Patricia Wells first sampled this wonderfully fragrant Provençal daube on the narrow first-floor terrace of Le Vaccarès in Arles. In the stew, thin slices of beef are cooked with some of her favorite things: white wine, capers, anchovies, garlic, onions and tomatoes. The high acidity of these ingredients helps tenderize the beef as well as lighten the dish. The recipe, known as Broufado, as well as Boeuf aux Câpres, is an ancient one. It's a dish that takes well to reheating, tasting even better the second or third day. Wells likes to use a rather big, complex white wine that has enough body to deal with all the acidity of the capers and tomatoes as well as the fattiness of the beef.
Plus: More Beef Recipes and Tips
4 anchovy fillets, rinsed
1/4 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons drained capers
One 28-ounce can Italian peeled tomatoes, drained
2 medium onions, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
8 to 10 large garlic cloves, thickly sliced
6 French cornichons or small gherkin pickles, thinly sliced
Fine sea salt
1 bottle (750 ml) white wine, preferably a Rhône Valley Sablet
1 dried imported or fresh bay leaf
1 huge fresh thyme sprig
2 pounds boneless braising beef in 1 piece, such as beef shoulder, chuck, blade, neck, rump or brisket, cut against the grain into six 1 1/2-inch-thick slices
Soak the anchovies in the milk for 10 minutes to soften and remove excess salt. Soak the capers in cold water for 10 minutes to remove excess salt.
In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, onions, garlic and cornichons. Drain and rinse the anchovies and capers and add to the bowl. Add 1 teaspoon sea salt and toss with a wooden spoon to blend, lightly breaking up the tomatoes.
In a large nonreactive saucepan, simmer the wine to cook off the alcohol, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, spread about one-third of the tomato mixture in a large, heavy, nonreactive flameproof casserole. Add the bay leaf and thyme sprig and set 2 pieces of beef on top. Season lightly with sea salt and pepper. Repeat with the remaining tomato mixture and beef to make 2 more layers. Pour in the simmered wine.
Cover and bring to a simmer over moderate heat. Reduce the heat to moderately low and simmer gently until the meat is very tender, about 4 hours. Check the daube from time to time, stirring the ingredients and distributing them well to keep the meat submerged; do not let the mixture boil. Discard the bay leaf and thyme. Serve with the Cheesy Semolina with Bay Leaf.
Let the daube cool thoroughly, then cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days. Before reheating, scrape off any solidified fat. Cover and rewarm over moderate heat.
Serve the white wine used in the recipe. Otherwise, serve a young red, such as a Côtes du Rhône.
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