I’ve not posted here for ages, partly because I’ve not been cooking much that I haven’t written about before, but also because I’ve been away on holiday. So, here is an attempt to remedy this situation with a classic dish that I both enjoy cooking and eating.
Of course, the thing that reminded me that I should cook a daube was thinking about the late Keith Floyd and his excellent book which is a great introduction to the varied food of France, particularly the kind of classic cooking that seems to be disappearing from the menus of many restaurants in France these days. Of course, there are still plenty of restaurants offering excellent regional cuisine but there are more and more around now who seem happy to serve up burgers, pizzas and other fairly uneventful and often not very good international staples.
Anyway, (as Floyd might have said) back to the daube, which is one of the kinds of dishes that seem, unfortunately to have fallen from favour these days.
The thing about daubes that one needs to remember is that they are all variations on a theme, and that theme is basically meat (usually beef) slowly cooked in wine and aromatics until everything comes together to produce a harmonious and delicious finished article. The name daube comes from the terracotta pot, the daubière in which these dishes were traditionally cooked in Provence. Of course, one can happily use any kind of covered pan to produce a daube, and you don’t have to restrict yourself to using beef either. You can equally use lamb (or mutton), pork, venison, wild boar or veal, but in each case the basic principles are the same. When using pork, such dishes are often described as a civet de porc. You don’t have to use red wine either. For some meats, white wine will work better.
The dish is pretty much a casserole or stew and, as I have said, you can add all manner of things to the basic list of meat/wine/onion/garlic/seasonings/herbs to provide some variations. Carrots are pretty much essential, I think, as are tomatoes and salt pork or bacon are also high on my list of must-haves too. Celery is also good as an aromatic ingredient and both dried and fresh mushrooms have their place. As to herbs, bay leaves, thyme, parsley and rosemary are all good (pretty much standard, really), but I’d avoid things like sage or coriander.
In this specific instance, my ingredients were;
500g lean, diced chuck steak
100g bacon lardons
1 large finely-chopped onion
4 large crushed and chopped cloves of garlic
1 large diced carrot
1 diced stick of celery
half a tin of chopped tomatoes
2 tablespoons of tomato purée
salt and pepper
1 sprig of rosemary
2 sprigs of thyme
2 fresh bay leaves
4 tablespoons of chopped parsley and some parsley stalks
half a bottle of basic Côtes du Rhône
5-6 sliced chestnut mushrooms
First, I sautéed the lardons in olive oil and added the onion, carrot and celery and carried on cooking this down until the vegetables were soft, adding the garlic towards the end of the cooking (to avoid it burning).
Then I added the beef on top of the vegetable mixture and poured over the wine. Note that you do not need to brown the meat first.. Then I added in the fresh herbs (except the chopped parsley), which I had tied together with some butcher’s string to form a bouquet garni and when the wine started to bubble I added in the chopped tomatoes and tomato purée. I did not season (i.e. season in the strict sense of adding salt) at this point, because the bacon was salty and the saltiness would concentrate as the liquid evaporated. I did add a few twists of black pepper, though.
I covered my pan and allowed this to cook for about 2 hours, until the meat was tender. At this point I turned off the heat and left the dish to be finished off later. I also took the opportunity to fish out the bouquet of herbs, which had done its job.
When it was time to eat, I sautéed the mushrooms in butter and added them to the daube, which was reheating on a low gas and stirred in half the chopped parsley. I tasted the diash and added in a small amount (about half a teaspoonful) of salt and a few more twists of pepper. When this was all nicely hot, I served the daube with some pasta and with the remaining parsley sprinkled over.
To go with this, you really need red wine, ideally something French and probably something southern featuring Grenache, Syrah, Carignan and Mourvèdre, i.e. something from the Rhône, Provence or Languedoc, but you could also drink a wine from the Southwest, such as Cahors, Bergerac, Côtes de Duras or a Bordeaux red. We had a 2008 Côtes de Bourg (a Right Bank Bordeaux), because we have a few bottles that need drinking up before they go past their best, and it went very well.