Boeuf en daube

or as we call it, beef stew.  This is from a cookbook I received as a thoughtful gift from a friend, Simply Good Food by Clare Ferguson.  While looking up the Amazon link to post here, I read the lone review and was a bit saddened by it's snarkiness.  This book is lovely with excellent pictures and attainable recipes derived from a variety of cultures.  While ordinarily anything offering a smattering of a variety of cultures would lose me immediately,  this little book has been the source of several of my regular go to everyday recipes.   I loosely interpret this recipe often.

Clare offers this recipe up as a two-course meal.  Serve some of the juices poured over pasta as an appetizer, then proceed to the meat proper as an entree. I take liberties with the quantities and add potatoes, substitute a large can of whole tomatoes for the plum tomatoes, beef broth & wine, sometimes go with the bacon, with herbs, without and I've never had baby onions. Regular onions work just fine...so you see, it's very forgiving.  I have never served the juices over pasta as an appetizer, although now that I mention it, it sounds like a pretty great idea.

I serve mine like the beef stew it is once the potatoes are added; in a bowl with crusty bread and a tossed salad.
Here's Clare's version, just as it is in her beautiful book:

2 lb beef, such as shoulder, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves sliced
1 cup thick unsmoked bacon, cut into small dice
3 carrots, halved lengthwise
12 - 16 baby onions, peeled
6 plum tomatoes, peeled, then thickly sliced
zest of 1 orange, removed in one piece
1 bunch of fresh herbs such as parsley, thyme, bay leaf, and rosemary, tied with kitchen twine
1/2 cup walnut halves
1 cup robust red wine
2 Tablespoons Cognac or Brandy
3/4 cups beef stock or water
2 oz. salt pork (optional)
salt

Serves 4 - 6

Cut the beef into pieces about 2 1/2-inch squares.  Heat the oil in a flameproof casserole and saute the garlic, bacon, carrots, and onions for 4-5 minutes or until aromatic.  Remove from the casserole.  Put a layer of meat into the casserole, then add half the sauteed vegetable mixture and a second layer of meat.  Add the remaining vegetable mixture, the tomatoes, the orange zest, bundle of herbs and walnuts.

Put the wine into a small saucepan and bring to a boil.  Add the Cognac or brandy and warm for a few seconds, shaking the pan a little, to let the alcohol cook away.  Pour the hot liquids over the meat with just enough stock or water so that it's barely covered.  Put the salt pork, if using, on top.

Heat the casserole until simmering, then cover with foil and a lid and simmer gently for 2 hours or until the meat is fork tender and the juices rich and sticky.

Remove and discard the salt pork:  it will have given a velvety quality to the sauce.  Remove the meat and vegetables to your serving bowl, leaving the juice in the pan.  Over medium-high heat, simmer juice until it has reduced by half. Pour reduced juice over meat and vegetables and sprinkle with chopped parsley.  

Serve hot either absolutely plain or with accompaniments such as pasta, mashed potatoes or rice.

The dish can also be cooked in the oven. Just bring to a boil over a high heat, reduce to a simmer, cover with foil, replace the lid, and cook in a preheated oven at 300F for 2 1/2 hours, or until very tender.

Note:  If using a ceramic casserole dish, brown the meat and vegetables in a skillet, then transfer to a casserole.  Cover with a lid and transfer to a hot oven, about 400F, until the contents come to a boil, about 20-30 minutes.  Reduce the heat immediately and continue as in the main recipe.

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