07 October 2012

Bœuf aux carottes

Taking a break from tourism, going back to food. The other day I noticed that the supermarché had nice "chuck" roasts — at least I think that would be the translation — at a good price (about seven euros a kilo). The French name is basse-côte and the cut, from the shoulder, is boneless — sans os. "Chuck roast" seems to be a U.S. term that's not even used in Canada (can anybody confirm?), where it's called a shoulder roast or blade roast.

When I was growing up in North Carolina in the 1950s and '60s, chuck roast was a frequent dinner. I bet it still is there. I think my sister makes it the way my mother did. It was a two or three pound beef shoulder roast, not cut into pieces but left whole and cooked in a pan in the oven with onions, carrots, celery, and potatoes. What else, I don't know, but not wine — water. Walt says his mother made the same dinner in New York State in the 1970s and '80s — that means that it was not a regional dish.

Carrots cooking in beef broth, with a few white "icicle" radishes — which are good
 when cooked — because we have a lot of them from the garden

One big difference between American and French cooking styles is that in France people seem to enjoy simpler recipes rather than more complicated ones. Instead of a beef stew — because that's what Bœuf aux carottes or "beef (braised) with carrots" basically is — with many vegetables (carrots, onions, turnips, parsnips, celery, mushrooms, green beans, tomato, etc., etc.) at the same time, French recipes often call for braising beef or other meats with one predominant vegetable for flavor. So you get beef braised with carrots or with onions, or duck with turnips or with olives, or veal with prunes or with mushrooms, and so on. Of course, herbs and spices, and almost always some onion or garlic, are included too, in all the recipes. And, of course, wine.

Bœuf aux carottes can also be called Bœuf mode or Bœuf à la mode (no, not with ice cream!). The old recipes, written for cooks who didn't necessarily have an oven in their kitchen and who cooked in a fireplace, called for using a special braising pot with a concave lid into which braises — pieces of smoldering wood (charcoal, embers) — could be laid, so that the food in the pot on the hearth was heated from both the top and the bottom at the same time. Today, we just use an oven. So the dish is a stew, sort of, but it's better oven-braised, I think, rather than stewed on top of the stove.

The old recipes also called for including a calf's foot or some beef, veal, or pork rind (couenne, in French) in the pot because of the gelatin those pieces release as they cook. The gelatin enriches the braising liquid and thickens it slightly. In today's versions of such recipes, the braising liquid is thickened instead with flour or some other starch (corn, potato, arrowroot...). In France it's not hard to find a butcher shop that sells calves' feet, but in America... well, let's just say that would be a specialty item.

Here's a recipe I like, first in English and then, below, en français :

  Beef braised with carrots
2 or 3 lbs. chuck roast, blade roast, or beef stew meat
2 or 3 slices of bacon, or 3 oz. smoked ham
2 lbs. carrots
2 bay leaves
chopped parsley and/or thyme
2 onions
1 garlic clove (or more)
coarse salt and black pepper to taste
1 or 2 Tbsp. flour
3 or 4 Tbsp. olive oil and/or vegetable oil
½ bottle dry white wine

Cut the meat into one-inch cubes if it isn't already cut up. Set aside.

Chop the bacon or ham.

Peel the carrots, onions, and garlic. Chop the onions and garlic as you like, and cut the carrots into thick disks, logs, or sticks.

In a pot with a heavy bottom, heat up the oil. Brown the chunks of beef (in batches if necessary so that you don't crowd the pan). Add the bacon or ham, the onions, garlic, and carrots, and brown all for a few more minutes. Sprinkle one or two tablespoons of flour over the meat (the more flour you put in, the thicker the sauce will be) and stir well.

Gradually stir in the white wine, and add the parsley, thyme, and bay leaves. Don't forget the salt and pepper.

Cover the pot or pour the contents into a baking dish with a lid and cook it in a medium to medium-low oven (300º -325ºF) for two or three hours, stirring occasionally. Serve with steamed potatoes.

And a green salad, I might add.

Bœuf aux carottes
1 kg de bœuf (basse-côte ou paleron)
100 g de poitrine fumée
1 kg de carottes
2 feuilles de laurier
persil, thym
2 oignons
1 gousse d'ail
poivre et gros sel

1 ou 2 c. à soupe de farine
3 ou 4 c. à soupe d'huile d'olive ou d'huile végétale
375 ml de vin blanc sec

Couper la viande en morceaux d'environ 4 cm de largeur. Réserver.

Couper les tranches de lard en carrés d'épaisseur de 2 cm.

Eplucher les carottes, oignons et ail. Emincer les oignons, couper les carottes en rondelles de 4 mm environ, ou en bâtonnets.

