[40] Beef Daube

How to Cook Everything, Revised Edition by Mark Bittman

HOLY COW! Another big, round number! Fabulous.

So, Thursday night I made this stew. We were having our friend Jessie over for dinner, and it was a gross, wet day outside. I’d planned to make this one Monday night, but we switched the menu around in honor of those two things. (Jessie doesn’t like chicken thighs, which are now on the menu for Monday night.) Luckily, we HAD gone grocery shopping by the time we decided to switch things up, so it was easy to go to a different choice on the menu.

I love it when things just work out.

I had put it on the menu because my friend Nancy had recently made it, and highly recommended it. Frankly, that’s all it took. I love the Bittman cookbook anyway (go buy it if you don’t have it), and Nancy has really good taste. When she said it was good, I was making it the next week.

So, what to say about this stew in this top blurb that will convince you to read on? How about “lovely”, “delicious”, “surprising”, “garlic”, “bacon”, and “orange peel”? Intrigued yet?

h2. Ingredients

1 tbsp good olive oil
4 oz good slab bacon (I am unclear if he meant sliced or not.)

2 lbs boneless beef chuck or brisket, cut into 1.5″ – 2″ cubes (We used chuck, because I always use chuck for stew. Also, it was $1/lb cheaper.)

Salt and freshly ground pepper (We have GOT to get a better pepper mill.)

2 large onions, chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped

3 carrots, chopped

5 cloves garlic, lightly smashed (I used six, because I am a slave to no recipe! Also, because that’s how many popped of my garlic head.)

3 – 4 sprigs fresh thyme

1 sprig fresh rosemary or 1 tsp dried (We used dried.)

2 – 3 strips orange peel

1 c “rough” red wine (I don’t know what “rough” means in relation to red wine. My friend Judy says it means “cheap”.)

1 tbsp red wine vinegar (Someday, I will make my own. I have Mr. Rinaldi’s father’s recipe.)

Beef or chicken stock or water, if needed

h2. Instructions

Put the olive oil in a large pot with a lid (we used our Le Cruset knock-off dutch oven) over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook slowly, stirring occasionally, until it’s crispy and delicious and wonderful and has given up most of the fat. This may take 10 minutes or more. Remove with a slotted spoon or tongs (my version of events) and set aside, then start browning the beef in batches over medium-high heat, salting and peppering each batch. Brown all beef, and remove with a slotted spoon (or, again, tongs). Don’t drain the beef, because you’ll want any drippings to go back into the pot later.

Lower the heat back to medium, and then add the onions, celery, carrots, garlic, thyme, rosemary, orange peel and some more of the salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft. This should be about 5 minutes, Bittman says, but it was longer for me. Once the onions are soft, add the wine and vinegar and let bubble for a second, before returning the meat to the pan, along with all the drippings.

Cover, and simmer gently for an hour, then add the bacon and simmer until the meat is tender, adding liquid as needed if the mixture looks like it will dry out. Bittman says, “Depending on the meat, the dish could be done in as little as 30 minutes more or three times as long.”

Taste, adjust seasonings as appropriate, then either serve or refrigerate (covered) for up to two days. I suggest just devouring it.

h2. Cooking and Consumption Notes

h3. Cooking

I minorly cut myself on our newly sharpened knives while chopping the onion. Know what stings in a cut? Onion juice. Know what else stings? Garlic juice. The garlic juice was definitely the worse of the two.

I strongly suspect that I am a touch more finicky in the kitchen than Bittman is, and I suspect that’s a big part of why he is the one inventing recipes and I am just the one reading and using the cookbook. I say this because I used tongs for everything, which means I was not only stirring my bacon bits, but flipping individual ones to get more even cooking, and removing them a bit at a time. This made for delicious bacon and stew, but a lot more than 10 minutes of bacon cooking time. It was similar with the beef.

Speaking of the bacon and the beef, two things. First, it really was unclear to me what “slab bacon” meant, and if he wanted it sliced or not. I tried looking it up on “teh gr8 intarwebs” before going to the store, but searching Google for “slab bacon” basically just sent me to places to buy said bacon. Writing this entry, I noticed “related searches” that included the phrase “slab bacon definition”, which was a more useful search. Now I know that “slab bacon” means “the delicious and fatty bacon” (“Wikipedia entry on bacon”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bacon). So, for the record, I thought he meant “belly bacon, but a slab of it”. In fact, I couldn’t get it unsliced, so I made due. After having actually made and eaten the recipe, I think sliced (belly) bacon was the right choice. As for the beef, it browned nicely, but there was so much fat in the pan by the time it went in that little of it crisped or produced frond. I don’t know if this is a big deal or not, but I suspect more frond would have improved things.

Also, the slotted spoon Bittman says to use is because you want to retain as much of the fat and drippings of both types of beef as possible. I found that working with tongs allowed me to retain even more of both and gave me more precise control over browning the beef and crisping the bacon. I highly recommend using tongs. They might be my favorite kitchen tool.

Overall, this was a fairly straightforward dish to prepare, if not necessarily simple. There were a lot of steps and pieces and bits to the cooking, which is fine by me, but doesn’t lend itself to easy weeknight cooking for most people. Which is kind of too bad, because it strikes me as a fabulous cool to cold weather dish.

h3. Consumption

So very good. I loved it, Bill loved it and Jessie loved it. So, definitely a winner that you should make when you have time.

This was definitely a stew, but not in the way I typically think of stew. During my growing up years, “stew” mostly meant a can of Dinty Moore Beef Stew (which I LOVED), so that’s kind of my impression of stew. I suspect my mother, being actually an awesome cook, made plenty of not-Dinty-Moore, but that was my impression of stew. So when I think of stew, I think of very thick liquids, and a lot of them.

This was a very thin liquid, and not much of it. But, oh, so enough. It was really lovely, actually. There was a lot of substance to the stew in the onions and beef.

I wish it’d had more garlic. My friend Nancy mentioned that she’d added more garlic when she made it, and I will next time around. The garlic cloves were lovely, with that sweet and bitey roasted garlic flavor, but there wasn’t enough overall garlic punch. I don’t think it’s just the quarter of me that’s Italian saying that.

The best part, in my opinion, were the brief moments and times I got a slice of orange peel. Oh, so amazing. SO AMAZING. Orangey, beefy, perfectly melded. I wanted to make this with about a thousand more orange peels, and then pick them out and just eat that.

And, for the record, Bill and Jessie both thanked me about three times each for dinner. I bet you could get the same if you made this.

2 thoughts on “[40] Beef Daube

  1. This is almost totally different from the daube recipe in the yellow Bittman. Huh. I’ll have to try this one, too, because, yeah, the orange thing sounds super-good.

    • Really? Wild! I’d love to look at your book when you get a chance, just to see the differences.

      The orange part is really good. You’ll enjoy it.

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