Daube — French Tradition, Braised

February 25, 2009

France is every man’s second country.
~Thomas Jefferson

Daube is a sublime, rustic meal brimming with aromatics. Daube actually refers to both a method of cooking and a type of dish (much like tajine). The original daube referred to a food preparation in which meat and other foodstuffs, wines, vinegars and herbs were slowly cooked in a terrine or pot. The ingredients are layered inside the pot, with slow cooking meats — usually beef or lamb — at the bottom, vegetables and aromatics on top. It’s not surprising to learn, then, that the word “daube” comes from adobar, which in the langue d’oc (language of the Occitan) means “to arrange” or “to accommodate.”

The recipe allegedly originated in 18th century Saint-Malo, (Breton: Sant-Maloù), a walled port city on the coast of Bretagne in northwestern France. Then, they were a speciality that included artichokes, celery, pork, goose and beef…once cooked, the meat and vegetables were removed to be eaten without the sauce and often cold, in jellied form. Pots of daube were sent all over France, and the dish ultimately migrated to herb plentiful Provence where scores of these farmhouse recipes abound.


4 lbs boneless beef (different cuts—round, chuck, shoulder), excess fat trimmed, meat cut into 2-3″ cubes

1 bottle of dry red wine
3 medium carrots, peeled, roughly cut
1 large onion, peeled and sliced
8 fresh thyme sprigs
6 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
3 bay leaves
4 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 t freshly grated nutmeg
1 large fresh rosemary sprig
1 strip orange peel

2 ounces pancetta, diced
1 large onion, peeled and chopped or a similar amount of shallots, peeled and chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely minced
Grated zest of 4 oranges
2 C pitted green and black olives
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 T extra virgin olive oil

1/4 C capers, rinsed and drained

Combine first 12 ingredients (beef & marinade) in large bowl. Cover and let stand at room temperature 2 hours or refrigerate overnight.

If refrigeratered, bring marinade to room temperature and remove beef; pat dry. Reserve marinade. Cook pancetta in a heavy pot or dutch oven over medium low heat until fat is rendered, 5 minutes. Add chopped onion and garlic. Sauté
until onion is translucent, 6 minutes. Transfer to large bowl.

Heat olive oil in same pot over moderately high heat. Sprinkle beef with salt and pepper. Working in batches, add beef to pot; cook until beginning to brown, about 5 minutes per batch. Do not crowd the pan and remain patient so the meat retains its flavor and moistness. Transfer to bowl with pancetta mixture.

Reduce heat to medium-high. Gradually whisk in reserved marinade. Bring to a boil, scraping up browned bits.

Add beef mixture and any accumulated juices to pot. Cover tightly; simmer until meat is tender, about 2-3 hours. Stir occasionally to evenly coat the pieces of meat with the liquid. During the last 30 minutes, add the orange zest and olives. The sauce should be glossy and slightly thick.

With a slotted spoon or tongs, remove and discard the herb sprigs, bay leaves, cinnamon stick, garlic cloves, cloves and orange peel.

Skim fat off surface. Bring to a simmer, stirring frequently. Season with salt and pepper and strew capers over the top.

Serve over buttered noodles or other pasta with a red Gigondas or Cotes du Rhone.


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