Daube Provençale is to Provence what beef Bourguignon is to Burgundy—an absolute classic of the local cuisine, and a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. This big stew of tender beef chunks in a robust sauce of red wine, tomato sauce, and local herbs and fixings is full of Provençal flavor. Ladled over a bed of egg noodles, it’s pure comfort on a chilly evening.
A Tale of 2 Classics
French food lovers may wonder how exactly it compares to beef Bourguignon. In essence, beef Bourguignon is representative of the flavors of the north of France, while daube Provençale showcases the flavors of the south. It also embraces a looser recipe, with many variations accepted.
From the Provençal word “adobar,” meaning to cook or to prepare a dish, “daube” was originally a cooking term describing the method of marinating and then cooking meat in a seasoned liquid—in other words, stewing. Over the years, the word “daube” became used in Provence to refer both to the cooking process and to the resulting prepared stews. This likely explains why there isn’t a strict recipe for daube today; rather, the term describes any type of provencal stew made with a wine and tomato sauce base.
Take the meat, for instance. While beef Bourguignon, by definition, is always made with beef, a daube will often feature different meats depending on the location in Provence. Beef is still the most common, but you’ll also find variations such as bull meat in Camargue—a Provençal region known for producing it—or lamb, mutton, and rabbit in the mountains. On the coast, a daube might even be made with octopus.
Other ingredients similarly reflect the local cuisine. While beef Bourguignon is traditionally made with red Burgundy wines, daube relies on regional wines from Provence, which can be red or white. Daube doesn’t include the earthy mushrooms typical of a beef Bourguignon, but is more garlic-forward and infused with a bouquet garni, the aromatic bundle of rosemary, thyme, and bay leaves typical to Provençal cooking. The sauce can also be spruced up to suit individual tastes by adding anchovies, tomato paste, and black olives, or warm spices such as cloves or nutmeg, orange peels, or even a few squares of dark chocolate.
Finally, while beef Bourguignon is commonly enjoyed on a bed of mashed potatoes, you will more often find a daube served with egg noodles.
Tips for Success
As with any beef stew, perhaps the most important step is to start with the right cut of beef. For a daube Provençale, choose collagen-rich cuts (known as “stewing beef”) such as shank, sirloin tip, chuck roast, and blade.
Stay away from pre-packaged chunks, which tend to turn chewy once cooked. Instead, choose one or a few large pieces (2 1/2 pounds total), and then cut them into 1 1/2 to 2-inch cubes. Try to stay true to this cut size, as the cubes will shrink slightly as they cook. Go any smaller and they won’t hold up to the hours of stewing.
To build the sauce, choose a dry red wine—ideally one produced in Provence, such as Bandol rouge, Cassis rouge, Côtes-de-provence rouge, or Bellet rouge.
You shouldn’t necessarily reach for a pricy bottle, but do use one that you would drink—trust me, it will really make a difference. Forget the cheap “cooking wines” from the grocery store.
Daube Provençale is traditionally made in a daubière, a bulbous clay pot with a small lid. If you don’t have one, any type of large casserole dish or Dutch oven works well.
The traditional way to make a daube is to marinate the beef overnight in red wine, herbs, and spices, and to cook everything in the daubière the next morning. However, the marinating step can be omitted—as in this recipe—if you properly brown the beef cubes prior to stewing them in wine, to build flavor and tenderize the meat.
This daube cooks for 2 1/2 hours, so plan accordingly. But do know it is even better when reheated the next day, as the flavors meld and improve overnight in the fridge. This is a great make-ahead dish for the entertaining season that is now upon us.
- 2 to 3 sprigs fresh rosemary, plus more for garnish
- 5 to 6 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 12 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
- 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup flour
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 1/2 pounds stewing beef (shank, sirloin tip, chuck roast, or blade), trimmed and cut into 1 1/2- to 2-inch cubes
- 2 cups peeled and roughly chopped carrots
- 2 celery stalks, ends removed and roughly chopped
- 1 large onion, peeled and chopped
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 teaspoons anchovy paste
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 3 cups dry red wine
- 4 cups hot cooked medium egg noodles
With butcher twine, tie together the rosemary, thyme, and bay leaves to make a bouquet garni. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F with a rack in the middle.
Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven over low heat. Add garlic to the pan; cook for 5 minutes or until the garlic is fragrant, stirring occasionally. Remove garlic with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Pat the beef cubes dry with a paper towel. Combine the flour, salt, and pepper in a medium-sized bowl. Add the beef cubes to the bowl and toss with your hands until well coated.
Increase heat to medium-high. Working in batches, add the beef cubes to the Dutch oven and brown them, about 3 minutes on each side. Be careful not to overcrowd or overlap any meat cubes or they won’t brown properly. It should take about 3 to 4 batches to brown 2 1/2 pounds of beef. Transfer the browned beef to a separate bowl or plate.
Add the chopped carrots, celery, and onion to the Dutch oven and cook for about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until glistening. Add the bouquet garni, browned beef, garlic, tomato paste, anchovy paste, and ground cloves. Add the red wine and stir with a wooden spoon, scraping the bottom to loosen any browned bits stuck to the pan. Bring to a simmer, cover, and transfer to the oven to bake 2 1/2 hours.
Check if the beef is tender. It should be fork-tender—if not, continue baking for up to 30 more minutes.
Discard the bouquet garni. Serve over egg noodles and garnish with chopped fresh thyme, if desired.