Friday, January 4, 2013

Bœuf Daube

Eastside Road, January 4, 2013—
SO WAS IT CALLED: Bœuf Daube, which to me is a very special dish. I cook it every three or four years, always from a recipe in a book I'm too lazy to look for at the moment, an old Provençal cookbook. It requires beef, of course, and aromatics: carrot, onion, bay leaf, thyme. And other things I can't recall just now. And it has to be stewed very slowly in a special pot, a daubière, a rather narrow for its height ceramic pot with a lid that can be started on the fire, then moved into the oven, though I've never been brave enough actually to start it on the fire.

Well, tonight's version, in a bistro-restaurant that regularly features such diverse items as crèpes, cassoulet, lamb shanks, and, yes, bœuf daube, was not quite completely authentic. There were no aromatics to notice: no carrots, no onions. I didn't taste thyme. Most of all I missed the single most identifying characteristic of une vraie daube: the wide slice of orange zest that must go into the pot along with — now I remember — cloves.

And yet,and yet… it was a very pleasing meal, sound, flavorful, relaxed, nourishing. I began with a butter-lettuce salad with very thin slices of radish and, on top, toasted scraps of crêpe, because this place bills itself as a Breton bistro. (So why a daube?) Then the plat principal, the daube: more like a pot roast, I thought, but a generous serving of sound-tasting beef on a bed of spinach, with a couple of nicely roasted potatoes on the side. I didn't feel the need for dessert.
Coteaux du Languedoc: Picpoul de Pinet, 2011 (citric,focussed, fresh);
Rhone: Little James' Basket Press, NV (forward, fruity, typical cheap rather sweet very nice French table wine)
• Bistro 29, 620 Fifth Street, Santa Rosa; 707 546-2929

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