Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Adventures in Beef Daube

So I had this 3 lb. bottom round sitting in the refrigerator for two days, and I figured I better do something with it quick. I got online and typed "bottom round" in the search bar at cooks.com, and got a lot of hits for pot roast, sauerbraten, and beef daube. Ah... beef daube. I remember enjoying it at a French cafe in Kirkwood, MO. The cafe was aptly named Cafe Proven├žal, since it specializes in Proven├žal cuisine. So I figured I'd give it a try...

I settled on this recipe as my main direction, called Daube Bignami. I cut the roast into large pieces, and followed the recipe, substituting garlic powder for chopped garlic because I didn't have any fresh garlic. I used about half a bottle of Red Bicycle merlot I had on hand, and covered w/about two cups of water. I let it simmer for about an hour, filling the house with a nice wine-food smell, and then I started taste testing the broth.

I must say it was pretty bland. I hadn't added any salt yet, so I added about a tablespoon of kosher salt and let it simmer for another 10 minutes then tried it again. Eh, getting better, but not there. I started leaving it uncovered so it would reduce into something more bold, but it was still not getting there. Finally after about 2.5 hrs of reduction, the meat was getting so tender I was afraid to let it go any more, so I took the meat out, into containers, and into the fridge, and then proceeded to reduce the broth more aggressively.

All the while I'm doing this, I was studying my calculus, like a good boy, and sipping on my Vernors ginger ale. Vuuuhnuhs, as I like to call it. Mmmm... it's so good. I'm sipping some now. But at the time I was remarking how well it played with the taste of that broth. So I decided what the hell, that broth is lame, so I'm going to throw a couple pieces of ginger in there. I happened to have some crystallized ginger on hand. In go two pieces, and a little white pepper.

As I'm waiting for that flavor to be incorporated, I'm looking at the spice rack, and I see that tin of lavender that I never get to use. Well, lavender is everywhere in France, from what I understand, and this is a French dish, and lavender is often a flavor in French wines, I think... so... what the hell.

In goes about a teaspoon of lavender... 30 minutes later... mmm! I mean mmm!! Finally managed to turn the corner w/this dish. I think I'm onto something here.

OK, it's been reducing down to almost nothing, and it's gotten very thick, just where I want it. I've cut off the heat, and stirred it well, and now it's just steaming off a little more, and I'm going to pour it over the meat that's already been removed to the plastic containers in the fridge, and let that mellow overnight. I have a feeling tomorrow's lunch is going to rock!

PS: After posting this, I went to Google to find a picture to put up with this post, and quickly learned that lavender is actually one of Provence's primary attractions. Ha! Just type "provence" in Google's image search, and see that about half the pictures that come up are fields of lavender. Imagine that. I also searched for "beef daube lavender", but found only one beef daube recipe that calls for lavender, so maybe it's like a secret ingredient or something... seems like it would be more of a standard for the consummately Provencal dish.

The picture I've posted here is of an actual lavender field in Provence. I wonder if the lavender I have came from there.

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