Monday, November 1, 2021

Baeckeoffe – A Traditional Alsatian Peasant Stew That Made the Big Time.

from
Behind the French Menu
by
Bryan G. Newman


A Baeckeoffe.
Photograph courtesy of Joel Bez
https://www.flickr.com/photos/lejoe/5196062504/ 

Baeckeof, Baeckeoffe, Baaekenof, or Potée Alsacienne – A traditional peasant stew from the Alsatian area in the Grand Est region. Baeckeoffe and similar-sounding names all mean a Baker’s Oven in the Alsatian dialect. For hundreds of years, when a baker had finished baking that day’s bread, the villager’s cooking pots would be placed in the baker’s oven where their contents cooked while the oven slowly cooled. Each family’s cooking pot contained whatever they had available, and when taken home, they would be kept hot on the family hearth. The slow cooking allowed all the tastes to mingle and produce wonderful stews, even with limited ingredients.


A medieval baker’s oven.
Photograph courtesy of Hans Splinter
https://www.flickr.com/photos/archeon/15317937928/

Today's Baeckeoffe

Today’s Baeckeoffe is a rich stew and will include cuts of beef and pork and sometimes lamb; there may be pork loin, a pig’s trotter, other pork cuts, a cut from the beef chuck, and or boneless lamb shoulder. Some chefs will add goose and or Alsatian sausages. The vegetables will have been chosen according to the season but will nearly always include France’s favorite white haricot beans, onionscarrots, leeks, and potatoes. In restaurants, a chef will add an Alsatian white wine, that may be a Riesling AOP or a Gewürztraminer AOP, and the herbs and spices will include garlic, thymebay leaves, and peppercorns. Baeckeoffe is still cooked slowly; the slow cooking produces the exquisite tastes and aromas that make the dish so special.

Elsewhere in France, similar stews with slightly different recipes are called a Potée, Pot-au-Feu, Bouilli or a Potée Boulangère. The word potée means a cooking pot, and a boulangère is a baker.


Where is the Alsace?
The Alsace is in northeastern France, It is part of the region of the Grand Est.
Map courtesy of About-France.com.
(The region marked PACA is Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur).

In the Alsace, when coming in from a cold winter’s night, a modern Baeckeoffe along with a large Alsatian beer may be just what the doctor ordered.

A 1664 Beer 6-pack.
French Kronenbourg 1664 beer is produced in Obernai in the Alsace.
Photograph courtesy of Carrefour

The Alsace is in the eastern part of France’s northeastern region of the Grand Est. French and German influences affect the Alsace’s cuisine and language. From the time of the French revolution, two departments, the Haut Rhin and the Bas Rhin made up the Alsace; however, since 1-1-21, the two departments have been merged into the Alsace European Authority (the Collectivité Européenne d’Alsace’).  


The ingredients for a Pot-au-feu
Photograph Le Journal des Femmes.

Baeckeoffe de Poissons – An Alsatian stew made with freshwater fish instead of meat. Today, saltwater fish and shellfish may sometimes be added.

My own experience, and twice was enough, saw that the slow cooking used to combine the flavors can only apply to the meat recipe; the fish would have disintegrated if cooked for a long time. The Baeckeoffe de Poissons was tasty but offered few of the subtle flavors of a very slowly cooked beef stew. Stay with the traditional Baeckeoffe for a meat stew, and for a fish, stew consider a thoroughly classic Alsatian freshwater, sometimes freshwater and seafood, fish stew, called a “matelote.” The matelotes of the Alsace, like the one in the picture below, include anguillle, freshwater eel; brochet, pike; perche, freshwater perch; truite, trout; and sandre, zander, or pike-perch.


Matelote a l’Alsacienne
A recipe of Pascal Lanoix
Photograph and recipe courtesy of alsace.nouvellesgastronomiques.com

Cholent

In Jewish villages, a remarkably similar dish called cholent was prepared for the Sabbath lunch.  In the Alsace, the Jewish family’s recipes would be very similar to those of a Christian peasant family’s however, scraps of goose would have replaced the forbidden pork. The two communities mostly lived side by side and shared many recipes; the pot of cholent would be taken home from the baker before the Sabbath began on Friday at sundown and transferred to the family’s hearth.  When the fire in the hearth had been stacked correctly, the family would have a hot stew for their Sabbath lunch.  

 


A dish of cholent
Photograph courtesy of Becky  
https://www.flickr.com/photos/35694730@N00/2738330081/
 

More about the Alsace

The two departments of the Alsace were moved back and forth over hundreds of years between France and Germany, returning finally to France at the end of WWII. The Alsace borders Germany to the North and Germany and Switzerland to the East.  In most restaurants the menu with be in French with Allemand Alsacien as well. The local dialect is called Allemand Alsacien or Elsässerditsch, but all the citizens speak perfect French.

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Bryan G. Newman


Behind the French Menu
Copyright 2010, 2016, 2021
 
For information on the unpublished book behind this blog, write to Bryan Newman
at
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