Fall had started in earnest; a cool, light mist was falling and we decided to take our dog Lucy for a long walk foraging wild cèpes. I built a roaring fire in our wood stove, placed a daube of beef on top to slowly braise, and decanted a heady bottle of red wine, then walked out into the dank Mendocino forest.
Maybe I am like one of Pavlov’s dogs, but I start to crave beef daube (Provencal beef stew) as soon as the first cool Fall weather begins. Long ago Lisa and I lived in a small, off the grid hippie cabin deep within the woods, on the edge of Van Damme State Park in Mendocino, California. Our cabin often reminded me of Daudet’s windmill in Provence, though beaten and forlorn, it provided a quiet refuge from the bustle of modern life.
Fall had started in earnest; a cool, light mist was falling on an otherwise drab day when we decided to take our dog Lucy for a long walk foraging wild cèpes. I built a roaring fire in our wood stove and placed a daube of beef perfumed with cinnamon stick and dried orange peel on top to slowly braise. We decanted a heady bottle of red wine and walked out into the dank Mendocino forest.
We walked a narrow track through the dense, overgrown pygmy forest collecting two shopping bags full of precious boletes before deciding to return to enjoy our simple feast. Wood smoke commingled with the ever enticing aromas of slow cooked meat, that hung nose high in the clammy mist surrounding our cabin. With every step closer, the smells grew more ambrosial and inviting, causing us to quicken our pace. By the time we reached the cabin door I was drooling slightly and my stomach growled uncontrolled in bated anticipation.
One of the key subtle flavors of southern French stews, like beef daube, is dried orange peel. It provides brightness and balances the rich meat with citrus undertones. For years, I stupidly looked all over for someone to buy them from till I realized how easy they are to make at home. Simply peel an orange and let it dry in an airy spot out of direct light. I usually begin every Fall with a collection of dried peels to bring sunshine into the long, wet winters of the Pacific Northwest.
Try making my beef daube from my cookbook ‘Cuisine of the Sun: A Ray of Sunshine on your Plate’. You can substitute beef short ribs, bison short ribs, lamb shanks or any other braising meat you want. It is the perfect remedy to a wet Fall day!