Monday, December 31, 2012

The Daube's a tough choice at times.
They are both delicious, and not really similar other than the fact that they are not light summery dishes (though perhaps not surprisingly I've had both in hot, summery Southern France).
Anyhow, this Xmas season became the Daube season.

I've made daube a few times over the years but hadn't made one recently so I consulted a few of my cookbooks.  What I ended up making was a mix between recipes from Patricia Wells' At Home in Provence and Paula Wolfert's The Cooking of Southwest France.

I turn to Patricia Wells' book primarily for her pistou recipes, but she has a couple good, solid daube recipes in there worth visiting.  The recipe I drew from the most from this book is "Monsieur Henny's Three Beef Daube".   A couple important pieces from this recipe are the following:
  1. The recipe uses different beef cuts - all good for stewing, but they add a nice flavor and texture mixture.
  2. The oil for browning the beef has actually been used previously for cooking the onions.  That method sings to me.  There's nothing better than filling your kitchen with slow cooked onions.  Although following that process with browning the meat in that same oil just adds more delicious flavor and scent. 
  3. Beef bones.  The broth will be that much better with the glycerine from these boys.  No doubt about it.
Nom and nom. QED.

Now the Wolfert book is my duck and goose book.  Great book.  I pull from it for many non-duck recipes, but the duck is its strong suit.  They have a nice goose daube in there, but the "Daube of Beef in the Style of Gascony" is the recipe that I'm drawing from here.  The elements of this recipe that I prefer over the Wells' recipe are the following:
  1. Slow cooking.  The daube goes in the oven for 6+ hours at a low temperature.  It calls for 250, but I've been cooking it a bit longer at 225.  Low and slow, the way it should be.
  2. Now there is a marrow bone in this recipe, but the Wells' recipe had more.  However, I love the fact the marrow is combined with some of the vegetables to make a puree for the sauce. Brilliant.
  3. Celery root.  Good stuff.  The Wells' recipe uses a tomato paste, but I like the concept of returning to a root vegetable in the mirepoix family.  Onion. Garlic. Celery Root.  Carrots. Tasty and good.
  4. Armagnac.  Good for the stew.  Good for the cook.  Say hello to Gers.
  5. Separation of beef and broth at the end.  After the cooking, the broth is separated which allows you to have a chance to reduce the sauce further and concentrate the flavors.  Also, separation facilitates the removal of the fat from the stew.  Completely worth it.  Strong, non-fatty flavor in the stew.  Good choice.
Ok.  Good stuff. 
Now on to the recipe.


  • 7 medium onions (6 sliced thin, 1 cut in half and studded with the following cloves)
  • 6-10 cloves
  • 6-8# of mixed beef cuts made for stewing (e.g.; short ribs, eye of round, round roast, chuck roast, etc.); low in fat, but can be somewhat marbled.  Big slabs of fat trimmed.  Cut into 1.5" dimension chunks.
  • 1 head of garlic, split in halft width-wise
  • 5 bay leaves
  • A good handful of thyme bound in twine
  • 1.5 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
  • 2-3 bottles of good dry red wine, preferably Syrah, Grenache, Cabernet, Malbec, or some other full-bodied, dry red
  • 4-6 good marrow bones
  • 1/4 c. duck fat
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 10 oz. celery root, cut into 1/2" dice
  • 8 oz. carrots, cut into 1/2" dice
  • 2 packages of salt pork, sliced width-wise into separate panels
  • 1/3 c. Armagnac


This is a multi-day preparation, but it's truly very civilized.  Right around serving, you do almost nothing, which is always real nice.  I find that if you space it over 3 days, it won't seem bad at all.  The other interesting features are related to storage issues.  The marinating is at room temperature, so you don't use up fridge space during the 1st 24 hours (except for the bones).  The slow cooking is in the oven over night so that doesn't use up any fridge space either.  When that cooking is done, the food is separated between sauce and meat mixture so that's actually easier to store than one big monster pot.  Anyhow, here are the directions...

First Prep (evening day 1)

  1. Heat the oven to 400F. 
  2. Put the onions (sliced & halved), beef, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, nutmeg into a large pot with a lid.  Put in enough red wine to nearly cover the mixture.  Cover the pot.  Let the food mixture marinate at room temperature for approximately 24 hours. 
  3. Meanwhile, take a baking sheet and cover it in aluminum foil.  Take the marrow bones and place them on the aluminum foil.  Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool.  Place bones in a bowl and refrigerate.

Main Cooking (Evening prior to slumber - evening day 2)

  • After 24 hours, separate the marinating ingredients into the following groups and place them in their own bowls
    • meat
    • onions
    • thyme, garlic, bay leaves
    • liquid

    • Heat the main stew pot over medium heat.  Place the duck fat and olive oil into that pot.
    • Drain the onions placing any residual liquid into the "liquid" bowl.  Then take the onions and place them in the main stew pot and saute the onions for 12 minutes, stirring occasionally.  The onions should be soft, but not burnt or brown.  Place onions in mega-bowl.

