Baeckeoffe is a typical dish from the French region of Alsace, situated on the border with Germany.
In the Alsatian dialect, Baeckeoffe means “baker’s oven.” It is a mix of sliced potatoes, sliced onions, cubed mutton, beef and pork that are marinated overnight in Alsatian white wine and juniper berries and slow cooked in a sealed ceramic casserole dish. Leeks, thyme, parsley, garlic, carrots and marjoram are other commonly added ingredients for flavour and colour.
Traditionally, the women would prepare this dish on Saturday evening and leave it with the baker to cook in his gradually cooling oven on Sunday while they attended the lengthy Lutheran church services once typical to the culture. The baker would take a “rope” of dough and line the rim of a large, heavy ceramic casserole, then place the lid upon it for an extremely tight seal. This kept the moisture in the container. On the way back from church, the women would pick up their casserole and a loaf of bread. This provided a meal to the Alsatians that respected the strict Lutheran rules of the Sabbath. Part of the ritual is breaking the crust formed by the rope of dough.
Another version of the story of the origin of this dish is that women in France would do laundry on Mondays and thus not have time to cook. They would drop the pots off at the baker on Monday morning and do the laundry. When the children returned home from school, they would then pick up the pot at the baker and carry it home with them. This version of the story may be closer to reality as bakers were often closed on Sundays.
Baeckeoffe - Alsatian Meat and Potatoes Casserole
- 700 g boneless pork shoulder, cut into 2½ cm cubes
- 700 g boneless lamb shoulder, cut into 2½ cm cubes
- 700 g lean stewing beef, cut into 2½ cm cubes
- 3 large onions, thinly sliced
- 2 carrots, thinly sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- ½ bay leaf
- 1 sprig fresh thyme, chopped (leaves only)
- ½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
- 2 whole cloves
- 10 black peppercorns
- 2 cups Riesling wine or 2 cups white wine
- 1.3 kg baking potatoes
- salt, to taste
- ⅔ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 loaf French bread , optional
- Place the meats in a large bowl with the onions, carrots and garlic. Add the thyme, bay leaves, parsley, cloves, peppercorns and salt. Pour the wine over and stir. Place in the refrigerator and allow to marinate 12 hours, stirring occasionally.
- Preheat oven to 190°C.
- Peel and wash the potatoes and cut into ½ cm slices. Drain the meat, reserving the vegetables and the marinade. Arrange a layer of the potatoes in a 2 litre flameproof, earthenware pot with tight fitting lid. Scatter some vegetables from the marinade over the potato layer, then add a layer of meat. Continue alternating layers, finishing with a layer of potatoes. Pour the marinade over the potatoes.
- Lutage - This is the method of sealing the lid so that no evaporation can take place. In a small bowl, mix enough water with the flour to produce a smooth, thick paste. Roll it into a long sausage shape and place it around the edge of the pot. Place the lid firmly on the pot, pressing down to ensure a perfect seal.
- Bake for 3 hours. Remove the pot from the oven and break the circle of pastry. Carefully remove the lid. Serve the baeckeoffe directly from the pot with a loaf of crusty bread.
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