Pot-au-feu is a typical country-style comfort food. It is made with not expensive cuts of beef and lots of vegetables (mainly roots). It is commonly prepared in winter. However, I have had the pleasure of eating this classic dish last week as the weather was quite cold in France (yes, only 6⁰C in the morning!)
Pot-au-feu (the way my Mum prepares it)
In a large saucepan put beef flank, oxtail and veal tongue with 1 tsp. of peppercorns, 1 onion pricked with 3-4 cloves, 1 celery stalk (optional) and a bouquet garni (bay leaves, parsley, and thyme) and boil for about 3 hours. Add salt. From time to time use a spoon to skim the foam forming on top of the broth. During cooking time add water in saucepan if necessary so that the meat is always covered with water.
Note: In France your butcher usually ties up the ox tail pieces with a string into a tight bundle. You can also ask him/her for beef bone marrows. Bone marrow is rare and not everyone’s cup of tea. The texture of the bone marrow is soft and smooth; it is a bit oily and delicious when mixed with plain rice.
30-45 minutes before the end of the cooking time add the vegetables (carrots, leeks, parsnips, and turnips) previously washed, peeled and cut into big chunks. You can add also potatoes. Add each type of vegetable separately if some cook faster than others (tender than others).
Carrots, parsnip, and leeks
Once everything is cooked remove the meat and the vegetables from the saucepan and put them into different platters.
Discard the bouquet garni and cloves from the onion. (You can serve the onion, but without the cloves).
Remove the skin of the veal tongue.
Scoop the bone marrow and put it in a small serving cup (for those who love it mixed with their rice.) You can also spread the bone marrow on thin slices of toasted bread.
Transfer the broth into a large bowl.
Serve hot with a vinaigrette or moutarde de Dijon.
Veal tongue – skin being removed
This traditional dish is best enjoyed with plain rice. If you like to drink the broth, then you can also toast thin slices of bread to soak into it.
After eating thought: This is really a meat dish! I seldom eat so much meat but I confess that these cuts were so tender and tasty that it was too hard to resist.