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Ethnic Eats #2 Beef Provencal

March 9, 2011

This fancy French dish ordinarily would not have made the cut as an Easy Ethnic recipes.  The words “dried porcini mushrooms” alone should have ruled it out.  But I am including it because it addresses one of my central problems with ethnic cooking.THE BIG MESS.  Serving a fine French meal by candelight is romantic in theory, but if a recipe is too complicated, my hair starts to frizz, and I get a little sweaty, and I might tear up along the way.  At this point the sweaty, frizzy, teary wife would rather just go take a bath, leaving the husband to enjoy a romantic dinner for one.  I could also imagine wanting to present a fine French meal to impress one’s in-laws.  But if you suffer, as I do, from THE BIG MESS, this poses a major obstacle to entertaining.  My mother-in-law has the uncanny ability to cook the most complicated meals on the sly.  I say on the sly, because you cannot tell just by looking at her (or looking at her kitchen)that she is cooking at all. It looks like she’s just standing there smiling at you, and when you lease expect it, she’ll point at something behind you and say, “Hey look over there!” And when you turn back around there is an exquisite meal on a table that has been beautifully set (she must’ve set the table during that one second that I blinked).  But back to the beef, by making this meal in the morning (assembly does take about an hour) and putting it in the crock pot, you have ALL DAY to clean up the house (which has been destroyed in the cooking process), erasing all evidence of your struggle, before the company comes.  So do not panic when you see the porcini mushrooms.  They are hanging with the herbs in the produce section.  Believe me, it could be worse.  I have eliminated such loathsome phrases as “strain through a seive” and “tie up with cheesecloth”.  If, however, the porcini mushrooms are too intimidating, you can substitute one pkg of fresh sliced mushrooms and eliminate the porcini steps. If you do this, be sure to add a little beef broth to compensate.

Provencal Beef Daube (Adapted from Cooking Light)

Ingredients

3 lb boneless chuck roast, trimmed and cut into chunks

2 tblsp olive oil

6 garlic cloves minced

1 oz dried porcini mushrooms

1 tsp salt

cooking spray

1 cup red wine

1/2 cup beef broth

1/2 cup pitted olives (any kind)

1 tsp fresh ground black pepper

3 large carrots, peeled and thinly sliced (long skinny – see photo)

1 package fresh mushrooms (sliced)

1 20 oz can whole tomatoes (drain and crush in hand)

3 flat leaf parsley sprigs (chopped)

3 thyme sprigs (chopped)

1 bay leaf

a pinch of orange zest

1 1/2 tsp cornstarch

Directions:

1. Combine first three ingredients in large zip-loc bag.  Seal and marinate 30 minutes

2. pour 1 cup boiling water over porcini mushrooms and let them soak 30 minutes.  Then spoon the mushrooms out and pour a little of the top of the mushroom liquid back into a boal with the mushrooms avoiding the grit which has settled to the bottom of the soaking bowl.

3. Heat a large skillet over medum high heat.  Sprinkle beef mixture with salt.  Coat pan with cooking spray.  Add half of beef mixture to pan; saute 5 minutes turning to brown all sides.  Place browned beef mixture into crock pot.  Repeat procedure with cooking spray and remaining beef mixture.  Add wine and broth to skillet; bring to a boil, scraping pan to loosen browned bits.  Pour wine mixture into slow cooker.  Add mushrooms, reserved 1/4 cup soaking liquid, remaining salt, olives, add rest of ingredients except for cornstarch.

Cook on LOW for 6 hours.

4. Combine 1 tblsp water and cornstarch in a small bowl, stirring until smooth.  Add cornstarch mixture to slow cooker, cook 20 minutes or until slightly thick, stirrin goccasionally.  Garnish with parsley and thyme.

Serve with crusty bread.

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