Published by Saturday, May 23, 2015 Permalink 1
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Emmanuel Ménétrier / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA


Pot-au-feu and petite marmite in today’s vocabulary are the same thing. Until the nineteenth century, the term pot-au-feu simply referred to a family soup to which was added different ingredients every day, usually with beef and chicken added on Sunday. The regional variations were endless, depending on availability and season and depending on the cook.

In 1829, the French etymology dictionary defined  pot-pourri  as “the name our fathers gave to the pot-au-feu.” In the nineteenth century, the recipe started to take on its modern ingredients of beef, root vegetables and a veal bone, but it still included chicken, which many people, including my French butcher’s wife, leave out these days.

Escoffier, who codified French cuisine in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century, set down the recipe in Le Guide Culinaire in 1902, still calling it petite marmite. The regional variations started to disappear, and the recipe has now been simplified by most home cooks to contain only beef, no chicken. Escoffier insisted on the importance of the chicken, but today, one rarely finds a pot-au-feu with mutton, veal, pork, chicken, duck or turkey. The other name, petite marmite, has pretty much gone out of usage.


Recipe for 10 people

1 kg or 2 lbs. beef from the following cuts: 1/2 chuck roast or rump, 1/2 fatty rib meat
1 marrow bone, wrapped in cheesecloth
1 small chicken: firm is more important than tender
3 liters consommé or white broth, seasoned to taste
200 g carrots
200 g turnips
150 g leeks
80 g celery
250 g cabbage, blanched in broth and in fat from soup pan

That’s it for Escoffier’s recipe. That’s how most French cookbooks were written in those days, and still in 1981 when I arrived in France. They were short and to the point and assumed that you knew how to do the rest because you were French and all French people ought to know these things.

If you’re not sure what to do with all this, I’d suggest putting the beef, chicken and bone into a soup pan and covering it with the broth. Cut the vegetables into large chunks. Once this comes to a boil, skim the fat and add the vegetables. Add vegetables to broth. Simmer slowly for 4 to 5 hours, adding broth if necessary.

Serving: Serve in a soup bowl with croutons that you make by simply drying bread in the oven or with Swedish bread rolls or crackers. Some serve boiled potatoes on the side, about this is not the classic manner.  Serve with pickles, Dijon mustard, horseradish and coarse salt. It can also be served in two courses, starting with the broth, followed by the meat, chicken and vegetables.

Other suggestions: If you’re using chicken parts, buy legs, not breasts. Before starting the meat, blanch all the vegetables in the consommé before adding them to the meat, saving the broth to add to the beef and chicken later. Save the chicken giblets and add them to the broth one hour before serving. If there is leftover pot-au-feu, serve it as a cold salad with with potatoes in vinaigrette, or add pasta, rice, more meat and different vegetables and serve it hot.



Jonell Galloway grew up on Wendell Berry and food straight from a backyard Kentucky garden. She is a freelance writer. She attended Le Cordon Bleu and La Varenne cooking schools in Paris and the Académie du Vin, worked for the GaultMillau restaurant guide and CityGuides in France and Paris and for Gannett Company in the U.S., and collaborated on Le tour du monde en 80 pains / Around the World with 80 Breads with Jean-Philippe de Tonnac in France; André Raboud, Sculptures 2002-2009 in Switzerland; Ma Cuisine Méditerranéenne with Christophe Certain in France, At the Table: Food and Family around the World with Ken Albala, and a biography of French chef Pierre Gagnaire. She ran a cooking school in France, and owned a farm-to-table restaurant, The Three Sisters’ Café, with her two sisters in the U.S. She organizes the Taste Unlocked bespoke food and wine tasting awareness workshops with James Flewellen, is an active member of Slow Food, and runs the food writing website The Rambling Epicure. Her work has been published in numerous international publications and she has been interviewed on international public radio in France, Switzerland, and the U.S. She has just signed on at In Search of Taste, a British print publication, and is now working on two books, What to Eat in France and What to Eat in Venice.






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