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Baeckeoffe is a traditional dish from the region of France known as Alsace, which is really a blend of both French and German cultures. The dish is a kind of stew with three types of meat, along with potatoes, making up the bulk of the ingredients. Spices and other vegetables are added to the meat and potatoes in a ceramic dish that is covered and sealed with a type of basic dough known as rope dough. The flavor of the baeckeoffe comes from marinating the meat and vegetables overnight in a mixture of spices and white wine. After several hours of baking, the baeckeoffe is taken out of the oven, the dough is cracked open and it is served hot, sometimes with crusty bread.
The word "baeckeoffe" means baker’s oven. The origins of the dish in the Alsatian region are rooted in practices on certain days of the week — either religious observances or general work — that prevented people from having enough time to cook dinner for their families. Instead, baeckeoffe was prepared the night before and then taken to a local baker. The baker would put the dish in the oven at the bakery at the end of the day and allow the residual heat from the cooling oven to cook the meal. The next day, after chores or church, the fully cooked stew would be picked up and prepared for dinner.
The main ingredient in baeckeoffe is a combination of meats, traditionally chunks of beef, pork and lamb. They are prepared in a marinade of dry white wine, usually a Riesling made from the German grapes that are grown in Alsace. The vegetables also can be marinated, although the potatoes usually are not. Spices such as bay leaves, thyme and fresh parsley also are included in the marinade, and everything is left to sit overnight.
The vegetables in the dish can vary from recipe to recipe, but they generally include late-season vegetables. Leeks, carrots and onions are traditional, although items such as turnips, mushrooms and spinach also can be used. Once everything has marinated, potatoes are sliced into discs and layered in the bottom of the cooking pan, followed by the meat, the vegetables and a top layer of potato slices. White wine is poured into the pot until it covers everything, and a lid with a steam vent is placed on top.
The lid is sealed to the pan with rope dough. This dough is just flour, water and some oil that has been pressed around the seam where the lid meets the baking dish. The tight seal that the dough creates while the baeckeoffe cooks for many hours prevents too much liquid from escaping, keeping the stew moist. Once the dish is completed, the dough is cracked with a knife, and the stew is served hot with bread.