But I digress. I remember one meal in particular at a small quiet yet classy restaurant on Ile St. Louis which was within walking distance of my hotel. I ordered a simple beef stew however, it was anything but simple. The flavours were complex, well balanced, beef perfectly tender with hints of chocolate and orange. I didn't take notes but I thought it was perhaps a daube, a Provencal beef stew, yet I have not found a daub recipe with chocolate. This Catalan stew comes close to what I remember.
8 oz. pancetta or other unsmoked cured pork
1/3 c. quality cooking oil such as olive, camelina or organic canola
4 lb. stewing beef, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/3 c. red wine vinegar
2 medium sized yellow onions, finely chopped
3-4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 c. beef stock
1 c. dry red wine
2 tbsp. tomato paste
2 - 4 inch cinnamon sticks
4 sprigs fresh thyme or dried
3 strips orange peel
3 tbsp. dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
fresh Italian parsley, garnish
Turn oven to 350 F.
In an ovenproof pot add a tablespoon of the cooking oil and chopped pancetta. Saute until lightly browned. Remove to a bowl.
In three batches brown the beef in the same pan and adding more cooking oil as necessary. Remove to the same bowl as pancetta.
Deglaze pot with red wine vinegar. Add to beef mixture.
Add another tablespoon or two of cooking oil. On medium low heat saute onions and garlic until tender but not browned. Add meat back to pot. Add the rest of the ingredients except Italian parsley.
With the lid on the pot cook in the oven for about 2 hours or until beef is tender. Cool. Refrigerate overnight. Next day remove any congealed fat before warming to serve. Serve in heated bowls garnished with chopped Italian parsley. Or as I did, top a dollop of mashed potatoes with the stew and garnish with roasted baby carrots. Serves 8.