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Author Notes: This is a stew I’ve been messing around with for years. Over that time I’ve consulted books by Geraldine Holt, Patricia Wells, Paula Wolfert and Thomas Keller, and I can name still more. It’s wonderful in winter and possibly tastes better the next day provided you actually have leftovers. When I was about nine years old one of the first kitchen tasks my mother showed me was how to brown beef for stew. She also taught me to peel mushrooms. God knows why. I use short ribs for this because they break down into unctuous goo from all that connective tissue. Even as that nine year old I learned that “stew beef” could be tough and only barely stringy. Sorry Mom.
This stew originates from the Camargue region of France (known as “France’s cowboy country”). The indispensible ingredients are veal (or beef), olives, wine and orange. After that there are variations, and I keep adapting mine over and over. And I’m going to go all Keller on you, because I really believe to produce the deep, satisfying flavors that you need that you must build from the “fond” up. And that begins with your beef stock.
The essential cooking vessel for this is a 4 ½ to 5 quart casserole or dutch oven. Le Creuset is great, but I use an Emile Henry “Flame” earthenware piece. I still believe that earthenware does something special to foods cooked in it. It breathes for one thing.
For the stock
- 2 pounds beef or veal bones (latter preferred)
- 2 carrots, cut in large pieces
- 1 sweet onion, cut in large pieces
- 1 leek
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 handful fresh thyme on the branch
- 1 sprig parsley
Make the stew
- 3 pounds veal (or beef) short ribs
- 1 1/2 cups the beef stock which you’ve labored over for a full day (one day ahead)
- 1/2 bottle of red wine
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1 medium onion, peeled and sliced
- 2 carrots sliced into large rounds
- 2 slices of guanciale or unsmoked pork belly
- 2 long strips of orange peel
- 3 or 4 sprigs of fresh thyme
- 1 branch rosemary stripped of leaves---you use the leaves not the branch
- 1 branch lavender stripped of leaves (you do grown your own right?)
- 1 tablespoon marjoram (or substitute oregano)
- 3 flat anchovy filets, chopped up
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 handful oil cured, black olives
- 1 tablespoon white peppercorns left whole
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Make the stock by browning the bones, carrot and onion in a roasting pan in a hot oven. If you like, paint them with some tomato paste.
- When the bones etc. are nicely colored and your kitchen smells like Satan’s gymnasium transfer all to a stock pot and cover with water.
- Make a bouquet garnie by splitting the leak lengthwise, and cut off most of the top. With kitchen twine bind the herbs (bay leaf, parsley, thyme) between the leek sections. Add to the stock components.
- Bring everything slowly to a simmer, skimming foam as needed. DO NOT BOIL or your stock will be cloudy.
- Simmer the stock for 6 to 8 hours. Finally, line a chinois with cheesecloth and strain. Discard the bones and bouquet and stuff. If you are obsessive like me, take another piece of cheesecloth and strain a second time. If you are obsessive like Keller, strain twenty more times.
- Refrigerate overnight. In the morning skim the fat cap off of what should be a nice looking gelatin.
- But before you go to bed, in a large bowl add the short ribs, the garlic, carrots, onions and white pepper corns. Douse everything with the wine. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Turn several times while your marinade performs its magic.
- Give yourself a four hour lead time, beginning by removing the bowl from the refrigerator and letting the contents come back to room temperature. SAVE the marinade.
- In your casserole over medium high heat add the olive oil to coat the bottom. Add the guanciale or pork belly and let it begin to develop some color. It’s like frying bacon but you don’t want it curly and crispy.
- Brown the veal ribs on all sides. Add the anchovies and give a quick stir. Off heat add the marinade and beef stock, the bay leaf, the olives, orange peel and herbs. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and bring to a simmer. A simmer is not a slow boil; it’s really just some bubbles that find their way to the surface. With the cover slightly ajar cook in this way for about two or three hours or until the meat is meltingly tender.
- Remove the bay leaf and plate it up. I’ve served it with white beans but it’s very good with flat noodles or other pasta.
- Notes: For the stew herbs you are really using herbes de Provence. You can substitute the jarred kind. But how often do you really use that? If you have fresh herbs around you can combine your own.
- This recipe was entered in the contest for Your Best Recipe with Citrus & Olives
- This recipe was entered in the contest for Your Best Short Ribs
- This recipe was entered in the contest for Your Best Beef Stew