Sunday, October 12, 2014

Middle Class Daube De Boeuf

     When I received a copy of Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, I will admit I rolled my eyes a bit. While I have dabbled in French cooking, it never struck me as particularly middle class. Most of what I saw from watching The French Chef on PBS was always insanely complicated and used ingredients I couldn't even pronounce, much less afford. After a bit of reading, I found that there are some rustic recipes hiding in there. I did a baked daube provencal some time ago that was absolutely fabulous. I figured I couldn't go wrong doing a daube from this book. That is, unless I didn't have the ingredients it called for. I had no stewing beef and no suitable wine. I wasn't going to waste my therapeutic bottles of Moscato for cooking. Given the amount of work required to make beef stew here, I'm classifying this recipe as a P.I.T.A.. Changes were made. I imagine if Julia Child were alive and saw me abusing her recipe, she'd likely die on the spot.  I'd like to think she'd salute my ingenuity and creativity, but more than likely I'm looking to get my ass beat in the afterlife if she ever finds me. As always, notes and changes are in blue.

Middle Class Daube De Boeuf
via Mastering the Art of French Cooking
  • 3 lbs lean stewing beef cut into 2-1/2 inch squares, 1 inch thick (we used 3 lbs of ground beef. 73/27, no less. I'm not made of money)
  • A large, glazed earthenware bowl (no)
  • 1-1/2 cup dry white wine, dry white vermouth, or red wine (we opted for a bottle of O'Fallon Cherry Chocolate Beer, because I'll tell you, that shit ain't fit for drinking. We figured it might work for cooking)
  • Optional: 1/4 cup brandy, eau de vie, or gin (while I don't normally skip the opportunity for extra booze, we figured to err on the side of caution and just stick with the beer)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme or sage (we opted for the sage)
  • 1 crumbled bay leaf (no matter how much you crunch it, it will never be enough. Heed the warnings of my mother: unattended bay leaves mean certain death)
  • 2 cloves mashed garlic
  • 2 cups thinly sliced onions
  • 2 cups thinly sliced carrots
  • 1/2 lb lean bacon cut into 1-inch slices 1/4-inch thick and 2 inches long, approximately (Definitely use lean bacon or you're going to be fishing out nasty bacon fat from the final product. As for slice size, we just cut a pack of bacon in half and used them as is)
  • 1-1/2 cups (6 ounces) sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1-1/2 lbs ripe, red tomatoes, peeled, seeded, juiced and chopped (we just peeled them, smashed the shit out of them, and willfully ignored the other steps)
  • A 5-6 quart fireproof casserole 3-1/2 inches deep  (we went with the trusty cast iron enameled Dutch oven)
  • 1 cup sifted flour on a plate (we used the flour, but about 3 tablespoons, and not on a plate. I'll explain later)
  • 1-2 cups beef stock or canned beef bouillon (we used 2 cups of water and a beef bouillon cube)
  1. Place the beef in the bowl and mix with the wine, optional spirits, olive oil, seasonings, herbs and vegetables. Cover and marinate at least 3 hours (6 if refrigerated), stirring up frequently (we took only the vegetables and herbs and threw them in a bowl with the marinade. Since we were not adding meat at this point, we totally ignored the 3 hour requirement and soldiered on)
  2. Simmer the bacon for 10 minutes in 2 quarts of water (If you've ever seen the movie "Better Off Dead," you'll understand my reluctance to boil bacon. We just gave it a 3 minute zap in the microwave)
  3. Prepare the mushrooms and tomatoes (already did. They're floating in the marinade)
  4. Remove the meat from the marinade and drain in a sieve (we browned the ground beef and drained the excess oil. We then mixed about 3 tablespoons of flour in with the meat)
  5. Preheat oven to 325F (170C Gasmark 3)
  6. Line the bottom of the casserole (or Dutch oven) with 3-4 strips of bacon. Strew a handful of the marinade vegetables, mushrooms and tomatoes over them. Piece by piece, roll the beef in the flour and shake off excess. Place closely together in a layer over the vegetables (we took the ground beef and flour mixture and spread a layer over the veggies). Cover with a few strips of bacon, and continue with layers of vegetables, beef and bacon. End with a layer of vegetables and 2-3 strips of bacon.
  7. Pour the wine from the marinade and enough stock or bouillon almost to cover the contents of the casserole (it took us all the marinade liquid and 2 cups of stock to get the required level of liquid)
  8. Bring to simmer on top of the stove, cover closely, and set in lower third of preheated oven. Regulate heat so liquid simmers slowly for 2-1/2 to 3 hours (we used the full 3). The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily (obviously don't use this method if you went with the ground beef)
Good times!

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