I don’t know if I ever told you but a few months before we set off for Sweden, I spent a week-turned-half-a-year giving a hand in the kitchen at Brasserie Chavot; partly because they needed someone, mostly because I firmly intended to close my London chapter by working with chefs who had become my closest friends throughout the years, from the Capital Hotel to Brasserie Chavot: as we say in French, “La boucle est bouclée.” [to come full circle].
To this day, I still cannot match the camaraderie that stems from the mixture of passion, exhaustion, restlessness that kitchens offer.
La boucle est bouclée.
So of course, I knew this very kitchen inside-out. We’d opened the restaurant a couple of years earlier and I had worked on the pastry section for well over a year.
But that time, it meant for me to work with meat and fish. Vegetables and stocks.
And to be honest, some of my fondest memories come from this time. Our mornings in the prep kitchen, where all the elements the rest of the team would use throughout the day would get made. Our evenings standing by the pass, taking out plates from the hot cupboard, plating dishes. Service please!
The fish delivery man wore a white lab coat that had a large octopus drawn on its back with what I guess was a marker pen. Brine. Season. Heavy rolls of beef rib eye would get tied and vacpacked. Tie. Cut. Slice. Pork belly roasted overnight. Poussins [baby chicken] would be boned and flattened, then sewn. 1, 2, 3. Onions and carrots, peeled and chopped bag after bag. Italian meat balls rolled into 10g pellets that would be served with braised escargots Bourguignon [snails Bourguignon] and a mash potato foam. Chavot, his grey t-shirts, and his smile. Yes, I could go on forever, but really, there is not one moment I do not miss.
The restaurant closed its doors after one last service on New years Eve 2015; and with it, what was the best place to eat beautifully made French food in London disappeared*.
One of my favourite dishes was the daube de boeuf provençale, the summer version of the otherwise delicious, daube de boeuf Grand-mère.
Beef braised in red and white wine, with fragrant onions, carrots, smoked pork belly, a touch of spices and citrus; served with creamy mashed potatoes and garnished with grilled artichokes, oven-dried tomatoes, and Niçoise olives.
Beef braised in red and white wine, with fragrant onions, carrots, smoked pork belly, a touch of spices and citrus.
Daube de boeuf provençale à la Chavot
While the dish itself is not complicated, it does involve many steps that I see as essential. However, it is possible to simplify the recipe to some extent, and that’s what I’ve done here.
Let’s break down the daube provençale first:
– beef chuck, sometimes called feather blade or paleron
– caramelised mirepoix
– braising liquid, with spices and citrus
– veal stock
– garnish: Niçoise olives, sundried tomatoes, grilled baby artichokes, button onions, fresh herbs
I like to peel and chop all the vegetables, prepare the spices and measure the wines before I start.
As always, you can prepare the daube a few days in advance, and then reheat it slowly, in an oven set on 140°C or on the stove, over low heat.
The leftover meat can be used in many ways that we love very dearly, which is the reason why I almost certainly make a double batch of daube.
A few favourites include: daube raviolis, hachis parmentier [cottage pie], and daube fritters, which I make by combining the shredded daube with mashed potatoes and an egg or two, forming patties then coating them in flour and pan-frying them until golden brown.
50 g virgin olive oil
50 g duck fat
50 g unsalted butter
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
3 medium onions, roughly chopped
300 g smoked pork belly, sliced into 2cm cubes
6 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1 sprig rosemary
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs thyme
1/2 bunch parsley, chopped
1 tsp black peppercorns
zest from 1/2 lemon
zest from 1/4 orange
The cooking liquids
1 bottle red wine
1/2 bottle white wine
1 400g-ish can of crushed tomatoes
100 g plain flour
salt and pepper
1 large piece of beef chuck, approx. 1kg
500 mL good quality veal stock
A handful each of: Niçoise olives, sundried tomatoes, baby artichokes, button onions
1/2 bunch of parsley, sliced
Make the mirepoix
Place the butter, olive oil and duck fat into a large pan; I use a favourite in our house, a Le Creuset cocotte. Add the carrots, and cook over medium heat until they start to caramelise. Then add the sliced onions and cook for a further 20 minutes or until they are soft and brown around the edges. Add the garlic, herbs, spices and zests, and cook, stiring every now and then, for another 5-10 minutes.
Strain the mirepoix, keeping the fat that will then be used to sear the beef; set both aside until needed.
Deglaze the pan with a glass of red wine to loosen any caramelised bit that might be stuck to the bottom of the pan. Then set aside and wipe the pan clean.
Caramelise the beef
Place the reserved fat from the mirepoix in the cleaned pan and set over medium-high heat.
Mix the flour with salt and pepper, and coat the piece of meat in a thin layer of seasoned flour, tapping away the excess.
When the fat starts foaming, sear the meat on all sides until dark brown.
Set the meat aside and deglaze the pan with the remaining wine, including the glass we deglazed the mirepoix with.
If you’re feeling fancy, carefully flambé the wine over low heat to remove the alcohol. I almost always skip this step at home.
Marinate the meat
Take the pan off the heat. Add the crushed tomatoes and the mirepoix, along with the herbs, spices, citrus, and pork belly bits, stir well. Then carefully add the seared meat.
Cover with a lid and allow to marinate in the fridge for at least 4 hours, or up to two days. The longer you live it the better the flavours; although I’ve been more than happy with daube that had only marinated for a couple of hours.
Cook the daube
Set the oven to 130°C/fan 110°C.
Place the pan with the lid on, in the oven and bake for 6 to 8 hours, until the meat feels very tender.
Make the sauce
Very gently remove the meat from the cooking liquid using a large slotted spoon and place on a plate. Refrigerate until fully set.
Pass the cooking liquid through a fine-mesh sieve, quickly clean the pan, then return the cooking liquid to the pan and add the veal stock.
Bring to the boil and reduce by half.
Take off the heat and reserve in the fridge for up to 2 days.
On the day
Divide the meat into 6 portions, and if you want, pan fry them in butter until caramelised on all sides.
Place the meat, along with the sauce and garnish into a cast iron pan, and reheat over low heat or in a 140°C oven for around 1 hour, or until warmed through.
Baste the meat every now and then to keep it from drying.
When ready, serve immediately with mashed potatoes or fresh pasta, and sprinkle with sliced parsley.
– A more traditional daube de boeuf, by Chavot.
* I was extremely happy to hear that Chavot has now taken over the kitchens of Bob Bob Ricard, which I will definitely visit o our next London trip, whenever it may come. You can find a lovely interview here.
– Chef Chavot’s Instagram