Beets a la Poitevine

Beets are a tasty low-calorie vegetable, have lots of fiber, and are chock full of nutrients including vitamin B, iron, manganese, copper, and magnesium. But I often struggle to find good beet recipes. So I was thrilled to find a hundred-year-old recipe for Beets a la Poitevine. Beet slices are immersed in a light sauce that brings out the natural sweet goodness of the beets. At first I thought that this recipe might be similar to Harvard Beets – but it is very different. The recipe calls for no sugar, and only a minimal amount of vinegar which I could barely taste.

I was curious about the French name of this recipe, and googled it but didn’t come up with much. Poitevine may refer to a place in France. There is a village called Bussière-Poitevine in central France.

Here is the original recipe:

Source: American Cookery (March, 1917)

And, here is the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Beets a la Poitevine

  • Servings: 3-5
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

4 medium beets (about 2 cups sliced beets)

2 tablespoons vinegar +1 tablespoon vinegar

1/4 cup butter + 1 tablespoon butter

1 small onion, finely diced

1/4 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

2 cups chicken broth

Wash and trim beets. Place in a large saucepan and cover with water; add 2 tablespoons vinegar to reduce bleeding. Bring to a boil using high heat, then reduce temperature and simmer until the beets are tender (approximately 30 – 45 minutes, depending upon size). Remove from heat, drain, and cool slightly, then peel beets. The skin is easy to remove after cooking. Slice the peeled beets.

In the meantime melt butter in a saucepan, then add diced onion and saute until tender. Stir in the flour and salt; then gradually, add the chicken broth while stirring constantly. Add 1 tablespoon vinegar. Continue stirring until the sauce boils and thickens. Gently stir in the sliced beets, and cook until hot and bubbly while gently stirring. Remove from heat and serve.

The original recipe called for adding additional butter as well as the vinegar at the very end of the cooking process. This seemed unnecessary to me – so I added all the sauce ingredients prior to adding the beet slices. After I added the beets, I just cooked it until the sauce returned to a boil and the beets were hot.

17 thoughts on “Beets a la Poitevine

    1. Thanks! This site it a wonderful find. I put the text through Google translate and now have a much better understanding of this recipe and its history. I like how it calls this recipe a “somewhat forgotten recipe.” It’s too bad that it isn’t made very often any more. In my opinion, it’s a nice dish.

    1. I agree – It’s wonderful. Your comment makes me think of Julia Child’s cookbook – Mastering the Art of French Cooking, though it’s from a later era than the focus of this blog.

      1. I never really paid attention to her actual recipes until I made one recently–a non-tomato meatloaf that my family loved. I think I will find some more to try!

    1. I’ve always heard that a little vinegar in the water helps keep beets from “bleeding”, so I included it in the updated version of the recipe – though am not sure why it works.

  1. Sorry but adding butter and vinegar at the end of a recipe is anything but unnecessary. Adding butter or some sort of fat at the end of cooking is what gives good sauces that mouth-coating velvety smoothness. Acetic acid (vinegar) can be a very volatile flavor compound, meaning it is easily cooked out. Whenever you smell a strong aroma coming from your food and wafting through the air, that’s your dish losing flavor through volatile aromatic compounds being released into the air. Adding the vinegar at the end of the process returns the sparkling brightness back to the dish rather than just being a dull sourness in the background. There are sometimes very arbitrary ingredients and methods in French recipes, but adding fat and acid at the end of a recipe is just good technique and is definitely recommend.

    1. Thanks for the information. I learned something new. This is good to know both for this recipe, and for when I make other recipes calling for butter and vinegar.

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