Coufidou de lAveyron
Coufidou de l’Aveyron

A rustic red wine and beef stew from the Aveyron which used to be served by its residents during Easter and Christmas and derived from the Occitan word “coufir” which mean to slowly simmer.  It is generally composed of tougher, rail quality cuts such as beef cheek, shank or neck that have been marinated in coarse regional red wine and demands slower and lower cookery consistent with a braise.

More tender and commonly used (in France) anthropomorphic biarticular muscles from the other side of the creature on the medial side of the top-round include (muscle name and cleaned weight):

Beef top round cross section: 1. La poire “the pear” Pectineus 390gr. Named for its pear shape. 2. Le merlan “the whiting”, somewhat resembles the fish of the same name. Sartorius 170gr. 3. L'araignée “the spider” Gracilis 640gr; Allegedly looks like a spider after it is cleaned of sinew and nerves. Source: Senaratne et al., 2009

The traditional garnishes include mushrooms, onions, lardons and carrots which are seen in other dishes typically enjoyed during the shorter days of the year such as variations of Coq au vin or Bœuf Bourgingon.

For this particular interpretation of Coufidou, beef neck segments were marinated for 4 days in a raspy bottom-shelf syrah with standard aromatics (carrot, celery, onion, garlic, thyme, bay leaf, peppercorns).  The neck segments were pulled from the wine and blanched in water to remove as many impurities as possible.  The segments were covered with the original marinade to preserve the resourceful vein of frugality and simmered with salt for 6 hours or so until tender.

In the meantime, button mushrooms were fluted and cooked in an acidulated blanc (water, flour, lemon juice, salt and olive oil).  Rutabaga and turnips were turned, carrots beveled and glazed in olive oil and a splash of white wine vinegar as were cipollini onions.  Potatoes were turned and carefully simmered.

The segments were cooled in the strained liquid and the meat was picked from the bones when cool enough to handle.  To build the stew base, garlic was browned in beef fat, (crushed and discarded) and then crushed tomatoes were cooked until dry.  The beef neck liquid was added piecemeal to the tomato product and quickly reduced to build a sauce of adequate consistency and depth to which the picked meat was added.  The chocolate aroma undertones of beef and red wine are worthy of a scratch & sniff sticker.  The vegetables were then added to the base and only brought to a simmer in order to meld the flavors.  Seasoning was verified and the stew was heartily consumed.

Stewings on the stew: The flavor profile offered a respectful triptych of beef & wine (which magically conspire to present the aforementioned aromatic element of chocolate), the sweet, earthy starchiness of the root vegetables, onions and mushroom and the acidity from the vinegar.

In hindsight, the stew base could have benefited from an acidic element of either sherry or Banyuls vinegar.  The vegetable garnish appeared to overwhelm the protein element; however that could be chalked up to the intentional emphasis on the cellar rather than the larder in the day of when proteins were a scarce luxury rather than a cheap commodity.