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IMG_6527This classic French one-pot meal is two dishes in one. The bouillon, along with the toasted bread and marrow bones, is served as a starter and followed by the meat and vegetables as the main course. A pot au feu is a wonderful, rustic, traditional dish that reminds us what classic French cooking is all about, comfort, family style food – not always fussy, formal and fancy dishes. A mix of different, fairly cheap cuts of beef are cooked in a bouillon until they are fall off the bone tender. The marrow bones add great flavour to the broth and are a very special treat to eat with the broth. It is my favourite part of the meal, rich, meaty with the consistency of warm butter. Do try some on toasted bread with some coarse salt and pepper – heaven in a mouthful!
The bones are added in the last hour of cooking and the addition of the coarse salt rubbed into each end will not only prevent the marrow from falling out but add flavor to the whole dish. It is important to cook the potatoes separately as being starchy they would cloud the bouillon and not make it as presentable. By precooking the meat for a few minutes as suggested in my recipe, it eliminates a lot of the scum and I seldom have any to remove during the cooking process. Also I find that starting the meat in cold water helps keep the bouillon clear, while a little fat on the surface adds amazing flavour.
At my home, my grandmother used to make this regularly when I was a child and, as in most French households, the bouillon was always served as a first course with the bread and marrow from the bones thickly slathered onto it. Then she would bring to the table the platter with the meat and vegetables and let everyone serve themselves. The meat is always eaten accompanied with coarse salt, cornichons and strong mustard. The French do not eat many dishes family style but this is most certainly one of them and by far the most famous.



IMG_6521IMG_6522IMG_6524IMG_6526Serves 6 to 8


2.5 kg / 5 pounds different cuts of beef, boneless beef chuck roast, bottom roast round, bone-in beef short ribs, oxtail or shank (at least 3 different types)
6 to 8 marrow bones, rub coarse salt into each end
4 medium leeks, white and light green parts
4 large carrots, peeled and  cut into 2
6 to 8 small turnips, peeled
6 to 8 small potatoes, peeled
1 large yellow onion, peeled and halved
1 bouquet garni – (bay leaf, thyme, parsley)
coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
To serve:
8 toasted slices of good pain de campagne (country style bread)
Coarse, flaky salt
Strong Dijon mustard


Tie the parsley, thyme and bay leaf in a small piece of cheesecloth with kitchen twine to make a bouquet garni
Heat 5 l of water in a very large pot
Add the meat, not the bones,  and boil for 2 minutes
Drain, discard water and reserve meat
Clean the pot of the scum and replace all the meat
Cover with cool water by 5 cm / 2 inches
Add the bouquet garni
Bring to the boil over medium high heat
Skim the surface if any scum
Allow to cook on a very gentle simmer, covered or partially covered for 2 hours
After 1 hour, add about 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons salt
During this time, tie the leeks together with kitchen twine and clean all the vegetables
After 2 hours, add the leeks, carrots, onion and turnips
Add the marrow bones
Allow to cook, always on a low simmer, another 1 hour (meat will have cooked 3 hours)
During this time, boil the potatoes separately in lighted salted water until tender, about 20 minutes and drain – set aside
Transfer the meat and vegetables, including potatoes, to a platter and cover with foil to keep warm
Discard the bouquet garni
Ladle some broth on the meat and veg to keep moist
Serve the bouillon in soup bowls with toasted bread and marrow
Serve the meat and vegetables as a main course with the salt, mustard and cornichons