Monday, September 28, 2009
Boeuf en Daube Provençale
When I was a kid, my parents took me to eat at a posh restaurant (The Pheasant at Chalfont St Giles, if I recall) and I chose 'Scampi Provençale' from the menu. So I was precocious, sue me.
I loathed it - I knew what scampi was, it came fried in breadcrumbs with mayonnaise on the side and these dolts served it in a dish filled with tomatoes and red peppers and stuff! Yew!
I think my tastes may have matured a little since then.
Provençale means in the style of Provence and really, as far as I can see, in classic French cookery, means "with a bit o' tomato and maybe the odd mushroom and olive, if you must some red pepper and perhaps some 'erbs". It doesn't mean 'all sloshed with a red and raw sauce, tomato and pepper dominated with lots of bitter olives'. It's subtler than that.
Uber-cooks Elizabeth David and Margaret Costa's Boeuf Provençal recipes inspired me, Auguste Escoffier's repelled me ('cut up cold boiled beef and stew it in tomatoes and stuff. You can chuck in some olives and mushroom if you want' would be a reasonable precis). I've messed around with quite a few versions of this recipe quite a bit over the years and I love this, the result of all that messing.
All you need is a little time in hand but, like most smashing recipes, you can actually do all the prep the night before and then just store it in the fridge before taking it out to come to room temperature and then doing the oven baking the next day. As a party dish, this is perfect - you can simply forget about it until you're ready to serve it up. For a dinner party, I'd do it with some fresh boiled vegetables enlivened with a herb or two (dill seed for carrots, mint with peas, that sort of idea) and a really rich cream, truffle oil and butter laced potato mash. But that's just me...
The crushed garlic in this recipe is literally crushed with the blade of a knife so that it remains sort of intact, but in smashed up lumps rather than in garlic-crusher mush. If you know what I mean. If you can get your hands on good quality bouquets garnis, use these instead of the dried herbs and leave a comment telling us where you got ‘em. If you don’t live in the UAE, in Provence, for instance, don’t bother with the note, smartarse. As for olives, black are best but if you happen to only have green at hand (like the night I took this photo), I think St Peter may possibly overlook your transgression at the final reckoning.
You’ll also need some greaseproof paper, a casserole and an oven. I find a second glass of wine helps, too.
600g beef in small cube
70g smoked lardons or pancetta cubes
2 carrots, roughly chopped
2 largeish tomatoes, deskinned, deseeded & chopped
2 onions, sliced
6 cloves garlic, crushed
8-10 olives, quartered
250g button mushrooms, halved
2 bay leaves
2 tsp dried herbes de provence
2 tbsp flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
250ml red wine
150ml good, strong stock
Heat your oven to GM2/150C/300F.
Heat up a good slosh of oil in a large frying pan and fry off the beef over a high heat. You’ll want to do this in batches, three or four of them, replenishing the oil as required. Space each batch of beef out in the pan so that it fries fast and hot and doesn’t ‘sweat’ and end up stewing. Turn it over when one side has browned, to seal it all around.
Sling the cooked beef into your casserole and sprinkle in the flour, stirring it in to coat the meat. Add some more oil to the pan (and, if you’re feeling ‘naughty’, a good sized chunk of butter) and fry off the onions, stirring them to stop them sticking and burning. Bring the mushrooms and then the lardons into the picture and stir fry them so that the onion softens and the mushrooms start to brown. Add the garlic and keep stir frying for a short while until everything’s looking browned (but not, please, burned), cooked and generally ready to heft into the casserole.
At this stage, I’d suggest hefting it into the casserole.
Add the carrot, the stock and the red wine, the seasonings and the herbs to the casserole and give it all a good stir. Place a sheet of greaseproof paper between the base and lid of the casserole and trim it around with a pair of scissors, then place it in the oven and leave it for 2 ½ hours while you do something more interesting, like compare that second glass of wine to the rest of the bottle (channeling Floyd, I know).
At the end of cooking, fling in the olives and stir them in, letting them heat through for a few minutes while you pour out the red and warm the plates.
Personally, I like to serve this with fresh vegetables (cauliflower, beans, peas) and chunks of warmed French bread with butter. But, as I said above, for a dinner party I'd do a rich, buttery mash.