    • Remove the onions to a big bowl with a slotted spoon.  Next, place some of the meat into the bottom of the main stew pot in the same oil.  Do not overcrowd.  Stew each piece of beef for about 3-4 mintes per side.  Place browned meat in mega-bowl on top of the onions and to the side.

    • Next, place the carrots and celery root in the pot.  Cover the pot and cook for 5 minutes.  Uncover the pot and cook 5 minutes more, stirring occasionally.  Place carrots and celery root in mega bowl on onions next to the meat so you can get to the meat easily.

    • Drizzle delicious Armagnac over the veggies and meat in the mega bowl.

    • Remove fat and wipe out (not scrub out) the pot.  Return pot to heat.  Pour 1 cup of the reserved liquid into the pot and boil down to a glaze.
    • Meanwhile, take a small sauce pan, fill 2/3 of the way with water so that you can blanch the salt pork.  Put the small sauce pan on a burner and bring to a boil.  When at a boil, place the salt pork in the sauce pan, bring to a simmer, and continue to simmer for 3-5 minutes.

    • Meanwhile #2, preheat the oven to 225F .
    • (Back to liquid) Pour a 2nd 1 cup amount of the liquid into the pot and boil down to a glaze.
    • Add remaining liquid and simmer for 10 minutes.  Note: the amount of liquid in this recipe is greater than the amount in the Wolfert book, so a bit more simmering will be needed at a couple stages in the recipe.

    • Remove liquid from the pot and reserve.
    • Remove blanched salt pork from sauce pan.
    • Place the salt pork slabs at the bottom of the big pot to cover most of the pot.  Place the meat on top of the pork slabs.  Put the rest of the veggies on top of the meat.  Place the marrow bones amidst the veggies in the big pot.  Plop the garlic and thyme bundle amidst the veggies and bones.

    • If the broth doesn't come far enough up towards the top of the stew, you can add some low sodium or non-salted beef or chicken stock to the mixture.Place a sheet of parchment paper over the pot and cover the pot (and paper) with the normal big lid.  Place the pot in the oven and cook for many hours, overnight works really well here.

    Next Day Morning Cooking (morning day 3)

    • Your house should smell very delicious when you get up.  If it doesn't, perhaps the oven wasn't on.  After pulling the pot out of the oven, you want to again divide that which is in the pot into different groups, namely:
      • liquid
      • meat
      • veggies
      • marrow bones
      • pork slabs
      • other stuff

    • OPTION 1: What to do with the pork slabs.  You can discard the pork slabs.  Perfectly acceptable to discard as their flavor has been added.  You can also optionally cut the pork slabs into little bits and fry them a bit to give them a bit more browning and texture.  Then add them to the meat if that is your desire.
    • The next step is to take about 1/3 or up to 1/2 of the veggies and put them in a food processor. Take the marrow out of the marrow bones (using a chop stick or something) and put that into the food processor with the veggies. Puree the mixture and then scoop the mixture out and put on top of the beef. Discard the bones.

    • Take the remaining 2/3 or so of the veggies and put in a fine strainer above the liquid bowl.  Press the liquid out of the veggies to get as much flavor as you want from them, which may depend on the following option.
    • OPTION 2: What to do with the remaining 2/3 or so of the veggies after getting the liquid out.  The Wolfert Gascon recipe says to discard the veggies.  You can do that.  The daube will have great flavors already.   You can also just add the remaining veggies to meat.  I like seeing the diced carrots and celery root in there amidst the beef, but I can see purists omitting the veggies as well.  Your choice.
    • Take the meat bowl with the pureed veggies and the optional extra veggies and put it in a covered container in the fridge.  Keep in fridge until final steps.
    • Next, time to reduce the sauce a bit.  Bring the liquid to a boil and then simmer for around 15-20 minutes to bring out a stronger flavor.  Skim the sauce for any stuff that rises to the surface.  You should have about a quart or so of the sauce.   Let the sauce cool a bit and then put the sauce in the fridge to cool. 

    Final Cooking (about 1 hour before serving - evening day 3)

    • Preheat the oven to 350F
    • Pull the meat container and the sauce container from the refrigerator.  Scrape off any fat layer on top of either that has congealed.   The sauce, by the way, should be quite gelatin-like from the bones that were part of the daube creation.  After the congealed fat layer has been removed from the meat mixture and the sauce, combine them into a big pot.
    • Place the pot in the oven and cook uncovered for 30-60 minutes.  The daube should be bubbling when you pull it from the oven.  And yes, the gelatinous sauce will have transformed into a delicious dark rich liquidy sauce by the end of the dish.
    Serve with potatoes, bread and other tasty starches.