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Daube is a stew native to the south of France. It is made from meat, usually beef or lamb, slowly simmered in wine with vegetables and aromatic seasonings. Ingredients are added in layers, with the meat on the bottom and the vegetables and spices on top. From beginning to end, including, marinating, simmering and serving, traditional daube will take days to prepare.
Expensive cuts of meat are not required for daube, because the meat will simmer slowly, making even cheap cuts tender. Meat should be cut into cubes, each the size of a large bite. Fat and cartilage will add to the dish, and only the largest bits should be trimmed away.
Daube’s distinctive aroma and flavor comes in large part from its seasonings. These seasonings include orange zest, a cinnamon stick, whole cloves and peppercorns as well as herbs such as thyme, bay leaf and parsley. Seasonings are bundled in a cheesecloth and tied tight to form a parcel or bouquet.
Traditionally, the dish is simmered slowly in a daubière, a round cooking dish made from clay with a small, fist-size neck opening at the top and a flat lid. In fact, there are many in France who would insist that daube cannot be made in any other dish. For those who are less particular, a Dutch oven or similar cookware can be used.
When making daube, the meat goes in first, followed by the vegetables. Carrots, onion and fennel commonly are used. Small cubes of bacon called lardoons frequently are used as well. The seasoning bouquet comes next, and finally, the wine is added. Expensive wine is not required, and any wine that tastes nice in a glass will work well in the stew.
It is important to give daube plenty of time to marinate before cooking. At a bare minimum, it should be allowed to marinate overnight, with some recipes calling for the mix to sit for as long as two days before cooking. While marinating, the stew should be kept in the refrigerator to prevent spoiling.
Just before cooking, a few final ingredients will need to be added. Garlic and chopped tomatoes commonly are used, but olives are the signature element. Green or black olives can be used, but they may need to be rinsed first to remove some of the salt. After topping the stew with these last ingredients, the dish is ready for the oven.
Slow cooking is the key to making good daube. In France, some people still prepare the dish in the traditional method of placing the daubière on hot coals in an open hearth, but many use modern ovens. When using an oven, many people recommend starting at a high heat before reducing to a slow simmer. Whatever method is used, the dish is left to cook for as long as five hours before it is served.
While my husband and I were vacationing in New Orleans, we visited a lovely French restaurant. That was the first time I had beef daube. It was exquisite. As soon as we got home, I started looking for recipes. I found several and after I saw the work that goes into making it, I decided I would just enjoy that dish whenever I am on vacation!
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