For lively cuisine, jump into a Provencal stew

Entertaining: The cooks of southern France have a way with even a simple dish of beef and vegetables.

April 11, 1999|By BETTY ROSBOTTOM | BETTY ROSBOTTOM,LOS ANGELES TIMES SYNDICATE

My cooking students are wild about Provencal food and are always asking that I teach more classes featuring specialties from this area of France. They love the vibrant flavors of the cuisine and are intrigued by the imaginative uses of vegetables and fruits in so many Provencal recipes. They're also quick to point out that the simple dishes representative of this particular style of French country cooking are perfect for entertaining.

I agree with my students on all these points and am as spirited a fan as they are. This week, for example, in a class I am showing them how to prepare Daube de Boeuf a la Provencale, a classic French dish of beef and vegetables braised in wine and stock.

For my version, I am garnishing this fork-tender stew with slivered olives and chopped fresh tomatoes. The stew, bursting with robust tastes, is delicious ladled over pasta.

This all-in-one main course would be ideal to serve for an informal dinner. The daube can be cooked a day ahead and will improve in flavor in the refrigerator. At serving time, all that is necessary is to cook the pasta and to add the olives and tomatoes to the stew to heat them quickly.

The recipe that follows will serve six, but you can easily double or triple the ingredients for a large buffet. A salad of mixed greens in a vinaigrette dressing, some warm baguettes and a selection of goat cheeses (the most ubiquitous cheese of the south of France) and fruit for dessert would make a tempting Provencal menu to serve on this side of the Atlantic.

Daube De Boeuf A La Provencale

Serves 6

1/4 cup olive oil, plus 1 to 2 tablespoons more, if needed

3 pounds beef stew meat, cut into 1-inch cubes and trimmed of all excess fat

1 1/2 cups chopped onions

1/3 cup flour

salt, freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed

1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves

2 1/2 cups beef broth

1 1/2 cups dry white wine

3 strips orange peel, each about 3 inches long and 1 inch wide

1/2 pound peeled baby carrots

1 1/4 pounds fresh fettuccine noodles

1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, optional

1/2 cup pitted green Mediterranean olives, drained and slivered

1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, drained and slivered

3/4 pound plum tomatoes, peeled, quartered, seeded and cut into 1/2 -inch-wide strips

Heat 1/4 cup oil in large, heavy, deep-sided pot with lid over medium-high heat. Pat beef cubes dry with paper towels. When oil is hot, add enough beef to fit comfortably in single layer in pan and saute, turning, until browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon to drain on paper towels. Repeat, adding small amount of extra oil if needed, until all beef has been browned.

If there is not enough oil in pan after browning meat, add about 1/2 tablespoon more and heat until hot. Add onions and saute, stirring, until lightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Return meat to pan with onions and toss mixture with flour. Cook, stirring 2 minutes. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, several grinds of black pepper, rosemary, thyme, broth, wine and orange peel strips.

Bring mixture to simmer. Cover and transfer to oven. Bake on center rack at 350 degrees until meat is tender, about 1 3/4 hours. Remove from oven. Stir in carrots. Cover, return to oven and cook until carrots are fork tender, about 30 minutes more.

Remove. If not serving immediately, cool, cover and refrigerate. (Daube can be prepared 1 day ahead to this point. Reheat over low heat, stirring often, until hot.)

When ready to serve, bring large pot of water to boil, add fettuccine and 1/2 tablespoon salt and cook until pasta is tender but still firm, 4 to 5 minutes. Drain. Toss with butter.

To finish stew, remove orange peel and discard. Stir in olives and tomatoes and cook to heat through, about 1 minute. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Divide pasta evenly among 6 dinner plates and ladle stew over top.

Pub Date: 04/11/99

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