“I hate people who are not serious about their meals.” – Oscar Wilde

After a holiday season that was far too busy, it’s nice to finally wind back down and have some time for myself and my creative outlets. I’ve also felt that a certain rut was beginning to form within my culinary pursuits in that I voluntarily stayed away from dishes that may be objectionable to the rest of my family. You have to understand three things: 1) I have a five year-old 2) I have an almost teen-aged vegetarian and 3) I have a very picky wife that would choose to dine on fast food burritos rather than many other foods. However, I decided to just take the dive and disregard them sometimes just to pursue a heightened and more challenging aspect of cooking. In other words, some nights I am just going to say, “Eat it or go find something else to eat.”

Tonight’s defiance to my family’s sometimes wayward tastes was this:

Beef braised in red wine

The menu:

  • Beef Braised in Red Wine with Provençal Olives
  • Yellow Potatoes Roasted with Olive Oil and Sea Salt
  • Spring Mix tossed with Orange Vinaigrette

This first-time dish for me was inspired by a braised lamb that Chef Daniel Boulud made on PBS’s How To Cook Everything and by a recipe for a Daube au Vin Rouge Oublié (Forgotten Red Wine Daube) found in Patricia Wells’ The Provence Cookbook, but is a copy of neither. I put this together primarily because I wanted beef. Yes, I do indeed love beef even though I don’t cook with it much. Also, though, a big reason for attempting this dish was because I wanted to dig a little deeper into French preparation techniques and sauce making.

Without going into the minutiae of the recipe I devised, suffice it to say that a full-bodied French red wine, rich beef broth/stock, and decent, but controlled, seasoning are essential. Also, prior to braising the beef in the wine and broth, I added garlic, orange zest and a roughly chopped mirepoix to ensure a sauce with complexity. Adding the pitted green Provençal olives during the last 15 minutes of braising added a beautiful salty kick, too.

I ended up very happy with my first attempt at this. However, I do wish I’d braised the beef probably a half hour more at a lower temperature. I think the beef would’ve melted at that point. Even so, the beef was decently tender and the sauce to accompany it had amazing depth. I even cut some more of the baguette I had (from our tapenade starters) to sop up the rest from my plate!

My wife, Kim, normally doesn’t like beef. But, I believe her comment tonight was something akin to, “Jesus Christ, this is phenomenal.”

I’ll take that.