Pot Au Feu Recipe (French Beef Stew)

Pot Au Feu Recipe (French Beef Stew) Recipe

I don't make pot-au-feu very often but I felt like giving myself a treat today. I made the French-style beef stew using oxtail bones. The dish looks very rustic and doesn't require exquisite cuts of meat. The oxtail pieces provide a nice texture thanks to their gelatin content. The gravy consists of turnip, carrots, celery, leeks and onions. I also added a few fresh sprigs of fragrant herbs, clove and a bottle of good drinking wine. 

The meat was so tender and fell off the bone so easily that it was difficult to gather a whole piece into the serving dish. It was baby Aria's first pot-au-feu and I can tell she's going to have many more. After her first bite she said “miam miam” (French for yum yum)!

Ingredients

Yields: 4 servings

1 dozen large oxtails
4 teaspoons papaya paste (see tips)
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 yellow onions, chopped
1 turnip, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 10-inch celery stalks, diced
2 cloves
1 bay leaf
1 bouquet garni
1 leek (white and green parts), thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled
3 San Marzano Roma tomatoes, chopped
2 tablespoons kosher salt
5 teaspoons sugar (optional), depending on how sweet the onions are
1 tablespoon black peppercorns, coarsely crushed
3 cups Cabernet Sauvignon (or any red wine)
2 cups homemade beef stock, (or 16-ounce can)
3 tablespoons Italian parsley leaves, finely chopped


Directions

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

In a pot, soak the oxtails in about a quart of water with 1 tablespoon of salt overnight. The next day, rinse the bones, place them in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook for 3-4 minutes. Drain the water. Rinse the meat under running water and set aside. Pat dry.

Transfer the oxtails to a baking pan. Season with salt and pepper and roast at 425°F for 15 minutes. Lower the temperature to 275°F and cook for an additional 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the gravy. Preheat a slow cooker (set on low mode, cook time "2 hours"). Note: You could also make the meat stew in a heavy-bottomed pan and cook until the meat is tender.

In a large heavy-bottomed pan, heat about 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the onions, leeks and bouquet garni. Cook on high heat until slightly golden. Lower the heat to medium-low and cook until soft and tender, about 10 minutes. Transfer the caramelized onions, leeks and bouquet garni to the slow cooker.

In the pan, add the garlic. Cook until slightly golden and add the bay leaf, celery, carrots and turnips. Allow to brown on each side. Add ½ to 1 cup of water. Scrape the caramelized bits from the bottom of the pan using a wooden spoon (called deglazing). Once the liquid is evaporated, add the oxtails, tomatoes, wine, beef stock and papaya paste. Bring to a boil, then transfer everything to the slow cooker. Season with salt.

Cover the slow cooker with a lid and let simmer for 2 hours (or 3 hours on the stove).

Serve warm with steamed vegetables, toasted bread, steamed potatoes, mashed potatoes or pasta. Garnish with parsley.

Bon appétit!

Note: The stew tastes even better the following day!


Tips

How to make a bouquet garni: The traditional bouquet garni is composed of a sprig of thyme (I used lemon thyme), 1 bay leaf (torn in half), 1 small portion of leek (only the green part), a few flat-leaf parsley stems and a small stalk of celery. Gather all the ingredients in a large teabag or in a square of cheesecloth and tie it with some twine. You can use it to flavor sauces and broths.

I used Cabernet Sauvignon from our friend at Alta Wines in Napa Valley.

You can easily find oxtails in any Asian markets and the meat department of many supermarkets.

Papaya is a great meat tenderizer. This was Baji, Lulu's late grandma's secret for tender and moist meat. This is not an authentic ingredient for this French dish but I think it makes the meat more tender. 

Published By: Jacqueline Pham on July 3, 2013.


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