Here in the North Maine Woods the nights are getting chilly and the days are crisp and dry. It’s time to start thinking about fall and winter fair for the dinner table. One of the family favorites is the French Canadian version of New England Boiled Dinner called Pot-Au-Feu. Pot au Feu translates to “pot on fire” and is a traditional rustic French stew that can be made with beef or pork. Traditionally in France it was considered “peasant fare” and was made with less expensive cuts of meat that required stewing for a long time.
This is an old Maine dish that has its roots in the French Canadian culture that came to Maine when a lot of French Canadians from Quebec emigrated to the manufacturing plants in central Maine and to the logging camps of the North Maine Woods in the late 1800’s. There are large Franco-American populations in the cities of Lewiston, Augusta, and Waterville to this day. Maine cuisine is greatly influenced by these hard working people and their French culinary heritage.
Although the ingredients may vary, the basic formula is:
Meat – low-cost cuts of beef or pork that need long cooking to tenderize them and often a marrow bone or oxtail added to enhance flavor
Winter Vegetables – carrots, parsnips, turnips, potatoes, leeks, cabbage, celery, and onions;
Spices – bouquet garni, salt, coarse ground black pepper, allspice and cloves.
What is a Bouquet Garni?
It’s an herb bouquet made of sprigs of thyme, parsley, bay leaves, and celery leaves tied together with a string and suspended in a soup or stew to give it more flavor. It is removed before serving.
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|Pot-Au-Feu.... Pot on Fire|| |
- 4 pounds of lean beef or pork, less tender cutoff meat are perfect for this dish
- ½ pound of pork belly
- 2 cloves
- 2 teaspoons salt
- ½ teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
- 1 bouquet garni
- 1 cups of diced turnip, 1 inch cubes
- 2 cups of sliced carrots
- 1 cup of sliced parsnips
- 2 med. onions sliced
- 1 cup sliced leeks
- 4 stalks of celery, cut in 1 inch pieces
- 2 cups of diced potatoes
- 1 med. Cabbage cut into eight pieces
- Put the meat in a large Dutch oven with the water and heat slowly.
- Allow the meat to boil gently and as a scum forms on the water, remove it.
- After skimming well, add all the spices and allow to boil slowly for 4 hours.
- Over medium heat add the vegetables, except potatoes. Cook for another ½ hour.
- Add potatoes and allow to cook over medium heat for ½ hour until all the vegetables are cooked and you can separate the meat with a fork.
- Serve family style in a large pot or individually in soup bowls with a nice crusty bread, and mustard and vinegar as condiments.