Pot au feu, “pot on the fire,” is a cherished French cold-weather dish. Sexy? Not at all. But like many favorite, classic dishes it is quietly brilliant in its simplicity and depth.
One loud, gluttonous sip of the velvet, beef-flavored broth quickly dismisses any notion that a dinner of boiled meat and vegetables might be bland or boring. It’s the kind of dish that comes from the heart—no egos, no showing off here—and it comforts you down to your soul.
American painter Alfred Maurer, as we learned from Crystal Bridges Curator Manuela Well-Off-Man at the most recent Wednesday Over Water, spent 17 years in France—and, like so many other expatriot artists, found solace, comfort, and acceptance in Paris during the early part of the twentieth century. Pot au feu is a favorite French comfort food. After the recent acts of terrorism in France, it’s even more relevant to express the importance Paris has made in artistic and culinary inspiration for so many…so, please raise your spoon and slurp loudly: “Viva la France!”
Come visit the current temporary exhibition Alfred Maurer: Art on the Edge, before it closes after Jan 4!
Beef pot au feu
1 lb beef cheek or chuck roast
6 pieces of oxtail, cut 1½ inches thick
6 beef short ribs 1 beef shank, on the bone
8 whole cloves
2 onions, cut in half
2 bay leaves and a small bunch of thyme and rosemary
2 leeks, white part only 2 small celery roots, cut into quarters
2 carrots, cut into 4-inch lengths Salt and pepper
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut in half
2 turnips cornichons large-grained sea salt prepared mustard
In a huge pot, combine the beef, oxtail, short ribs, and shank, and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat, and as soon as the water comes to a boil, remove from the heat. Set the meat aside and throw out the water. Clean the pot. Then put the meat right back inside.
Push 2 cloves into each onion-half and add the onions and herbs to the pot. Season with salt and pepper and cover with cold water.
Bring the pot to a slow simmer, gradually, and let cook over medium-low heat for around 3½ hours, or until the meat is tender. Skim the cooking liquid with a ladle periodically to remove scum and foam. Add the leeks, celery, carrots, potatoes, and turnips and cook for an additional 45 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft. Adjust the seasoning as needed.
Put the cornichons, sea salt, and mustard into separate bowls and set on the table.
Arrange the oxtails, the meats, and the vegetables on a serving platter and spoon some of the cooking liquid over and around it. Serve the rest of the liquid in a soup tureen. You want to maintain the structural integrity of the meat and vegetables. Adjust the seasoning as needed.