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Staying French

November 18, 2014

Airfare bargains (hah) to Paris and recommended books about France, or set in France, or in French, keep showing up in my inbox. I started The Paris Architect, set in Occupied Paris in 1940, a thriller about an architect who gets sucked into fashioning hiding places for Jews fleeing Nazis, while at the same time designing munitions factories that will produce German armaments. Good read.

It was cold when I came home from France, so I decided to make beef stew — a daube, actually, to keep it French. Beef stew always sounds like a good idea, but I’m usually disappointed. Probably the beef. I always think I’m going to buy a whole piece and cut it up myself, then I get lured into the faster way of buying pre-cut stew meat.

This recipe was from The French Slow Cooker cookbook, and I liked the idea of it simmering away all day, perfuming the house with its homey aroma.

Ingredients          Into the slow cooker          Ready to cook

On top of the stove, I browned the meat, which I had dredged in flour; then sweated onions and garlic, added sliced carrots, tomato paste, chopped tomatoes, beef stock, a bay leaf and a fat rosemary sprig.

8 hoursSeven and a half hours later, I melted some butter in a pan, then threw in a bunch of mixed mushrooms, browning them a bit. These went into the pot for the last thirty minutes.

Mushrooms                  Finished product  The daube was good, but not great. Even after eight hours it lacked the richness I was seeking.  I froze most of the leftovers but have been experimenting with what I left in the fridge to see if I could bump up the flavors. One good step was to add a generous pinch of Tsardust, a spice I got at Penzey’s, while reheating it. It’s a Russian-style seasoning for meat that includes salt, pepper, garlic, cinnamon, nutmeg and marjoram.

My next gambit will be to make Julia Child’s garlic and anchovy embellishment that makes her daube Provençal: mashed anchovies, capers, garlic, olive oil and parsley. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Meanwhile, I vow always to buy a whole piece of meat, so I’m certain about what I’m getting; and I should rely on Julia’s recipe.

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” 

Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

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