A couple of weeks ago I was very excited about cooking a new kind of beef stew I found, Beef Daube. I was attracted to the description of a lighter, herb flavored beef stew to replace it's stronger cousin in the spring. Well, when I came home this weekend I decided it was high time to finally cook Beef Daube. After all, what says "I love you" more clearly than a big pot of stew - and after a week apart (especially given my proclivity to not use my cell-phone), it was high time I got around to giving her an extended reminder of why she puts up with me!
On Saturday night, I made the stew. It only needed to cook for a little while (~2-3 hours) so I made us some drinks and we chatted for a while, took a nap, and then watched our favorite show, Battlestar Galactica. Now, for those of you who don't watch the show, I can only say that it is the most addicting show I have ever watched. It is the first really, really intelligent sci-fi show that has managed to also be an action/adventure flick. Usually I feel like I either need to turn my brain off and just enjoy the excitement, or I just appreciate shows on an intellectual level (battle-sequences mostly being fairly corny). Battlestar Galactica really appeals on both levels. It is not perfect, but the questions it asks are almost always interesting and the answers are usually satisfying on at least some level. So, with two new episodes released since I left, it was high time to cuddle into bed and watch them - and what better time than while a stew is cooking! - It is almost like I am still doing work, right...
Well, after the two shows, which were slightly disappointing, we chomped into the new stew. The flavors were very interesting - interesting enough, that we would pause our discussion of BG long enough to comment on how particular flavors were combining. The dominant flavors of the stew were: white wine, Dijon mustard, beef, onion, herbs (thyme, bay leaf, parsley). The beef flavor was fairly localized to the pieces of beef, while the broth tasted strongly of white wine and mustard with hints of herbal flavorings. I coated the meat with a seasoned flour that gave it just a little bit of spice (which was very nice - I might be interested in adding a little more spice next time I make this). I would also add even more herbs. Neen and I always have trouble tasting thyme and bay leaf in stews, so I added nearly 4x what the recipe called for. You could really taste the herbs, but a little more flavor would have been nice. Neen commented that she had a hard time getting past the mustard flavor of the sauce, since in her mind it is connected the heavy mustard and cream sauces that are common in German cooking. I didn't have this problem, though the sauce does wind up a little on the thicker side (I made some modifications to the recipe so that it was not beef chunks with a mustard sauce, but more stew like). For me, the white wine carried the day leaving the palate with the sense of a lighter dish.
I would be interested, however, in finding a beef stew/soup that was even lighter - probably without the mustard flavor. I think in my head I am attempting to formulate a Western equivalent of a beef udon since these are often made with chicken broth - giving them a wonderfully light flavor. I will poke around and see what I can find (and suggestions are more than welcome!).
Joy of Cooking (2006) Beef Daube
2 lb boneless beef stew meat
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper and/or 1/2 tsp paprika (I added both and doubled the paprika)
Optional: 1/8 tsp ground ginger or ground nutmeg (I didn't add either).
3 Tbs olive oil
3 cups white wine (I added more to cover the Bouquet Garni)
2 Tbs Dijon Mustard
One 16 oz can plum tomatoes, with juice
3 medium onions, halved and sliced
3 garlic cloves, halved
1 Bouquet garni (parsley, bay leaf, thyme sprigs, 2 cloves, white portion of one leek)
Pat dry and cut the stew meat into 3-inch cubes. In a zip lock bag, combine the flour, salt, pepper, paprika and ginger/nutmeg (if using). Dredge the meat in the seasoned flour.
Heat the olive oil in a dutch oven over medium high heat. Add meat in batches and brown on all sides, being careful not to crowd the pot or scorch the meat. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Pour off all but a light film of fat from the pot.
Add 3 cups of white wine, bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pot. Reduce the heat and gently simmer, uncovered, until the wine is reduced by half (7-10min). Add the mustard and whisk to blend. Return the beef and accumulated juices to the pot, and add the rest of the ingredients. Cover and simmer over low heat until the meat is fork-tender (2-3 hours).
With a slotted spoon, remove the beef, onions, and tomatoes to a platter. Increase the heat to high and boil the sauce until slightly thickened and reduced by a third (about 10 minutes). Reduce the heat to medium, return the beef and vegetables to the sauce, and reheat gently.
Garnish with fresh thyme.