French stew smiles when it's simmered


Stew is a national dish in countries as far-flung as the Philippines, renowned for pork adobo, and Germany, home of sauerbraten. Both dishes have been welcomed by eclectic U.S. palates, and so has Hungarian goulash and other "regional" stews, including Mexican chili con carne and gumbo, with African origins. But one of the finest types of stew -- a daube -- is the province of traditional French cuisine.

In a classic daube, an inexpensive cut of beef is braised slowly in a wine-based stock. Frugality aside, there's another good reason for using cheaper, tougher cuts such as beef chuck or shin in a daube: They're rich in natural gelatin, which melts during long, slow, gentle cooking, adding body and savoriness to the stew. Boiling toughens the meat and leaves it tasteless.

"A proper stew smiles but never laughs," goes an old, wise tale that translates into the correct cooking technique for a daube: The braising liquid can bubble but should not boil.

Garlic, thyme and orange zest identify this daube as a Provencal dish. Note that the meat needs to marinate at least 12 hours, and the stew should mellow in the refrigerator for a day or two before serving. Buttered noodles are the traditional accompaniment to this all-meat stew.

copyright Cole Publishing Group

Daube de Boeuf Provencale

Serves 6

3 pounds beef chuck

1 1/3 cups white wine vinegar

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 bay leaf

2 cloves garlic, peeled, crushed with flat side of knife

1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried

2 thin strips orange zest

2 cups dry red wine

cooked, buttered noodles (optional)

2 tablespoons minced parsley, for garnish

Trim meat of excess fat and cut into 2-inch cubes. In a large bowl, whisk together vinegar, 2 tablespoons of the oil, salt, pepper, bay leaf, garlic, thyme and orange zest. Add meat, cover bowl, and marinate in the refrigerator for 12 to 18 hours. Drain meat, reserving marinade. Pat meat dry with paper towels.

In a heavy Dutch oven over moderately high heat, warm remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Add meat and brown well on all sides. Add wine and reserved marinade. Bring to a brisk simmer and cook, uncovered, for 3 minutes. Reduce heat to maintain gentle bubbling. Cover and cook until meat is meltingly tender (about 3 hours). Allow daube to cool, then refrigerate, covered, for a day or two. Reheat gently to serve. Ladle into warm bowls over noodles, if desired; garnish with parsley.

Pub Date: 01/24/99

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