Europe / Snapshots

Pot-au-Feu Soup


So there’s this utterly classic dish in France, called Pot-au-Feu. It involves slowly cooking tougher cuts of beef, beef bones, and some aromatic vegetables in water, until you have a rich stock and big, happy chunks of meat. Then you use the stock to cook potatoes, carrots, leeks, and (sometimes) fennel.

This is what I set out to make last week, after me and my host mother purchased a large, white-waxy-paper-wrapped parcel of beef bones and short ribs from the butcher. However, what I ended up with was Pot-au-Feu Soup, because big separate chunks of meat and whole vegetables simply weren’t calling out to me. It was a bit rainy and chilly, and the dish that wanted to be made was soup.

But it was a good decision. Oh, it was a GOOD DECISION. An ugly decision, perhaps, but a delicious one, and while I will certainly make Pot-au-Feu before I vacate the premises of France, this spin on the classic will stay in my repertoire until I sleep the good sleep (also known as when I die).

I’m going to be dumb and refuse to give specific amounts of ingredients, because this is an intuitive dish, and we all have it in us to cook with our noses and eyes and tastebuds. This is a method, not machinery; adjust when necessary. This is also a recipe to make over the course of a few days. You can drum up excitement and smell up the whole house, and snuggle up with a big book and a few blankets. This is homey, comfy, it’s-dark-outside soup, best enjoyed with nice people.

That’s a great way to describe my cooking lately. It’s comfy food, people food, happy food.

Pot au Feu Soup


  • 2 lbs short ribs
  • 2 large beef bones
  • 3-5 leek tops
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper
  • 1/3 cabbage, roughly chopped
  • 2 large leeks, roughly chopped
  • 4 medium potatoes, roughly chopped
  • more salt and pepper, to taste


1. Put the meat, bones, leek tops, garlic, and seasoning into a large pot/dutch oven, and cover with water.

2. Simmer on low until the meat is fall apart tender, and you have a nice, rich stock (about three hours).

3. Allow the pot to cool, then remove the meat and set aside. Strain the stock (or be lazy, like me, and fish out everything with a small spoon).

4. When you’re ready to make the soup, heat the stock, and add the roughly chopped vegetables. Allow to simmer for 30-40 minutes, during which time you can roughly shred the meat. When the vegetables are cooked, turn off the heat and add the shredded beef in.

5. Season to taste, sprinkle a handful of any herb atop the pot, and eat!

Photo Credit to Bon Appetit.


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