In 1993 I took a French Bistro Cooking class that was taught by one of the chefs from The Heathman Restaurant & Bar. It was my first cooking class that led to many other classes that summer. Oddly, the thing I remember most about this particular class was my “helping” with cleanup and rinsing a Heinkel chef knife and placing it in the dishwasher. The instructor freaked out on me and scolded me for putting a fine kitchen knife in the dishwasher. She was right, but as a 21 year old guy whose parents idea of a quality knife was a Ginsu knife set, I had no idea.
Fortunately, I walked away that evening with a quality beef stew recipe that also serves as the foundation for a great macaroni gratin dish too (more on that recipe tomorrow.)
Daube De Boeuf A La Provencale (Provencale Beef Stew)
3 lbs. stew meat (beef round or chuck)
4 carrots, peeled and cut into thick ‘half moons’
3 onions, coarsely chopped
6 garlic cloves, peeled
1 rib celery, thickly sliced
4 sprigs fresh parsley
3 bay leaves
1 Tbsp. fresh thyme, or 1 tsp. dried
1/3 cup brandy
1 bottle robust red wine (Cote du Provence, Cote du Rhone, Minervoise or Languedoc)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. whole black peppercorns
2 whole cloves
3 Tbsp. butter
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 lb. mushrooms
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
grated zest and juice of 1 orange
salt and pepper
The day before serving the stew, in a large non reactive bowl, combine the marinade ingredients. The peppercorns and cloves may be tied in a cheesecloth to remove before serving, if desired. Toss well. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours, stirring occasionally.
Drain and reserve the liquid from the meat and vegetables. Remove the meat from the vegetables. Transfer the liquid and the vegetables (and the cheesecloth, if using) to a large non reactive casserole. In a large skillet, melt the butter and olive oil over high heat. When foam begins to subside, add half the meat. Sauté, tossing, until browned all over, about 5 minutes. with a slotted spoon, transfer the meat to the liquid and vegetables in the casserole. Repeat with the remaining beef.
Stir the tomato paste into the casserole. bring to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce the heat to very low and simmer, skimming occasionally, until the meat is very tender, about 3 hours. While the meat is cooking, in the same skillet in which the meat was browned, add the mushrooms and sauté over high heat until lightly browned, about 5 minutes; set aside. When the meat is tender, (discard the cheesecloth, if using) stir in mushrooms, orange zest and juice, and salt and pepper to taste.
The recipe can be prepared 2 to 3 days in advance and refrigerated. Reheat before serving.