Published November 1, 2005.
This beef stew from the south of France is country cooking at its best: bold, brash, and full-flavored. Could we translate the flavors of Provence to an American home kitchen?
Daube Provençal, also known as daube Niçoise, should have all the complex flavors of the south of France, but too often it's a one-note wonder, like "beef stew with olives" or "beef stew with oranges."
We wanted to blend tender pieces of beef, a luxurious sauce, and the complex flavors of Provence--olive oil, olives, garlic, wine, herbs, oranges, tomatoes, mushrooms, and anchovies--to make a robust but cohesive stew.
We started with the test kitchen's reliable set of techniques to turn tough but flavorful beef into a tender stew: Brown the beef; add the aromatics; sprinkle some flour in the pan to thicken the braising liquid; deglaze with the predominant cooking liquid; add the meat back to the pot; and finally, cover and cook slowly in a low to medium oven until tender. Technique established, we concentrated on selecting and managing the complex blend of ingredients that define a daube Niçoise. We chose earthy cèpes, briny Niçoise olives, bright tomatoes, floral orange peel, and the regional herbs of thyme and bay. A few anchovies added complexity without a fishy taste, and salt pork contributed rich body. A whole bottle of wine added bold flavor and needed just a little cooking to lose its raw bite. Finally, to keep the meat from drying out during the long braising time required to create a complex-tasting sauce, we cut the chuck into relatively large 2-inch pieces.list of recipes