Monday 31 January 2011

Julia Child's Daube de Boeuf (On a Student's Budget)

 It's not often that I'm compelled to post a recipe that's non-baking-related. Partly because this is primarily a baking blog, and partly because unlike baking, when I'm cooking, I don't measure or write things down.

Some people say that's how to be a "real" cook: do everything by taste, smell, appearance. I don't know what I think about that. I mean, where would we be without recipes? I'm not just talking about cookbooks. My mother keeps a small wooden notecard box on top of the kitchen shelf, filled with recipes jotted on tattered slips of paper and clipped from newspapers decades ago. I would imagine many of you have something similar.

And then there are the "recipes" that are really more like an outline. A set of ingredients, in assorted subjective proportions, yet still recognisable as, for instance, chili - despite whatever variations upon the theme may occur. You can make it hot or mild, with or without beans, with beef, with turkey; you have dozens of combinations of spices to choose from, but as long as a certain framework is there, it's unmistakably recognisable as chili.                                    

Despite the resilience of these food frameworks, we still have recipes documenting countless permutations of a given dish. This needs no reason beyond the fact that someone liked it that exact way. But I don't need to tell you that, I suppose.

I've given this recipe much more of a grandiose introduction than I'd intended - especially considering that it is such unpretentious food. There is nothing out-of-the-ordinary about it. The changes I made have, if anything, made it even more modest than the one Julia Child described as a simple country dish. This mostly entailed trimming the expense of ingredients by decreasing the quantity of meat and using canned rather than fresh tomatoes, though I also took a few shortcuts for simplicity's sake. For instance, the original recipe calls for beef stock - I substituted water and it turned out just fine. So, without further ado:

Daube de Boeuf

Adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking

1 pound/455 grams pastured, grass-fed beef, cut into cubes - look for lean cut for stew
1 can diced tomatoes
2 large carrots, sliced thinly
1/2 large onion and/or shallots, sliced
1 1/4 cups white and/or brown mushrooms, sliced
2 or more slices bacon (I used just 2, from Applegate Farms)
1 cup/235 mL red wine
approx. 1/4 cup/30 g gluten-free flour - I used white rice flour & potato starch
1-2 T olive oil

Black pepper
Bay leaves

Begin by cutting the bacon into pieces about 2 inches/5 cm in length. Bring a small pan of water to a simmer, and put the bacon in it for about 10 minutes. (According to Julia Child, this step is because American bacon is so smoky compared to French, and if you skip this step the whole daube will taste strongly of bacon.) After simmering, dry the bacon with paper towels.

The original recipe recommends
boiled potatoes, risotto,
or noodles to accompany.
- Preheat oven to 163 C/ 325 F.

Meanwhile, dry the pieces of beef with paper towels, then roll them in the flour until evenly coated. Heat the oil in an enamelled Dutch oven, and brown the beef (if it sticks, splash in a little wine). Once this is done, remove the beef or push it off to one side so you can make a layer of vegetables on the bottom. Distribute the beef evenly back over it. Add another layer of vegetables, then tomatoes - continue this pattern until all the vegetables are in.

Distribute the bacon and herbs over top of it, then pour over wine, juice from tomatoes, and enough water to nearly (but not quite) cover the vegetables.

Cover with lid, place in oven, allow to cook for about 3 hours.

Serve with boiled potatoes or crusty bread.

Now, "Bon appetit!"