Why It Works
- Choosing the right cuts of beef ensure meat that's silky and tender, not tough and dry.
- Adding the vegetables at the end guarantees they cook until soft and buttery but still retain their flavor.
- Removing any cuts that reach their perfect tenderness before the others prevents them from overcooking and drying out.
Pot-au-feu (pot on the fire) is one of France's most famous home-cooked dishes. It features an assortment of beef cuts and vegetables, all simmered in a flavorful broth until buttery and tender. The art of it comes down to selecting the right cuts of beef and ensuring each one, plus all the vegetables, are cooked perfectly.
- 2 3/4 pounds (1.25kg) boneless beef chuck, tied into a tight cylinder
- 2 pounds (.9kg) cross-cut beef shank
- 1 3/4 pounds (.8kg) bone-in beef short ribs
- 12 ounces (340g) oxtail
- 10 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 whole yellow onion, halved and stuck with 4 cloves in total
- 1 small head garlic, papery skin left on and head cut in half crosswise
- 1 rib celery
- 15 whole black peppercorns
- 1 bay leaf
- Kosher or sea salt
- 5 small Yukon gold potatoes (1 1/2 pounds/680g total), pierced all over with a fork
- 2 medium leeks (1 pound/450g total), trimmed of root end and darkest green top and washed very well
- 5 medium carrots (10 ounces/280g total), peeled or scrubbed
- 1/4 head green or Savoy cabbage
- 1 medium (4-ounce/115g) turnip, peeled and quartered
- 1 medium (5-ounce/140g) parsnip, peeled and quartered lengthwise
- 1 pound (450g) beef marrow bones (about 3), optional
- Toast for the marrow bones, if using
- Mustard, grated horseradish, and cornichons, for condiments
In a large stockpot or Dutch oven, combine beef chuck, shank, short ribs, oxtail, thyme, onion, garlic, celery, peppercorns, and bay leaf. Top with enough cold water to just cover and season with a very generous pinch of salt.
Bring to a simmer, then lower heat to maintain a very gentle simmer. Cook, skimming occasionally, until each cut of beef is fork-tender, at least 2 hours and up to 4 hours, depending on the cut and animal your beef is from. If any piece of beef reaches tenderness before the others, simply transfer it to a large heatproof bowl, ladle a small amount of broth on top, and cover with plastic. Top up the pot with water as needed to keep all the ingredients covered.
When all the beef is done, strain the broth, discarding thyme, onion, celery, garlic, and peppercorns, and bay leaf. Return all the cuts of beef and broth to the pot.
Add potatoes, leeks, carrots, cabbage, turnip, parsnip, and marrow bones, if using, to stockpot, making sure all are submerged in the broth with the beef. Return to a gentle simmer and cook until all the vegetables are very tender and marrows bones are fully warmed through to the center, about 30 minutes.
Skim any fat from the broth. Transfer meats and vegetables to a platter, bathing with broth to keep moist. Season broth with salt. Serve broth as a soup, and the meats and vegetables as the main course; the marrow bones can be served with toasts (spread the marrow on the toasts and season with salt). Pass more salt at the table for seasoning the meats, along with mustard, grated horseradish, and cornichons.