Before this recipe, I had never heard of a daube. It’s essentially a French pot roast. Traditionally, it involves taking a hunk of meat and stewing it in red wine, carrots, and possibly other vegetables. Sometimes a starch is thrown in for good measure. So, like a pot roast, but not quite. Like a beef stew, but not quite.

Very tasty, though. And this particular recipe is just a little surprising, I think.

First off, Dorie starts by calling for beef cheek. In some places, this might be easy to get. In most places, it’s not, unless you carefully plan ahead and find a butcher who can accomodate you, given he has advanced notice. Say, at least a week. In the future, I may try to procure this elusive cut of beef, because I’m fortunate enough to live in Texas, and I imagine that a decent Texas butcher will not only know where to get beef cheek but can do it without much trouble. I feel I should take advantage of that while I can. Around here, beef cheeks are often used in a dish called barbacoa (which sounds like it’s related to the word barbecue, and is, but the two mean rather different types of dishes, further proving that the English language really has no idea what it’s doing sometimes). I’ll have to write a post about barbacoa someday, because it’s quite fascinating. Back in the day, it involved baking an entire cow head in a coal-lined pit. But my point here is that while beef cheeks can probably be easily obtained in this area, you still have to make a special trip for them to the butcher and let them know that you want them. You can’t just go to the local grocery store and pick up a bag. (not that I could see, anyway, but maybe I didn’t look hard enough. The meat section at my local grocery store is usually pretty crowded.)

Alright, so no beef cheek. Boneless chuck roast will do just as well.

Brown the chuck roast on both sides, remove to a plate, and season well. Let it hang out and get nice and juicy.

Brown the chuck roast on both sides, remove to a plate, and season well. Let it hang out and get nice and juicy.

Into the pot go carrots and bacon, which are cooked on low to soften a bit. Flour goes in to help thicken it up, followed by a splash of water to help scrape up all the flowery bits. The sauce is made with beef broth and a wonderful excess of beautiful red wine.

Into the pot go carrots and bacon, which are cooked on low to soften a bit. Flour goes in to help thicken it up, followed by a splash of water to help scrape up all the flowery bits. The sauce is made with beef broth and a wonderful excess of beautiful red wine.

The meat goes back into the pot, and everything gets heated up a bit to let flavors meld together.

The meat goes back into the pot, and everything gets heated up a bit to let flavors meld together.

Then the pot is sealed and covered and stuck in the oven. Which, by the way, is still a mess from the Thanksgiving feast. I'll get around to cleaning it sometime in December.

Then the pot is sealed and covered and stuck in the oven. Which, by the way, is still a mess from the Thanksgiving feast. I’ll get around to cleaning it sometime in December.

And you leave it there for two hours. This is the hard part, because about a half-hour into the braising process, the kitchen begins to develop a most delicious savory smell. If you are even the slightest bit hungry, it will ramp that up to practically ravenous. After an hour, there was no escape from this delectable, remarkable smell. It seemed impossible to wait another hour for dinner.

We managed. As the braising came to an end, I par-cooked some macaroni and chopped up some chocolate.

What’s that, you say? Chocolate? In a pot roast dish?

Yes. Dark, bittersweet chocolate. Just a little bit. For us, it was barely half an ounce. Just enough to give that lovely-smelling sauce an extra layer of flavor.

Finally, it was time to pull that bad boy out of the oven.

Fresh out of the oven, the beef daube smells heavenly. Skim off the fat, stir in the chocolate, season, and then bring to a simmer.

Fresh out of the oven, the beef daube smells heavenly. Skim off the fat, stir in the chocolate, season, and then bring to a simmer.

Throw in the par-cooked macaroni and finish cooking it. I used whole wheat pasta, which went really well with the wholesome feeling of the meat and the sauce. Once the pasta is done, it's ready to serve!

Throw in the par-cooked macaroni and finish cooking it. I used whole wheat pasta, which went really well with the wholesome feeling of the meat and the sauce. Once the pasta is done, it’s ready to serve!

This dish needed no accompaniment. It’s a complete meal on its own, and that’s one of the things that makes it so great. I really do appreciate a one-pot meal, especially when it turns out as flavorful and hearty as this.

I would have changed two things: I would have made more sauce, and I would have added mushrooms. I loved the carrots in this dish, but I think throwing in some mushrooms would have added another level of tastiness, that umami essence that I so love about mushrooms. And more sauce would have been fantastic, because the sauce was easily the best thing about the meal. It was so luxuriant, but at the same time comforting. So homey. Next time, I’ll use the same amount of meat but double the sauce. It’s that good.

Oh, goodness, what a wonderful meal to sit down to on a cool fall evening.

Oh, goodness, what a wonderful meal to sit down to on a cool fall evening.

I am not a big fan of pot roasts, and I’d say the meat was the weakest part of this dish. Maybe with a little more practice, I can get it done right. All I know is, I will definitely be making beef daube again this winter. Even if it’s just for that wonderful smell of it cooking in the oven. It’s amazing how flavorful it is, especially when you consider that no herbs or spices went into the dish – only salt and pepper. It’s so nice to see such an awesome dish come out of such simple, every day ingredients.

This seems to have been a pretty popular dish all-around with the Doristas! Look here for their beautiful daube dishes! And I highly recommend checking out the recipe in Around My French Table. It really is so easy to do and so, so delicious!

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