I’m sure that each time I make a beef stewy thing I mention that it’s not my favorite sort of meal. I’ve never been able to sort out whether it’s the long-cooked vegetables or the texture of the meat. So, I was ambivalent when I set out to make this week’s French Fridays with Dorie recipe for Beef Daube with Carrots and Elbow Macaroni.
The recipe ideally calls for beef cheeks. I still have a chest freezer half-filled with the hind quarter of a cow that we purchased last fall from my sister’s father-in-law who raised it. At the time, we requested the beef cheeks, even though they are obviously from the other end of the animal, thinking others might not want this less familiar meat. Unfortunately, we didn’t get it.
As an alternative, the recipe suggests using chuck roast. Chuck roast is the shoulder of the cow, again from the wrong end of what we have. It seemed like I should use something I had rather than going to the store to buy more beef. I looked up other alternative cuts that are good for braising and so I used a round roast which is part of the hind quarter. Otherwise, I stuck to the recipe with the addition of two parsnips that were sitting in my vegetable drawer.
The meat smelled great as it browned, though it did make a big mess of the stovetop in spite of the splatter guard. The vegetables plus some bacon were softened before making a gravy with the addition of some flour, water, beef broth and red wine. The meat was added back in and the pot sealed up with foil, then it braised in a slow oven for nearly two hours, filling the kitchen with a wonderful aroma.
Shortly before the daube was done, I cooked some elbow macaroni and grated some bittersweet chocolate. The chocolate was stirred into the pot and allowed to simmer, stovetop, for a few minutes before stirring in the nearly cooked pasta.
I loved the flavors in this stew. The carrots and parsnips made the gravy sweet and the chocolate added extra complexity. I also liked how the elbows absorbed the delicious sauce. The only negative is that I definitely chose the wrong cut of meat to substitute. The round was a bit tough which took away from the end result. I think if the meat were more meltingly tender, I would have loved it. All isn’t lost as I would definitely try this again with the recommended chuck or cheeks. I’m sure that would fix the issue I caused. Howard, who is more of a beef stew person than I am, had the same problem with the meat, but thought the elbows added a fun touch to the meal.
I liked the wine I added to the pot: Toasted Head Untamed Red, which included the suggested Syrah grapes along with Zinfandel and Petite Syrah. There was enough left in the bottle for two glasses to drink along with the meal. Perfect!
We don’t’ share the recipes made in this cooking group, but I encourage you to find the recipe in Dorie Greenspan’s book Around My French Table.
To see how other bloggers’ daubes came out, and whether they found cheeks or not, check out their links here.
Navarin printanier is the stew that almost wasn’t. Not to start off with an icky story, but be warned. I’ve gotten reasonably good at planning ahead for these weekly recipes I make for the French Fridays with Dorie cooking group. This one needed a few hours to slowly braise, so I planned to make it on the weekend, for Sunday supper, and then some leftovers. Saturday, I picked up the vegetables at my favorite local farm stand. Sunday afternoon, in the pouring rain, I went out to do a variety of shopping: Michaels (does anyone know where to find bunny rabbit stickers? I’m on the hunt), Off-Broadway Shoes (for new black flats), and the really nice grocery store in the same shopping center (for lamb, of course). I got a little lost at the shoe store and got home later than expected, so maybe the stew wouldn’t be for Sunday dinner, but stews are always better the next day, so I set out to make it anyway, for Monday and the week beyond. (Here’s the bad part…)
I opened the packages of lamb and wouldn’t you know they were spoiled even though the sell-by date was a week away. The smell was awful. I have never actually encountered spoiled meat before, so I was confused. I rinsed it, and even started cutting it off the bone, but it was wrong, just plain wrong. Howard came home from walking the dog and said something smelled bad as soon as he walked in the door. So, I loaded the meat into ziplock bags and we went back to the store to return it. They did give me “double my money back” for the inconvenience, but still, it was off-putting.
After a quick dinner out, we stopped at the grocery store near my house (different chain) to get a new round of lamb. I can tell you there was quite a bit of sniffing the plastic before going to the register. At home, I still wanted to make this before bedtime as there’s no way I’d have enough time after work later in the week, so I set to it, with my helper Howard chopping vegetables while I boned the lamb shoulder chops for the stew.
Fun fact: navet is French for turnip, so without turnips, this is not a navarin, it’s just lamb stew, or ragoût, since we’re being French here. This navarin was filled with spring vegetables: turnips, of course, baby potatoes, carrots, garlic cloves, pearl onions, peas, and herbs. I used extra potatoes and onions because I had them.
Once the meat was cubed and browned, a little flour, beef broth, garlic cloves, and herbs were added to the pot which transformed into gravy while the lamb braised. In the meantime, the chopped root vegetables were browned, then added to the lamb for melding while my navarin baked in the oven. Frozen peas were sprinkled in at the very end, giving some much needed color to this otherwise, rather brown dish.
I served the navarin alone in shallow bowls. The lamb was meltingly tender, and the starchy and green vegetables rounded it out. The onions completely fell apart and must have added to the thick gravy in the pot, because I don’t remember seeing any on my spoon, and I know that I added extras.
This was the perfect meal for the weather week we just had. After some unseasonable summery weather, cooler weather is back. It’s been in the 50s all week, so a warm comforting dish like this hit the spot. This is too heavy for summer eating, but I will definitely make navarin again when fall comes back around using winter squash and maybe some mushrooms.
I know that April has been a challenging month for many of the participants in French Fridays with Dorie. The main ingredients in so many recipes were ones that people have strong feelings about, one way or the other: sardines, coconut, and lamb. The coconut was challenging for me, but I found a way to participate, and yet, not, for that one. Onward to May, which looks to be a smoother road for all.
You can read about the other Doristas’ navarins here. For the recipe, you’ll have to look at the Dorie Greenspan’s book Around My French Table. Maybe you’ll even want to cook along with us on Fridays.