I’m a big fan of throwing a bunch of meat and vegetables into a pot, then letting them simmer till tender and full of flavor.
In figuring out how to plan my months, I’ve been dancing around the idea of consistently making the national dish of each country I do. I think from here on out that’s where I’m going to start, makes sense, right?
So…not knowing what to cook the third week in April, I looked up the national dish of France: Pot-au-feu (POT-O-FOO).
Pot-au-feu is a classic French stew made with cheap cuts of beef on the bone, carrots, turnips, leeks, and onions. It’s super simple, but hearty and perfect for that lingering cold weather. Here’s what you’ll need:
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
3 whole cloves
4 sprigs parsley
4 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
2 stalks celery
1 medium yellow onion
6 cloves garlic
3lbs beef shortribs
salt to taste
1lb baby potatoes (optional)
1 cinnamon stick (optional)
cornichons for garnish
fresh parsley for garnish
Special Tools You’ll Need: Cheesecloth, kitchen string
Step One: In a small square of cheesecloth, tie up the peppercorns and cloves. There are few things worse than unsuspectingly biting into a whole clove or peppercorn.
Step Two: Tie your parsley, thyme, and bay leaves together with string to make a bouquet garni. It should be tight enough that nothing falls out, but loose enough that you’re not cutting into the herbs with the string.
Step Three: Chop the leeks, cutting off the ends and the green, leafy bits. We’re only going to use the white/light green part. Slice them in half longwise, flip them over onto the flat side, and slice.
Step Four: Roughly chop the celery, carrots, and turnips. Slice the onion in half, discard the outer layers, leaving the halves whole. Peel the garlic and crush each clove with the side of your knife and some pressure from the palm of your hand.
Step Five: Toss the beef, cheesecloth bundle, bouquet garni, leeks, celery, carrots, turnips, onion, garlic, and potatoes (if you’re using them) in a large soup pot (My biggest pot at the time was a dutch oven, not big enough). Cover with water and let everything come to a boil on medium-high heat. When it boils, lower the heat and let it simmer for about three hours or until the meat is so tender it falls off the bone. Skim off any scum that may float to the surface while simmering.
Optional: If you have a cinnamon stick lying around that you’re not planning on using, toss it in.
Step Seven: When the meat is tender and the vegetables are cooked, remove the solids from the broth, and discard the bouquet garni and cheesecloth. If you’re serving it right away, no need to do this, just skip to step nine.
Step Eight: Salt the broth to your liking. My pot wasn’t big enough so I had to do my potatoes separately. Some extra time to simmer just the broth will allow it to reduce, making it even more flavorful.
Step Nine: Serve pot-au-feu hot, topped with chopped parsley and cornichons (delicious tiny pickles). Store the solids and the broth separately.
If you have leftovers and keep the broth in the fridge, make sure you remove any fat that solidifies at the top.