My poor non French people,
Rain is pouring outside (oui, even in LA! ), and I suddenly have a metaphysical question.
How is it that you might come with such an idea as « comfort food » ?
Why is this concept absolutely non existant in my dear home country ?Does it mean that you think that food is most of the time uncomfortable ?
And why are all elements of that very strange category always always always so calorie-rich ?
My poor non French people… It’s time for you to finally discover what life is really about.
OUI ! You can have a meal that is at the same time comforting, flavorful AND good for you waistline.
Let me introduce you to the number one basic of French food, the cornerstone of our food superiority.. The always French and perfect POT AU FEU
Le pot au feu
1 pound beef shank
1 pound Beef roast
1 pound Oxtail
1 pound bone marrows cut every 2 inches
1 bouquet garni (thyme, laurel and parsley)
4 to 6 carrots (depending on how big they are)
3 turnips or rutabagas
3 parnsips or kohlrabis
(you traditionally add potatoes too, or actually any root vegetables you like)
The history of this meal is as ancient as French cuisine’s.
All through the middle ages, French and already perfect damsels in no distress would always use a huge recipient to cook whatever was needed by their valiant knights to fuel up after a day of killing (mostly) innocent people…
This “pot” would be hanged in the fireplace, and would contain everything you could find to cook and eat.
Hence the name of “pot au feu”, pot on fire…
It’s a very basic way of cooking, but it seems that centuries ago already, French people knew better how to do it. And “c’est pas moi qui le dit“, (I’m not the one who’s maintaining that by myself) as my 5 year old self would have said, it’s number one German and legendary writer Goethe.
When visiting the troops of the Duke of Weimar as he was invading France in 1792, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe paid no interrest in the state of the battle and the then superiority of the German soldiers over the French troops : he was mostly amazed at one thing.. French cooking. And pot-au feu.
It’s amazing to read how he writes about it in his memoirs, and also how the recipe has not changed by an inch since then…
It then took another great writer, the first to write only about food and to try to understand what tastebuds pleasure was, to really analyze how this simple dish was the first stone of what is now called French Gastronomy.
In his famous Physiologie du goût, Physiology of taste, Brillat Savarin writes a lot about Pot au feu. He basically explains that what makes all the difference is the quality of the broth that is made.
Le bouillon, the broth, is the number one ingredient of French and perfect cuisine, and has been for centuries.
It’s not only boiled water : it infuses with all the ingredients that are part of the dish and make it a unique liquid.
In France in the 19th century, the equivalent of fast food restaurants were called Bouillons. There you would be able to eat meat and vegetables boiled in a broth that was always cooking.
I read somewhere that in the most popular ones, you would never clean or change the pot : the cooks would only add water and vegetables and meat continuously, for years… The pot was supposed to be one of the ingredient adding to the flavour!
French and perfect Alexandre Dumas, whom you might know for being the father of four super heroes with great capes and a huge appetite (The Three Musketeers!) was also a big fan of pot au feu and bouillon. In his Dictionnaire de la cuisine, he explains that a good broth should simmer for more than 7 hours, and I couldn’t agree more..
- Fill up your biggest pot with cold water
- Add the meat (except the bone marrow)
- Bring to a boil, then set to low, and skim the foam that appears on the surface
- After an hour, add salt, pepper, and the bouquet garni
- Peel the onion and pick it with the cloves
- Bring to a boil, and simmer again… For 2 hours at least !
- Then peel the vegetables and add them to the broth
- Simmer for as long as you can !
- 1 hour before serving, add the bone marrow
- The best is to cook the pot au feu the day before. Put it in the fridge overnight : in the morning, all the fat in the broth will have soldified, and you can take it out to make an even leaner dish
Et voilà !
You have just made a delicious, comforting AND DIET dish ! Around 75 calories per 100g, 4 TIMES LESS than a regular burger.
Now you know why French women don’t diet… Because of pot-au-feu !
Bon appétit les amis !