Pot au feu, which means "pot on the fire" in French, is a simple, provincial dish made from boiling beef, marrow bone, and vegetables together in a pot. In the old days before homes had modern heating systems, a pot au feu was kept on the fire during the cold winter months. As portions were removed and eaten, new ingredients would be added to the pot; usually these ingredients were scraps of whatever was on hand, and cuts of meat that were especially tough and needed to be cooked for a long time.
Today, pot au feu is cooked for a specific meal, but it remains a hearty and economical comfort food in the cold days of the year.A classic pot au feu contains a low-cost cut of meat that is tough and cartilaginous, and the addition of simple vegetables such as carrots, leeks, celery, and potatoes. A bouquet garni is usually added. Traditionally, pot au feu is cooked in a pot, but there have been recipe adaptions for slow cookers that don't require browning the meat in a separate pan beforehand.
Pot au feu can be served as a soup, or the meat and vegetables can be removed and the liquid reduced to a gravy, and served as a dish. It's entirely up to your mood. Most classic pot au feu dishes come with marrow bones, which you'll need marrow spoons for to remove the delicious marrow and spread it on bread - delish! Pot au feu is served with cornichon pickles and Dijon mustard on the side.
RecipeZaar - Pot au Feu recipe, adapted for slow cookers:
1 1/2 kg beef, with bone - add marrow bones if you like
300 g lardons or 300 bacon, cut into cubes
4-6 small onions, peeled
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 medium sized carrots, peeled and left whole
4 leeks, washed and cut in half
4 turnips, peeled
4 large potatoes, peeled & halved
Bouquet garni or 1 bay leaf
2 sprigs fresh parsley
1 sprig fresh thyme
200 ml beef stock
Combine all ingredients with the beef stock and cook on low 8 to 10 hours. Taste and adjust seasonings. Put the beef on platter and surround with the vegetables. Keep warm. Strain broth, skimming off fat, and add the flour - mix well and heat up gently until thickened. Serve separately in a gravy boat. Slice meat and serve accompanied with pickles and horseradish, French bread and butter.
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(Image: Boston Globe | Recipe: RecipeZaar)