Pot au Feu


Preparation info

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By James Peterson

Published 1991

  • About

A pot au feu is an example of poached meats par excellence. There was a day when every farmhouse had a pot of broth simmering on the stove or in the hearth to which various meats could be added and gently simmered. Traditionally a pot au feu is served in two courses: the broth, followed by the meat. In this version, the meat is served surrounded with the broth. Traditional accompaniments are mustard, cornichons (sour gherkins), and coarse salt, but the Mostarda di Cremona and Green Sauce are delicious with the various meats. When buying short ribs, be sure to buy them cut crosswise so the ribs themselves are only a couple of inches (5 cm) long.


clove 1 1
onion, peeled 1 medium 1 medium
large bouquet garni 1 1
oxtail 4 lb 2 kg
beef or veal stock or water, as needed to cover 8 qt 8 L
beef or veal shanks 4 rounds 4 rounds
chuck roast, 1, tied in two directions 4 lb 2 kg
beef short ribs 4 lb 2 kg
carrots, halved lengthwise, cut into 2-inch (5 cm) pieces 4 medium 4 medium
leeks, greens removed, whites halved lengthwise, rinsed 6 medium 6 medium
turnips, peeled, each cut into 6 wedges 3 large 3 large
2-inch (5 cm) marrow bones (optional) 12 12
coarse salt


  1. Stick the clove into the onion and put the onion in a large pot with the bouquet garni.
  2. Arrange the oxtails on top and pour in enough stock or water to cover.

  3. Put the pot over medium to high heat. When it reaches a gentle simmer, turn the heat down so the top of the liquid barely vibrates. Simmer for 2 hours. Skim off any fat and froth as they rise to the top of the liquid. Add the shanks, roast, and ribs. Add more liquid if needed to cover. As the meats heat up, they will release froth and scum that will need to be skimmed. Simmer for 90 minutes.
  4. Add the carrots, leeks, and turnips and simmer about 1 hour more, again while skimming, until a knife slices easily in and out of the shanks, short ribs, and chuck roast. Add the marrow bones, if using, and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes more.
  5. Slice the chuck roast and arrange the slices on a large platter with the rest of the meats, the marrow bones, and the vegetables, and march triumphantly into the dining room. Serve in wide, deep soup plates. Ladle broth over each serving. Pass the condiments at the table.


The meats in a pot au feu are cooked in the manner of stew meat; once cooked, they should offer little resistance to the tooth. The French, in their need to add luxurious touches, also sometimes briefly poach a lean, tender cut of meat (such as a beef tenderloin) or duck breast in the broth so that they can serve elegant slices of the rare or medium-rare meat along with the vegetables and pot au feu meat. Such dishes are called à la ficelle, which means “with string.” The string refers to the string tied around the meat so that it can be easily retrieved once cooked.