Travels with a Gourmet

a food lover's travels, memorable meals, culinary trials and gastronomic experiences

As much as we’d like to deny it, winter is here. With the drop in temperature comes the unfolding of sweaters, the addition of the duvet, the donning of flannel pajamas and of course, the use of the fireplace. I also bring out my cookbooks and start to browse through them to find appropriate dishes for the wintry weather.

Tonight, we had one of our favorites, pot-au-feu, which literally means “pot on the fire”. The first time I ever made a pot-au-feu from scratch was during my intermediate cuisine course at Le Cordon Bleu in the early nineties. Since then, I’ve adapted the standard recipe to whatever I have on hand have come up with my own simpler and easier to cook version with less cuts of meat involved. If you want to try the traditional version, here’s a recipe from Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook. Try it this winter and you’ll see why it’s a French classic.

  • Pot-au-Feu (serves 6) from the Les Halles cookbook
  • 1 lb (450 gr.) paleron of beef or brisket
  • 6 pieces of oxtail, cut 1 1/2 inches/4 cm. thick
  • 6 beef short ribs
  • 1 veal shank, on the bone
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 2 onions, cut in half
  • 6 leeks, white part only
  • 2 small celery roots (celeriac), cut into quarters
  • 4 carrots, cut into 4-inch10 cm. lengths
  • 1 bouquet garni *
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut in half
  • 1 head of cabbage, cored and cut into 6 to 8 wedges
  • 1/2 lb./225 gr. cornichons
  • 1 cup/225 gr. gros sel (large-grained sea salt)
  • 1 cup/225 gr. hot prepared mustard
  • a really big pot
  • tongs
  • ladle
  • 3 medium ramekins
  • marrow spoon (you can use the back end of an iced-tea spoon)
  • serving platter (a bloody big one)
  • soup terrine
  • COOK
  • In the huge pot, combine the beef, oxtail, short ribs, and veal 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 meats aside and throw out the water. Clean the pot. Seriously, do it. Then, put the meat right back inside. Push 2 cloves into each onion half and add the onions to the pot, along with the leeks, celery roots, carrots, and bouquet garni. 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 2 1/2 hours, or until the meat is tender. Skim the cooking liquid with a ladle periodically to remove scum and foam.
  • Add the potatoes and cabbage and cook for an additional 30 minutes, until soft. You want to maintain the structural integrity of the meat and vegetables. Adjust the seasoning as needed.
  • Put the cornichons, sea salt and mustard in the ramekins and set on the table. Remove the brisket from the pot and cut into 6 pieces. Remove the veal shank from the pot and cut the meat off the bone, again into 6 to 8 pieces. Using the marrow spoon, dig out all that lovely marrow from inside of the veal bone. Arrange the oxtails, the meats, the marrow, and the vegetables in an attractively disheveled fashion on the serving platter and spoon some of the cooking liquid over and around it. Serve the rest of the liquid in a soup terrine.

* (my note: a sprig of flat parsley, thyme and bay leaf wrapped into a small piece of the green part of the leek and tied with a string)

2 thoughts on “Pot-au-feu

  1. Thanks Stockton. It’s nice to switch over to winter cuisine.


  2. Stockton says:

    love the bourdain cookbook – i’m starting to make heartier food no – its getting cold over here! Great post!


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