France calls pot-au-feu its national dish; this hearty beef and vegetable stew appears on lunch and dinner tables throughout France, appealing to people of all socioeconomic backgrounds. Pot-au-feu recipes and production methods vary regionally, but its staple ingredients remain the same: a tender cut of beef or other type of meat, root vegetables such as carrots, turnips and cabbage, and broth. The name of this soup translates to "pot-in-the-fire" in English, and makes a particularly pleasant cold weather meal.
In addition to meat and vegetables, chefs prepare pot-au-feu with various spices. These spices range from mild and common flavors like salt and black pepper to spicy red pepper flakes and fragrant herbs. The broth in this soup helps make the meal complete. However, chefs traditionally sieve broth, ultimately serving it separately from the stew.
Pot-au-feu originated in France during the eleventh century, proving a practical and affordable meal. Easy to prepare and made from common ingredients, it gained popularity among French nobility. Around 1600, King Henry IV of France made pot-au-feu accessible to all members of society.
When serving pot-au-feu, chefs typically offer the broth first. The broth appears as an appetizer, spread over bread with nutmeg. Chefs serve meat and vegetables next as the main course, sometimes offering rice or pasta too. In addition to making a full meal, chefs sometimes store broth in cubes or trays for future use.