Sunday, March 22, 2009

My Take on a Daube

Unless otherwise noted, all materials on this blog are (c) 2009 by Madeleine Vedel

The Daube. The classic beef or taureau based dish from Provence. The basic premise is beef slow cooked for at least three hours, if not eight, in wine. The version you are most often served in restaurants in the region consists of the local grass-fed beef, or toro/taureau de Camargue, onions, garlic, herbes de Provence, carrots, salt and red wine. Erick has a marvelous medieval version that has cinnamon, nutmeg, thyme, ginger and white wine. My take is a variation of his. And, having made it today to sincere applause, I feel I can share it with you. I've added my favorite stewing vegetables -- turnips and fennel bulbs -- and re-worked the added flavor elements, removing the thyme and nutmeg, and adding in orange peel. And, as an option for those who like an occasional sweet touch, I tossed in some prunes. Turnips are a vastly under-appreciated vegetable, but no doubt those of you who get crates from local farmers are learning to use. I adore them in soups and stews. They add a flavor, but they also absorb the flavors of the broth and cook to a soft and divine texture. Whether I make a braised pork roast with onions and honey, or this variation on a daube, turnips are an excellent addition. And fennel bulbs -- that strange vegetable I discovered here in Provence, but which is now in most grocery stores in the US. Raw it is great in salads, but cooked in a stew such as this (particularly with white or rosé wine) they lend a texture akin to celery, but a sweet and delicate note that for me is far more spring-like. Then again, I was raised in a house where celery was actively discouraged... so I admit to my own prejudices. Enjoy!

Madeleine's Ginger Beef in Wine (a variation on a Daube)

1 kilo beef for stewing -- I like using the shank, and/or brisket. In France I choose the gite and the paleron
2 large onions
2 good sized turnips (about the same size as your onions)
2 fennel bulbs
3-4 carrots
2 large (thumb sized) garlic cloves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger (you can add another spoonful for a bit more flavor)
1 tablespoon chopped orange zest (careful that it is an organic orange, normal ones are intensely sprayed!)
a handful of prunes
1 teaspoon cinnamon
olive oil to brown the meat in
1 1/2 bottles of rosé or white wine (I used rosé today)
a sprinkle of sea salt

Cut your meat down to large bite size pieces. Trim off excess fat and/or skin.
Chop your onions coarsely.
Peel and chop your turnips and carrots into large bite size pieces.
Wash and slice your fennel bulb.
peel and prepare your fresh ginger
Crush and chop coarsely your two garlic cloves

Take a large deep dish frying pan with cover, or a "fait-tout" as they call them in France, or a large Creuset type cast iron dutch oven with lid. Place over a high flame and pour in olive oil to cover the bottom (about 3 tablespoons). When the heat comes up, start browning your meat in batches, removing the pieces that have nicely colored, and adding the rest till all is done. Toss in your onions, stir and let soften. Add back in the meat and all the vegetables. Stir a few times, then add in all the rest of the ingredients, wine included. Pour water over it all to cover, sprinkle in some salt. Cover and bring to a simmer. Switch to a very low flame and forget about it for a good long while.

After an hour or two, check for the level of liquid. As needed, top it off. Cook all afternoon. Let cool and put in the fridge. Pull it back out the next morning and bring back up to a simmer, top it off with water and cook a couple more hours on very low heat.

Meantime, pull out some good bread, make some rice or spelt or quinoa, invite your friends over, pull out a lovely concentrated and structured Châteauneuf-du-Pape, perhaps a Domaine de Marcoux, with its notes of cocoa which you've opened and aired overnight. Then, shortly before serving, make an olive oil mani -- blend three tablespoons of flour with enough olive oil to make a paste. Stir it into the simmering stew, wait a few more minutes and serve.

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