I LOOKED IN A NUMBER of books — Mireille Johnston's Cuisines of the Sun, Richard Olney's Lulu's Provençal Table, Austin Croze's Plats régionaux de France, Curnonsky of course, a couple of others. I have a favorite never-fail recipe, but it is in a small book of Provençal recipes that I have been unable to locate on our shelves for years now; perhaps we lent it to someone, or perhaps the Contessa sold it in a fit of downsizing. I hope not.
A daube, as I understand it, is a meat stew more or less regional to the south of France. It can involve lamb or mutton, but is usually based on beef. The other apparently indispensable ingredients are carrot, onion, red wine, and orange peel. It is cooked in a daubière, a clay vessel with a specially shaped lid into which you can pour liquid while the stew cooks. The liquid does not go into the daubière; its only office is to evaporate fairly quickly into the oven, causing a certain shock within the vessel, thereby encouraging condensation. I never do this, as I'm afraid of breaking the daubière, which we bought many years ago in Vallauris.
After consulting all those sources I simply made up my own daube. I began with a slice of bacon, cut in half, covering the bottom of the pot. Then I cut a carrot into pieces and put them, together with a small bay leaf, half a dozen peeled pearl onions and half a turnip cut into sixths, on top of the bacon.
On top of that I put about three quarters of a pound of grass-fed beef stew, salted of course; and on top of the meat another carrot chopped up, the other half the turnip, and another half dozen pearl onions. One piece of turnip was studded with three or four cloves. I added a good-sized piece of orange zest, taken off with a potato-peeler.
I poured in a little brandy and a glass or so of red wine and a splash of olive oil, ground in more salt and pepper, and put the thing in an oven at 325•, where it cooked for a couple of hours.
At that point I added three potatoes cut into sixths, and brought the liquid up further with water. Daubes are traditionally served with pasta, not potatoes: but I'm a meat-and-potatoes kind of guy, and this was my daube.
In another hour and a half I took the stew out, spooned it into soup bowls, ladled the gravy over, and served. It was good.
Green salad afterward; then a Clementine and some pear.