When is a stew not a stew? When it is a pot au feu! This classic French comfort dish is stewed meats with vegetables, but the difference is the dish can be served in at least two if not three ways: The marrow is removed from the bone and spread on toast as a starter, the broth is served as a soup, and the meat is plated with the vegetables. It takes the better part of an afternoon to prepare, but is low maintenance and makes the house smell wonderful. You will need cheesecloth and kitchen twine for this recipe.
- 2-pound piece beef shank (with bone)
- 2-pound piece beef chuck
- 2 pounds beef ribs
- 2 pounds large beef marrow bones
- 2 whole cloves
- 1 large white onion (peeled)
- 1 bouquet garni
- 1 small cinnamon stick
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
- 5 stalks celery (cut into large pieces, plus leaves)
- 12 medium carrots (peeled and quartered)
- 8 leeks (washed, cut lengthwise and then into large pieces)
- 1 1/2 pounds turnips (peeled and quartered)
- 1 1/2 pounds small new potatoes
- 1 fresh or day-old baguette (sliced and toasted)
- Coarse sea salt
Gather the ingredients.
Tie the beef shank, chuck, and ribs into a tight bundle with kitchen twine and place it in a large stockpot.
Wrap the marrow bones in cheesecloth, secure it tightly with the string, and place it in the stockpot.
Pour enough cold water into the stockpot to cover the ingredients.
Bring the mixture to a boil, skimming often.
Turn the heat down as soon as the water boils, so it is just a low simmer.
Push the cloves into the onion and wrap the bouquet garni, cinnamon stick, peppercorns, and bay leaves in a piece of cheesecloth. Place the onion and the bundle into the stockpot.
Season the mixture with the salt and continue simmering, uncovered, for 2 1/2 hours. Add more water, if needed, to keep the meat and marrowbones covered. Do not allow the mixture to boil.
Wrap the celery, carrots, leeks, turnips, and potatoes each in a separate cheesecloth bundle, securing them tightly with string.
Add the celery, carrots, leeks, and turnips to the pot and continue simmering for 40 minutes.
Check the vegetables for doneness, and then remove any that have turned tender and cooked through.
Add the potato bundle to the pot and continue simmering for an additional 20 to 25 minutes, until the potatoes are cooked through.
Remove each vegetable and meat bundle from the pot, unwrap it, and arrange the vegetables in groups around the meat on the serving platter. Keep warm.
Discard the clove-studded onion and strain the broth through a fine-mesh sieve.
Return the broth to a clean saucepan and bring it to a boil for about 10 to 15 minutes, until it has reduced in volume and has a good, strong flavor. Season it with additional salt, if needed.
Transfer the hot broth to a serving bowl and offer as soup. Spread the marrow on the slices of toasted bread (called croûtes) and serve as an appetizer or alongside the broth. Present the meat and vegetable platter as the main course with small bowls of the garnishes on the side.
The bone marrow is the fatty, soft tissue inside the cavity of the bone; it is prized for its rich flavor and smooth texture, as well as its nutritional value. To use the marrow, scoop it out of the bone and simply spread on the toast or whip the marrow first to make a creamier consistency.
You can also use the broth as a base for sauces or the liquid when cooking rice, pasta, and vegetables.