This classic French dish may sound outdated for our modern lives, but we need to seriously reconsider that attitude. Pot au Feu is at its heart a beautiful, tender pot-roast that’s served in a clear, beef broth studded with vegetables. The elements are made separately, first the beef is cooked in the broth and set aside, then the broth is defatted and strained and then the vegetables are cooked until tender in the broth. Simple, but deliciously primal. Most of the elements can be made ahead, which makes it the perfect dish for entertaining. This particular recipe is very streamlined, but feel free to improvise with flavorings. Add a little star-anise for an Asian bent, a stick of cinnamon and green cardamom pods for a trip to India or serve with scoop of gremolata and give a nod to the Mediterranean.
Cook to Cook: To make the dish ahead, prepare through step 5. Return the beef to the pot with the broth and refrigerate overnight. When ready to serve, skim the fat from the cold broth, gently reheat the beef and then begin with step 6.
4 pound boneless beef chuck roast, trimmed of fat
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper
1 pound marrow bones
1 medium onion, halved
2 celery ribs, roughly chopped
2 leeks, trimmed and split lengthwise
10 fresh stalks of thyme
4 bay leaves
4 whole cloves
1 pound small red potatoes, halved
1/2 pound rutabaga, peeled and cut into about the same size chunks as the potatoes
8 carrots, coarsely julienned
1. Place your oven rack in the lower-third position and preheat to 325 degrees.
2. Meat: Season the beef with salt and pepper. Place the beef, bones, onion, celery, leeks, thyme, bay leaves and cloves in a large Dutch oven. Add cold water to come halfway up the roast.
3. Bring it to a simmer on the stovetop over medium-high heat, skimming away any foam that appears on the surface in the first minute. Partially cover the pot and place in the preheated oven. Cook until the beef is meltingly tender and can be easily pierced with a sharp knife, about 3 1/2 to 4 hours. Turn over once about halfway through. Transfer the beef to a large oven proof platter, cover it tightly with foil, and return to the oven with the temperature turned off to stay warm.
4. Scoop the marrow from the bones and set aside.
5. Skim the fat from the surface of the beef broth with a ladle or large spoon, or pour the broth into a heat-proof fat separator. Throw away the fat. Then strain the de-fatted broth through a fine mesh strainer into a large liquid measuring cup. Add enough water to make about 6 1/2 cups. Return the broth and the chopped marrow to the Dutch oven.
6. Vegetables: Add the potatoes and rutabagas to the broth and bring to a simmer over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and cook about 5 minutes until lightly tender. Add the carrots and continue to cook until all the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes longer.
7. Transfer the beef to a cutting board and slice against the grain into 1/2 inch slices. Place slices of beef and vegetables in large shallow bowls and ladle over some broth. Serve with crusty bread and simple green salad.
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