Daube Provençale Beef Stew
A traditional braised stew made with lamb or beef, wine, vegetables, herbs, and spices served over pasta. By far, my favorite stew and it's even better the second day.
This is a French beef (or lamb) and before you say that it is not a southern recipe, it hails from the south of France, and as far as I'm concerned, it counts. The first time I cooked this stew, it was love at first smell and an even deeper love at first taste. I remain fully committed to this day. For this reason, only cook this stew for people you love deeply, otherwise, you will never rid yourself of them.
A daube (or rather daubière) is a terracotta pot from Provençal France that resembles a pitcher with a concave lid. One day I will have one of these, but for now, a Dutch oven will suffice.
For the novice cook, such as myself, there are a couple of terms you may not be familiar with that are what I call 'game changers' in any recipe that calls for them. I'll include simple definitions/instructions for quick reference.
Bouquet Garni - 1 sprig Parsley, 2 sprigs thyme, 1 bay leaf placed in cheesecloth and tied with string.
Demi-Glace - A dark, thick greatly reduced beef, or chicken stock. Pick a day and make a batch. Pour it in ice trays and freeze. That way, when a recipe calls for it, you can just pop in a cube or two. Julia Child's recipe/instruction is my 'go-to' for demi-glace. In my opinion, it can't be beaten.
3 lbs of beef or lamb - Neck or shoulder with the bone in
2 tbs butter
Salt & Pepper
2 tbs olive oil
1 rib of celery
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 lb of bacon
1 small onion
1 tbs flour
1 tbs tomato paste
1 cup of wine - white or red
1 cup of stock - chicken, beef, or lamb - & demi-glace if you have some
1 bouquet garni
Zest from 1 orange
As always, prep work is key. The better organized you are, the smoother things will go with every dish you cook. It allows you to pace yourself. A stew such as this one is created in layers. You don't want to find yourself falling behind when it's time to add the next layer and you aren't ready. The following should be done in advance, in any order.
Scrub, peel, and turn the potatoes. Scrub, peel, and roughly slice the carrots into fourths.
Prepare a bouquet garni
Zest the orange
Peel the onion and garlic. Wash the onion, garlic, & celery and finely chop.
Prepare the meat, remove excess fat, and cut the meat into 2-inch cubes. Don't toss the bone if you have one. Lightly salt and pepper on all sides.
Open the tomato paste and the wine
Get a measuring cup and tablespoon
Gather the remaining ingredients and keep them nearby for easy access
Let's Get Cooking
Heat the oil on high in a Dutch oven (or daube) add the butter and allow it to foam. Sear the meat on all sides. You may need to do it in batches because you don't want to crowd the meat. Once they are a nice dark brown, set them aside on a plate.
Add the bacon to the still-hot pan and cook it until it's crispy and rendered its fat and set the bacon aside. Discard most of the fat and while the pan is still hot; add the onion, celery, and garlic. Turn the heat down to medium-high and cook them until they are caramelized which will be about five minutes.
Stir in the tomato paste and cook for a minute, add the flour and cook for another minute. Now, pour in the wine and scrape up all the tasty bits from the bottom of the pan. Bring it to a boil and reduce it to half. At this point, add in the stock (and demi-glace if you have some). Bring it back to a boil, reduce the heat and allow it to simmer.
Toss in the meat and bone (including any juices accumulated on the plate), carrots, orange zest, bouquet garni, potatoes, and bacon. *Wrap and tie the bacon in a cheesecloth for easy removal later. Season the stew with salt and pepper, cover, and allow to cook for about 90 minutes. Skim the fat from the surface as needed. As you can see, I seasoned it with salt, pepper, time, and a bay leaf. I didn't have any fresh sprigs on hand to make a proper bouquet garni.
After the stew cooks, you'll want to toss the bacon. If you are going to be serving it on the table for your guest(s), you'll want to remove the bone and bouquet garni as well. My Dutch oven stays on the stove and I serve from that, so I leave the bouquet garni and the bone in the pot. This way, something magical happens when I place it in the fridge overnight and reheat it the next day. It's all about the flavors.
This dish is traditionally served over pasta. As I discovered, it is great served over wild rice. Hot rolls are excellent to sop up those tasty juices. You may want a crisp salad, asparagus, or perhaps corn on the cob. My lovely Mother brought me a big bowl of macaroni salad. So, I got the best of both worlds with pasta and rice which I served up with some hot rolls.
Mere words can't express the deliciousness of this stew. It is one that will incline you to lick the bowl. If you are in the comfort of your home, by all means, do so. I'm not the best cook by anyone's standards but with a great dish like this, I am able to at least appear like I know what I'm doing. If I ask my boyfriend how he likes the meal and with his mouth full, he can only hold out his bowl and point in it for more, that tells me all I need to know.
If you love meat, you need to try this, absolutely. Like I say though, only cook it for someone you want to keep around. It is powerfully good. Have a blessed day and thanks for reading.