A few weeks ago, we went to Provence for the weekend. I’d never been there in the autumn (or winter, or spring, for that matter) but after five summer vacations there, I thought I knew the region: sunshine, blue skies, warm temps (or at least warmer and sunnier than Paris, right?).
Emit hollow laugh here.
It rained the entire three days, and when I say rain, I mean a continuous and steady piss. In fact, one-seventh of the year’s annual rain fell in those three days alone.
So, we read and watched old movies on TV. And once a day, we ventured out for lunch. That’s how I made a big discovery: daube.
You’d never find daube in hot, sunny, summertime Provence. No, it’s a winter dish, hearty and comforting — a heavy beef braise, cooked slowly in red wine until the meat flakes apart under the tender pressure of your fork. One day, it was the plat du jour at the Gare de Bonnieux, where it was served with a cheesy cauliflower gratin. The next, we ate a more refined version (photo above) at a terrific little restaurant in Apt called La Manade (36 rue Jules Ferry, 84400 Apt, tel: 04 90 04 79 06).
And when I got back to Paris, I had to make my own.
Maybe you’re wondering: How is daube is different from boeuf bourguignon? In truth, the two are very similar. Except, daube uses herbes de Provence and sometimes orange peel, olives, tomatoes and/or bacon — or sometimes not. I like to think of it as a more casual recipe than the classic and rather stuffy bourguignon. I used this Patricia Wells recipe as a starting point and added garlic and ginger to my marinade, as well as dried herbes de Provence. Make sure to marinate the raw beef for at least 12 hours. I served my daube with a cauliflower gratin and a stuffed pumpkin (which is another post for another day).
In Provence, after I had licked my plate clean at the Gare de Bonnieux, I complimented the owner. “C’était excellent,” I told him. “I know,” he said, without any pretension of modesty. And then he told me the secret: Always make your daube at least a day in advance. “It tastes better the second day.”
After he gave me this advice, we drove off, and for a moment — just a second — the sun broke out of the clouds and we saw this…
At the end of the rainbow was a pot of daube, I’m sure of it.