I've fallen in love with Dorie Greenspan, to the point of falling asleep nights on end while reading her cookbook "Around My French Table." More than 500 pages of of recipes written in such a way that you want to cook every one of them.
I've only made a handful of the 300+ recipes and a favorite so far is "My Go-To Beef Daube." I think it's the full bottle of a fruity red wine that makes this classic French stew something really special (Dorie recommends syrah). One of the things that's great about this recipe is that you can vary it to your own liking by adding or substituting ingredients (which I've done by adding orange peel, cloves and prunes).
This recipe is slow food at its best - preparation is actually easy and quick, but the daube cooks for around 2 1/2 hours, providing ample time to sit back and enjoy some wine. And it tasted even better the next day. Following is my adaptation of Dorie's amazing recipe.
4 thick pieces of bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 ½ pounds beef (a chuck roast or shoulder cut is ideal)
2 tbsp mild oil (I like grapeseed oil, but canola would be fine)
2 onions (I use Walla Walla sweets)
6 shallots, thinly sliced
10 garlic cloves, peeled
1 ½ pounds carrots, peeled and cut into finger-sized pieces (about 3 inches long x up to 1 inch thick)
2 parsnips, peels and quartered (optional, but they add a nice sweetness)
¼ cup cognac or brandy
1 bottle of fruity red wine, I used syrah as recommended by Dorie
1 ½ tsp thyme (or 2 fresh sprigs)
1 ½ tsp rosemary (or 1 fresh sprig)
1 ½ tsp parsley (or 2 fresh sprigs)
1 celery stalk, top leaves only
3 fresh orange peel, each a couple of inches long
Dutch oven or large oven-safe cooking pot with lid
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Put the bacon in the Dutch oven or pot, place on the stove over medium heat and brown the bacon. Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon to a medium to large bowl. Keep the bacon fat in the pot.
Cut, then dry the beef between paper towels (this will prevent it from splattering in the oil). Season with pepper. Add 1 tbsp oil to the pot and place over medium-high heat. Add the beef in batches (don't try adding it all at once) and brown on all sides. Move to the bowl with the bacon.
Add the remaining 1 tbsp oil and warm it over medium heat. Add the onions and shallots, season with salt and pepper and saute until the onions are soft.
Add garlic, carrots and parsnips; stir well.
Pour in the brandy (and have a little sip yourself). Turn up the heat, stir and scrape off anything stuck to the bottom of the pan. Boil for a minute, then add the beef and bacon.
Add the full bottle of wine, the prunes and herbs (if you use fresh herbs, it's best to make a bouquet garni: just tie them up in a piece of cheesecloth). Stir.
Using a toothpick, poke holes in the orange peels and insert the cloves. Add to the pot and stir to mix well.
When the wine comes to a boil, cover the pot tightly with aluminum foil, pop on the lid and put it in the oven for one hour (undisturbed, no peeking).
Enjoy some wine!
Check the beef daube and give it a good stir. If it looks like there's too little liquid, add just enough water to cover the ingredients (but remember, this stew is on the thicker, drier side, so it doesn't need to be swimming in a thin sauce). Cover again and cook another 1 1/2 hours.
Enjoy some more wine!
At this point, the beef should be fork-tender. If not, cook another 30 minutes or so.
Taste the sauce and adjust any seasonings to your liking.
Serve the meat moistened with sauce. My family likes to have it over thick, hearty noodles or my sauteed rosemary potatoes (I'll post that recipe another time).