Comfort Stew: Beef Daube Provencal

Recipe for Beef Daube Provencal

This is the slow cooker version.  See the notes below if you prefer to make it stovetop, as I did.
What to have with this stew?  I was hankering for mashed potatoes, which is why I cooked the stew on the stovetop.  That freed up the slow cooker for my famous Slow Cooker Mashed Potatoes.  Write me for the recipe , if you’d like.
By the way, this makes a big stew, easily enough for two days, since it always taste better as leftovers and you might as well get a time-free meal one night!  The second night I’ll probably serve it over brown rice with a little cabbage slaw.  Read how to make dishes like this A Bright Spot in troubled times.

  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 lbs. stew meat, trimmed of fat and cut into 1-2” cubes (use more or less, depending on your liking for meat)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Heat oil in a large, heavy bottomed saute pan until hot but not smoking.  Sprinkle beef cubes with salt and pepper, and then place carefully in hot oil in a single layer.  With heat on medium high, brown sides of cubes quickly, turning with a fork or small spatula to brown most of the sides.  As soon as a cube is browned (maybe 2-3 minutes total), drop into slow cooker.

  • 2 med. yellow onions, diced to about ½”
  • 12 whole garlic cloves (about 1 head), chopped roughly
  • 4-6 stalks celery, dilced to about ½”
  • 8 oz. mushrooms (or 2 large portabellas), sliced about ¼” thick (optional)
  • 6-8 med. carrots, sliced about ¼” thick

Once the meat is browned and removed from saute pan, reduce heat to medium and add onion, stirring to scrape any bits of meat from bottom of pan.  Cook onion a few minutes, then stir in celery and cook a couple minutes more, then stir in garlic and cook just 1-2 minutes, then quickly stir in mushrooms, if using, and cook a few more minutes. Stir in carrots then remove all vegetables to slow cooker.

  • ½ c. chicken or beef broth
  • ½-1 cup red wine
  • 1 14-oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 1 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 2-3 tsp. minced fresh rosemary (or 1 tsp. dried rosemary leaves, crushed)
  • 1 Tbsp. minced fresh thyme (or 2 tsp. dried leaf thyme)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2-3 dashes ground cloves
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Once vegetables are removed from saute pan, reduce heat to low , add broth and deglaze pan, which means scraping the bottom of pan with your spatula to loosen any remaining browned bits.  Add wine, tomatoes, tomato paste and spices, stir until everything is thoroughly combined, then pour carefully into slow cooker and stir again to combine the liquid, vegetables and meat.

Cover and cook on high for 5 hours or low for 8 hours.  Before serving, taste and add more salt and pepper, if needed.

What I did differently

Recipes are always just a starting point.  It’s good to make them once as written, so you have a point of reference.  Then you can innovate for fun or, as is more often the case for me, you can adapt to work with whatever you have on hand and need to use up!

  1. Mushrooms I didn’t have any and wasn’t going to make a trip to the store just to get some.  So I omitted.
  2. Bacon To make up for the lost flavor of the mushrooms, I chopped up (just two) strips of bacon, cooked it slowly to render its fat and used that to brown the stew meat, instead of olive oil.  Not quite as healthy, I know, but it’s a small and occasional thing!
  3. Stovetop Cooking Once the vegetables were sauteed, I returned the meat to the saute pan (I had removed the browned pieces to a bowl), then stirred in everything else.  I have a BIG saute pan which can double as a stew pot.  If yours isn’t big enough, transfer everything to a heavy bottomed soup pot or Dutch oven.  If your pans aren’t heavy-bottomed, be sure to stir the stew frequently so it doesn’t burn as it simmers.  Stovetop cooking also benefits from more liquid, so I used 2 cups of broth, rather than just ½ cup.  This also made a nice gravy to put over the mashed potatoes.
  4. Wine Speaking of liquids, I only had a ¼ cup of red wine, so I used up some leftover white to make ½ cup.

Cooking School

  1. “Draining” Stew Meat Before browning the beef cubes, place in a colander and press out any remaining blood that would likely splatter and impede browning.  This is also a good time to sprinkle with salt and pepper and then toss to coat the meat cubes  evenly.
  2. Brown Don’t Steam It’s important that beef browns, and doesn’t steam or simmer in the first step.  That’s why it needs to be in a single layer.  So if you have more than one layer of beef cubes, brown them in two batches.
  3. Be Quick Browning beef cubes is a QUICK process.  Overcooking the little guys on high heat makes them tough and chewy.  So don’t let them cook much further than the surface level. before removing them to the slow cooker.  In other words, you should probably focus on just browning the meat, not doing three other things while the meat browns!
  4. Cleaning Up a Burn Hopefully, none of your stew meat burns instead of browns, so you can just add the onions to the saute pan after removing all the meat.  BUT, if your meat cubes have the audacity to burn, first pour in a cup or so of water, scrape them up and discard.  Reheat the pan and add another tablespoon of olive oil to before cooking the onions.
  5. Gentle with the Garlic Garlic can burn easily and then it tastes awful.  So only let it cook a couple minutes, really, then quickly stir in the next ingredient, which will cool things off and prevent the garlic from burning.
  6. Tomato Paste Trick Remember that extra tomato paste can be stored in the freezer.  Freeze in ice cube trays, or just spoonfuls on waxed paper, then place the frozen portions into a zippered freezer storage bag and you’re ready the next time you need just a tablespoon or two.

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