Dans un faitout, faire chaufferl'huile. Faire rissoler les morceaux de viande, puis ajouter les lardons,
les oignons, l'ail, et  les carottes. Laisser le tout cuire quelques minutes. Puis saupoudrer avec la farine (plus on en met, plus la sauce sera épaisse). Tourner.

Ajouter le vin blanc progressivement en tournant et puis le persil, le thym, et les feuilles de laurier. Saler avec une pincée de gros sel et poivrer.

Faire cuire au four à basse température (150º-160º C) pendant deux heures ou plus, en tournant de temps en temps. Servir avec des pommes de terre cuites à la vapeur.


  1. You get chuck roast in Australia, a cut from the shoulder, although it is mostly sold sliced as steak for long slow cooking. In the old days it would have been cooked as you describe in a cast iron pot on the fire that you heaped embers on the lid. We have one, which I haven't used for years - too big and heavy.

  2. When left whole Ken... this is called "pot roast" in the UK. About 30mins before the dish is needed, the hunk of beef [or pork] is hoisted on top of the veg to brown.
    It was a regular in our house too!
    My father always used to 'carve' the roast... that is, because it was 'au point' for what you normally call "pulled" meat, he usede to hack it about a bit. Mum always served it with cabbage... Pauline and I use things like "red cabbage with apple", chard and/or Red Russian kale.

    It is becoming quite a regular here because M.Poupeau often has huge chunks of bottom end of rib of beef on 'promo' at 2.50€ a kilo... and we grow a lot of veg!
    Has eyes on it... sees us through the week [almost].

  3. Susan, it's interesting that chuck is a term for beef roasts in the U.S. and Australia, but apparently not in Canada or the U.K. Pot roast can be made from other cuts of beef but chuck is nice for that use.

    Tim, I would think of pork to go with cabbage more than beef, but it's probably good too. With collard greens we eat pork or poultry or even fish, but not beef so much (never in my family, I think).

  4. Made virtuslly the same dish on Friday, but added leeks to the carrots and used red wine instead of white.

    Didn't know a chuck roast is a 'pot roast' in the UK. When we lived there I just used to ask for braising beef/steak.

  5. I’m not sure if this will work, since I’m not sure if I have a Google account because of my gmail address. Anyway we’ll see.

    Just like Antoinette I put red wine in my beef and carrots decoction. I also put mushrooms, either fresh [better] or canned otherwise. I must say I like it this way. As we say in French, ‘Tous les chemins mènent à Rome’.

    Now let’s publish and see what happens.


    P.S. I deleted my previous comment just to make my Cousin wonder what stupid joke I came up with! LOL Best to you Cousin[s]

  6. It worked, even though I have problems with my new laptop. Hum!

  7. Oui, CHM, ça marche ! Pour moi, avec du vin rouge ça devient un bourguignon de boeuf, alors le vin blanc c'est autre chose. Les deux sont bons.

    Antoinette, avec des poireaux à la place des oignons c'est sûrement délicieux. La prochaine fois je ferai mon boeuf aux carottes comme ça.

  8. Yup, we'd call it Pot Roast, too (slow cooked chuck roast with carrots and some onion and potatoes, with a bit of water). When done right, it makes such a delicious dish!

  9. To clarify -- in Australia you could ask your butcher for a cut of meat called chuck roast, but the finished dish that you served would be called a pot roast. To be honest, since chuck is usually sold sliced in Australia, I would say to the butcher I wanted a piece of chuck about so big, for a pot roast.

  10. My cousin and I were just speaking of this dish that our mothers made. I love it. It was called a pot roast in Michigan made with "a bone in" piece of shoulder...much better than without the bones. It's tricky to get the meat tender and juicy, most people add too much liquid, be it wine or water, and it becomes too dry and tough. My mother simmered it on top of the stove at the lowest temperature possible for 3 hours, it mustn't boil! The end result should have the carrots, onions and potatoes infused with the brown juices. The dish you show looks more like beef stew because you cut it in small pieces before cooking....still, it looks very yummy!

  11. My Mother frequently made a chuck roast. We had garlic with ours!

  12. Mem, yes, the French version is more a stew, while my mother's was more a roast.

    And Mary, I put garlic in the braised beef with carrots too, but just a little.

    Susan, you can buy chuck steak and, especially, ground (minced, I guess you would say) chuck in the U.S.

    I'm planning a pot au feu soon. That's a different kind of roast, boiled. I'll use jarret de boeuf for that. We're eating more beef right now. Must be the season.

  13. Here in British Columbia I have bought chuck roast at some stores and blade roast at others. I have been spoiled by the fact that many grocery stores still have butchers! The nearest grocery store to me is even called Butcher Boys and sells really high quality meat from local ranchers. Some grocery stores sell meat in kilograms and others in pounds. It is all pretty expensive compared to the US. I am still learning the different names for cuts of meat. "Baron of beef," "inside" and even "rouladen" are cuts I had never encountered.


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