09 November 2008

Potée, suite et fin

A French potée is very similar to the famous poule au pot, which is a chicken simmered in broth with vegetables. It's a boiled dinner for which everything is cooked in the same pot. The version made with beef is called a pot au feu.

A related specialty is New England boiled dinner, made with corned beef. How good these boiled dinners are depends entirely on good ingredients and careful cooking to produce tender meat, vegetables that are not overcooked, and a rich broth.

Sprouts trimmed and potatoes peeled, ready to go into the pot

When you make a potée or other boiled dinner, you usually end up with meat and vegetables for more than just one meal (I always make enough to serve us for two or three days). Then you can make soup out of the broth by dicing up and adding in the leftover meat and vegetables.

Carrots, onions, and herbs are standard ingredients for any of these French recipe. Turnips and cabbage are usual additions, and a lot of people add in white beans. In France, where there are recipes for potée auvergnate, potée lorraine, potée limousine, and potée bretonne — just to name a few — the ingredients vary slightly from region to region.

Half-cooked sprouts ready for sautéeing

The main thing is to start the meat or poultry cooking in cold water, and then to keep it at a low simmer for an hour or more. Don't let it boil hard or the vegetables and meat will start to break down. In a potée, normally there is at least one piece of smoked meat in the pot for flavor.

A good substitute for porc demi-sel would be a brined or salt-cured hamhock. Or a slab of smoked or salt-cured bacon. You can use chicken, duck, or turkey sausages, whether they are smoked or not. Here in France we can buy smoked chickens, but they are sold fully cooked so you wouldn't want to leave one in the broth for too long — it would be overdone.

Here's the improvised « potée », ready for the table.

Our Brussels sprouts are certainly not traditional, but we both like them. I dipped out some of the meat & vegetable broth. I had put in 6 little carrots and 10 little onions, along with parsley stems, a couple of bay leaves, and some peppercorns and allspice berries in with the meat. Then I cooked the sprouts in a separate pot with a couple of ladles of broth.

Walt likes to cook Brussels sprouts partially in water or broth, let them cool just a little, and then cut each sprout in half. Then he sautées the halves in a big skillet with butter and oil, and he sprinkles some flour on them as they start to sizzle so that they get a little crust. That produces a nice contrast in textures.

Bon appétit !

A little bit of butter or olive oil stirred into some of the hot broth and spooned over all makes the vegetables really good. Pass the pepper.

Two of my main ideas about cooking are:
  • You have to eat and most people have to cook. It's necessary and a fact of life. If you can make a pleasure out of that necessity, why not?
  • There are foods we need to eat that we don't always like — this applies mostly to vegetables. So figure out how to prepare them in ways you find appetizing. I feel better both physically and mentally as a result.


  1. I love your cooking philosophy! I feel sorry for people who find it drudgery.

  2. I agree. Cooking is the best of all household duties/tasks. And nowadays it's nolonger just functional; it has also become very fashionable. Cooking programs on television are very popular. And even at work people exchange recipes and cooking books ... just to try out new things and please/impress their family and friends. I just love it! Martine

  3. i'm just reading Jane Grigson's English Food, and she has a long and interesting chapter on salting your own pork/mutton/beef/poultry.

    i love a good boiled dinner and agree with you most heartily that certain parts of it are better cooked separately. same is true for stew.

    and, nothing like a real smorgasbord of abundance which is pretty non caloric. num num.


What's on your mind? Qu'avez-vous à me dire ?