First of all, the name "Beef Daube Provençal" essentially just means "beef stew of Provence, France." If you don't know how to pronounce it, just call it French beef stew. Secondly, this recipe comes from the September 2007 issue of Cooking Light, with only a few minor tweaks. I share it with you proudly, even though I can hardly call it my own, because it is amazingly delicious. Seriously. Of all the recipes I've included on this site to date, this one is probably the yummiest and most requested. It uses chuck roast, which is typically a rough and fatty piece of beef, but cooks it slowly enough and with enough acid and wine to give it the texture of soft butter. On top of that, if you skim off the fat at the end of cooking (something that is easy to do), this is surprisingly not unhealthy. Even if you don't typically like beef stew, you should give this a try; it's not your grandmother's beef stew, unless of course your grandmother is from Provence.
Preheat the oven at 300°. Coat the beef in liberal amounts of salt and pepper. Coat the bottom of a large oven-safe pot or dutch oven (make sure whichever one you use has an oven-safe lid) with olive oil and set the heat to medium-high. If you're using cast iron, like me, make sure it's well-seasoned so that it can withstand a good amount of acidity for a few hours.
Once the oil has heated up, stir in the garlic. Before the garlic starts to burn, add a third of the beef and let it cook until the edges are browned, stirring occasionally.
Take the seared beef out of the pot and replace it with another third. Once that batch is browned, do it again, adding the rest of the beef.
Once all the beef has been browned and set aside, turn the heat to high and pour in the wine. Stir, making sure to scrape the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Let the wine boil for a minute or two before adding the broth, carrots, and onions.
Add the rest of the ingredients except the mashed potatoes, including the beef. Stir and bring to a boil.
Once the stew is boiling, cover the pot. Bake for two and a half hours.
Skim the fat off the top, if desired, and stir. Remove the bay leaves, if you can find them, and then add plenty of salt and pepper to taste. Serve over mashed potatoes (or rice or egg noodles). Reach a temporary state of culinary nirvana.
-e. magill 3/3/2011
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