The weather had finally turned cold(er) here in the Virginia Piedmont and they were calling for snow over the next two days. This was the perfect time to make a Beef Daube and I was on a mission.
Daube is a French word that translates to stew. All daubes are stews, but not all stews are daubes. To me, daubes are thicker and richer, and are almost like a stew “sauce”, if that makes sense. I loved my mom’s beef stew, but this beef daube is something else.
This particular recipe is for a Three Day Beef Daube. It’s from a book my old friend Tim lent me called “Duck Season”. The book is about the Gascony region of France, and if you enjoy reading about other countries, particularly their food, drink and culture, I highly recommend it. The dish takes three days to make, although the steps are pretty easy. Day one – marinate the beef; day two – make and cook the daube for 2-3 hours and let it rest over night; and day three – gently simmer the daube for a couple of hours and then eat. That’s all there is to it.
Last Thursday, I pulled the chuck roast out of the freezer to thaw, and made up my shopping list. On Friday morning, I went shopping for the few things I still needed – a leek, some parsley and thyme. We had everything else at home. After a quick lunch, I cut up the beef and added it to a bowl which already included smashed garlic, sliced leak, a bouquet garni, and a bottle of red wine. Day one was done, with plenty of time left to take our dog Carmen for a walk, and in anticipation of the snow, to bring more firewood into the house.
Day two started grey and cold. When I went to the barn in the morning to feed the horses, there was a skim of ice on the pond and the air had that “pregnant with snow” feeling you sometimes get right before a storm. Predictions for snow amounts rose from 2-4” to 3-7”.
I continued with the daube around noon and day 2 was only a bit more work than day 1. I browned the beef; chopped up and sauté garlic, onions, celery, carrots and tomato; added the beef back to the pot with the vegetables, along with a new bouquet garni; and added the strained and reserved wine marinade to the pot. Once that was done, it simmered on low heat for about 3 hours.
I’ve found it’s best to take your dog for a walk while the stew is simmering, so you don’t drive yourself mad with the wonderful smells coming from the kitchen. After returning from your walk, you are faced with the most difficult part of day 2. You don’t eat the daube on day 2, no matter how good it smells or tastes. Instead, you remove it from the heat, cool it to room temperature and let the daube rest overnight in the fridge. Remember, don’t eat the daube at this point in time.
Sunday, Day 3, greeted us with a blanket of snow. About 7 inches had fallen, with more expected over the course of the day. After feeding the horses in the morning, and then having my own breakfast, I plowed our drive and around the barn, and then plowed the drives of several elderly neighbors. I made it back inside for lunch, and then some playoff football.
During the afternoon, I started reheating the daube. After removing the congealed fat from the top of the daube, the pot went back on the stove for a gentle three hour simmer. Now the smells were truly driving me crazy and the football was barely a distraction. I took one more walk with Carmen and could see that we had another 3-4 inches of snow today. It was still snowing at dusk as we finished our walk, and I may need to plow again tomorrow, but that will wait.
About a half hour before dinner, I threw a baguette in the oven to warm up, and finally it was time. We served the daube over egg noodles and had it with the bread and a bottle of wine. I breathed in the aroma and took my first bite. What a great ending for a snowy weekend…
Addendum: Here’s the recipe. It’s from the book “Duck Season”, by David McAninch.