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.