Boeuf en Daube

Provencal Beef Stew

The Provençal Daube is a stew, slow-cooked to tenderize the delicious but chewy beef that comes from the cattle of the camargue, differing from other French beef stews in that it was originally made with water. Now, both ingredients and method may vary considerably from chef to chef. The Provençal poet Mistral was said to prefer the sauce finished off with anchovy. René Jouveau tells of the inn at Aix whose daube, made with a slice of dried orange peel, was so good that visitors would regularly forego dessert to eat three and even four helpings of it. Denise Pélas makes her daube, as did both her grandmother and the villagers at nearby Gorders, with beef marinated first in tarragon vinegar; it gives to the meat and, if chilled, to the jelly a mysterious, delicately sharp taste.

Ingredients

  • 4 ½ lb/2 kg good stewing beef (such as chuck steak) cut in 2 in/5 cm squares
  • tarragon vinegar to soak, plus 3 tbsp/45 ml extra
  • 4-5 fresh bay leaves, or 2-3 dried
  • 5 cloves garlic, unpeeled
  • coarse sea salt; pepper
  • 1 handful finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 calf’s foot or pig’s trotter (optional unless daube is to be served cold en gelée-see note at end of recipe*)
  • 7 oz/200 g fresh pork fat
  • 1 onion, finely sliced
  • 4-6 carrots, sliced lengthwise in quarters
  • stock just to cover
  • 6 in/15 cm strip orange peel (optional)

Method

Roll each piece of beef well in vinegar and put into a lidded casserole with bay leaves and garlic. Sprinkle with salt pepper, parsley and 3 tbsp/45 ml vinegar. Cover & leave to marinate for 12 hours in the refrigerator.

Blanch the calf’s foot (if using) and cut into 4 pieces. When the beef has marinated, cut the pork fat in small pieces and melt in a heavy - based frying pan. Remove beef from marinade, pat dry, then brown on all sides in the fat over a high heat. Take out the beef with a slotted spoon, lower heat, add onion to pan & cook until golden. Then add the rest of the marinade (except garlic) and calf’s foot. Cook for 10 minutes and then transfer, with beef & carrots, to a daubière or heavy - lidded flameproof casserole. Pour enough stock over to cover, add dried orange peel (if using) & cover closely. Cook over a very low heat or in a low oven for 5-7 hours.

(If using an earthenware daubière, cook in the oven, as direct contact with heat may crack it. If using a heavy cast iron casserole, oil some greaseproof paper, lay over the stew and seal hermetically with lid. The daube can then be cooked on top of stove over minimum heat. According to Denise, the surface of the daube should not bubble, but just move gently - the famous ‘mijoter’ of every French cook. It means, literally, ‘to simmer’ but also ‘to cook lovingly’, which is closer to the spirit of Provençal cooking.)

To serve the daube, skim off any excess fat and adjust seasoning, strip the meat from the calf’s foot, add to the daube and discard the bones. Ladle some of the juice from the meat over a bowl of hot macaroni on which you have grated a handful of Gruyère and bring both daube & macaroni to the table.

To serve the previous recipe en gelée, as a cold summer dish: omit the stock & extra vinegar & add 1 ¾ pt/1 litre of red wine to marinade. Make sure the meat is just covered with liquid during cooking & sealed well to keep moisture in. When the daube has finished cooking, discard the calf’s foot/pig’s trotter, arrange the meat & vegetables decoratively in a terrine (deep enough to hold juice as well) and strain juice over top. Remove jellied daube from terrine by dipping the base briefly in hot water, then inverting terrine over serving dish. Press finely chopped fresh parsley into the meat & serve with grain mustard, olives & cornichons (gherkins/pickles).