How to Pot au Feu by Mathieu Palombino. Sept 28, 2010

Pot au Feu demo by Mathieu & Alyssa Palombino

One fine September evening, Brooklyn Kitchen Labs opened their doors to our members, Alyssa & Mathieu Palambino, so that they could teach us Southsiders how to make the French classic, Pot au Feu. It was a spectacular night full of fun French cooking facts, delicious wine, and great people. Big props to Alyssa for organizing this great community event!

Mathieu & Alyssa get cooking @ Brooklyn Kitchen Labs

Seasonal veggies are the star in this classic Frech dish

Alyssa & Mathieu chose to demo Pot au Feu to us for several reasons, both practical and sentimental. Practically speaking, it is a great go-to dish for CSA-ers since it is very adaptable to whatever can be found at the Farmer’s Market, especially in the bare Winter months. Mathieu also expressed his great love for the dish, which is the ultimate French comfort food. Pot au feu translates literally to “pot on the fire” and has always been popular in France. In some version or another, this hearty dish has been served for centuries, even in the poorest farmhouses.

Mathieu shares his Pot au Feu secrets with us

Mathieu taught us that to make a great pot au feu a big slab of meat and many root vegetables are cooked together until everything in the pot is fork tender. Purists favor beef as the main meat to use, although it is possible to use chicken, veal, pork, or even fish. Mathieu recommends balancing the dish with a gelatinous cut of meat, like beef shank, or a meaty one, like short ribs or rump. Pot au Feu is the french version of a dish that probably exists in every culture or country. It is possible to riff off the basic recipe, adding your own cultural heritage to this hearty peasant dish. North African varieties see additions like chickpeas and saffron, in Russia they add beets and call it borscht, Italians like their pasta naming the dish minestrone, and my Korean friends have to serve their version with their homemade kimchee. There are a million good ways to cook up your own pot!

The secret to an amazing pot au feu is in the broth...

Traditionally, pot au feu is cooked in a large stockpot in which the meats simmer for a couple of hours before wintry vegetables such as carrots, leeks, turnips, celeriac, and potatoes are added. The secret to a perfect, clear, highly flavored broth is never letting it boil; it should only bubble at a bare simmer. This technique allows the impurities to gather on the top where they can be skimmed out. Flavor the pot with a bouquet garni (something like a bay leaf, parsley stems, and thyme tied together with leek), onions studded with whole cloves, and garlic.

Mathieu plates his amazing pot au feu for the Southside CSA

Cooking up a Pot au Feu is a serious commitment since it requires an all day simmer. However, the rich dish is well worth the work! Pot au feu is a complete meal (or two). Diners start with a bowl of the concentrated broth, adding the meat and vegetables which have been arranged on a large platter. The meal is always accompanied by a baguette, good french mustard, horseradish, and a variety of pickles. Alyssa served us some amazing pickled garlic scapes that seriously hit the spot!

Our tasty samples!

We had such an amazing night, sipping wine and learning the tricks of this French favorite. A giant round of applause to Alyssa for organizing the evening, to Mathieu for being such a fab teacher and taking the night off from Motorino to be with us, and to Harry & Taylor of Brooklyn Kitchen for being such great hosts. In the end, we passed the hat to pay for the usage of the space but Brooklyn Kitchen ended up donating the $$ earned to the Greenpoint Soup Kitchen. Yeah community!

We were to busy eating to get a group shot but we all had a BLAST!

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