. Return the roast to the skillet or pot and cover with water (about 6-8 cups). Cook, uncovered (over low-medium heat), for about 30 minutes. Check the seasoning but do not over salt. Stir in the red wine vinegar and carefully arrange the vegetables around the meat. Cook, uncovered, for an additional 20-30 minutes. Meanwhile, pre-heat your oven to 450F. After the meat and vegetables have cooked for the allotted 20-30 minutes, remove the pot from the heat. Remove the vegetables to a shallow roasting pan and remove the meat to a similar pan. Lay the green onions over the meat and place it (and the vegetables in the hot oven) for 10-15 minutes. Remove everything from the oven and tent the meat with foil. Allow the roast to rest in its juices for at least twenty minutes before slicing.

While the pot-au-feu rests, remove the bouquet garni from the pot liquid. Strain the liquid through a fine strainer and re-heat it. If desired, several cups of liquid may be fashioned into gravy or whisked with butter (Invisible Friend permitting). Check the jus for seasoning and ladle into a large boat.

Serve the meat and vegetables family style with the large boat of the jus to pass around. The meat will be fork-tender and the vegetables will be bold and brightly flavored.


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