18 December 2014

Bienvenue à Môlay

Môlay is the name of the village where we had rented a place to stay during our short trip to Burgundy. The village is not far from Chablis, and even closer to the medieval town of Noyers-sur-Serein — more about those later. When we arrived at the gîte, I asked the owner how many people lived in Môlay. One hundred and twenty-three, he told me. Then, no, only 122, he said, because we're having a funeral tomorrow for one resident who just died.

This was our first glimpse of the village. We drove in from the east, crossing over the Serein ("serene") river on the edge of town. A few minutes later, Callie the collie and I took a walk down the road and I snapped this photo from the bridge. My photos are not very sharp, because it was almost dark by now.

Callie was very happy to be out of the car and to be able to stretch her legs as we strolled through the village. She was nervous though. Where is Walt? Why are we walking away and leaving him behind? (He was getting us settled in the rental and starting to make dinner.) Callie is happier when all three of us are together. She needed the exercise though, and she had business to take care of after a long ride in the car.

While the dog was happy to be out and about, the cat below was not thrilled to see a new dog loose in the village. He sat very still, and I'm not sure Callie even saw him perched up on a high wall along the road. Seeing him made me think of Bertie, but I knew Bert was in good hands at home. Our Australian friends Sue and Leon, who happened to be visiting the Saint-Aignan area, were looking in on him twice a day. We had left them the keys and a box of cat food so he wouldn't get too hungry.

More about the gîte (vacation rental) in Môlay tomorrow...

17 December 2014

Daube provençale

Daube [DOHB] is derived from a Provençal and/or Italian word that meant "seasoned" or "spiced" — that's according to the Robert dictionary of the French language. I wouldn't be surprised if there were a linguistic link between the Provençal French term daube and the Mexican Spanish term adobo. A daube de bœuf or bœuf en daube is a kind of beef stew cooked à l'étouffée — cooked slowly in a tightly covered dish for several hours.

As the etymology of the term indicates, the daube is a southern French specialty. Other regions might cook beef or other meats the same way and call the stew une estouffade, which also means à l'etouffée. If you know about Louisiana cooking, you know that term. One translation is "smothered". Bœuf bourguignon is another example of an estouffade,and I've seen it called that in Paris restaurants.

Daube de bœuf with carrots, shallots, garlic, and olives cooked in red wine and tomato sauce

I made bœuf en daube in the slow cooker yesterday. I put an 800 gram piece of basse-côte de bœuf (a chuck roast) in the cooker the night before, with a couple of carrots and a couple of whole shallots, a big clove of garlic, and some orange and lemon peel. Those are the main ingredients, along with red wine and tomato sauce (or whole tomatoes, which will be sauce by the time the cooking is finished).

I set the timer so that the cooker would start at 4 a.m. and go off again at 8. In other words, the beef marinated overnight before the cooking started. Oh, and I had browned the beef in a skillet beforehand. When I got up, I checked the meat and judged its doneness. Well, it ended up cooking for another 4 hours — 8 hours in all, mostly on the low temperature setting. The carrots and shallots held up well to that amount of cooking. Toward the end, I put a handful of olives into the pot to plump up and give their flavor to the cooking liquid. Olives are a typically Provençal ingredient, of course.

Speaking of the liquid, in the fridge I happened to have some red wine that I had spiced up and cooked for a different recipe. I had poured a whole bottle of red wine into a saucepan with a sprig of thyme, a couple of bay leaves, an onion, some lemon and orange peel, some black peppercorns, cloves, and what all. I strained that and used 1½ cups of the spiced wine with equal quantities of tomato sauce and beef broth to cook the daube.

Here's a recipe. I'm not sure where I found it or when. The original is in French. I'm translating:

Daube de bœuf provençale

2 lbs. of chuck or other stew beef, browned
1½ cups red wine
1½ cups tomato sauce
1½ cups beef broth (a bouillon cube in water will do)
4 cloves (or allspice berries)
2 strips of lemon peel and 2 strips of orange peel
3 onions (or shallots)
2 carrots
3 cloves of garlic
1 sprig of thyme
3 bay leaves
12 black peppercorns
15 or 20 olives (pitted or not)
Put the beef in the cooker and pour on the liquids. Add the spices and herbs (or cook them first in the red wine and then strain them out to make a neater sauce). Add the carrots, garlic, and onions or shallots. Let the beef marinate for 6 or 8 hours.

Turn the cooker on at low temperature and let the beef and vegetables cook for 6 to 8 hours. Toward the end, add the olives and let them cook for 30 to 60 minutes so they they swell up and give their flavor to the sauce. Salt the sauce at the end, after tasting it — the beef bouillon, tomato sauce, and olives are all salty, so be careful with the table salt.

You can thicken the cooking liquid at the end by boiling it down in a pot on top of the stove after taking out all the other ingredients, or by using a slurry of water and potato starch or a flour roux. Serve the daube with rice, pasta, or potatoes, along with a green vegetable or salad.

16 December 2014

Avallon (5)

Here are a few more photos of Avallon scenes. We really just buzzed through. With the threatening weather we couldn't do much, and we decided to drive on to our gîte and get settled in for the evening. Callie hates riding in the car, so we were anxious to get to our destination and take her out for a long walk before night fell. Travelling with a dog is a pretty limited experience in many ways.

I'm sure there was a lot more to do and see in Avallon. A walk around the fortified city's old ramparts would have been picturesque and interesting if we had been able to do it. As it was, I managed to snap these photos from the end of the Promenade de la Petite Porte. Views from the park there are panoramic.

The great French military architect and engineer Vauban (1633-1707) was born in the Avallon area. I noticed a plaque commemorating the 300th anniversary of his birth. He is buried at Bazoches, a town in the Morvan just south of Avallon and Vézelay. I snapped the photo below as we drove around the town to the north, looking back up toward the old fortified town.

Today, I'm cooking a daube de bœuf in the slow-cooker. It will simmer for at least four hours, maybe six. The cooking liquid is about a third red wine, a third tomato sauce, and a third beef broth, and it's flavored with shallots, carrots, thyme, bay leaves, and orange and lemon zests. To go with it I plan to make some cornmeal gnocchi (dumplings). If it's any good, I'll post some photos and a recipe soon.