Taureau Sauvage à la Gardiane
Region: France, Provence
Difficulty: Easy but long cooking time
This rich dish from the Camargue of Provence is known as gardiane de taureau, boeuf à la gardiane, or simply la gardiane. Some people also make gardiane with lamb. In Córdoba in Andalusia there is another braised bull dish called rabo de toro with equally luscious flavors.
The bulls of the Camargue are a twentieth century introduction, for in the sixteenth century large-scale summer transhumance controlling the sheep flocks of the Camargue defined this area then infested with mosquitoes and afflicted with a high rate of unemployment. A remarkable effort of rural land development transformed the region at that time into a productive sheep-rearing land. But today the bulls have the predominant presence in the Camargue and gardiane, or bull stew, is a famous local specialty. I remember an excellent gardiane at the seaside restaurant of A La Brise de Mer in the small coastal town of Les Saintes Maries-de-la- Mer in the Camargue. One arrives at Stes. Maries by following a solitary road from Arles through the Camargue, a marshy land of alluvial deposit, past grazing lands and horse farms. Legend has it that this was where St. Marie-Jacobé, St. Marie-Salomé, and their servant St. Sarah landed after being set adrift off the coast of Palestine by the Jews of Judea in the first century A.D. The Romany, or Gypsies of the Camargue, consider St. Sarah their patron saint and in May and September there are processions of gardianes, or Camargue cowboys, who drive the bulls through the streets to the bullring for nonlethal bullfighting or to a pool for a strange sport called taureau piscine where amateur bullfighters dodge the bulls in the water-filled pools.
The stew is excellent with French fries.
[photos: Clifford A. Wright]
Yield: Makes 4 to 6 servings
Preparation Time: 4:30 hours
1. In a large heavy casserole, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat, then brown the oxtail or shank pieces on all sides, about 5 minutes. Remove the oxtails from the casserole and set aside, keeping them warm.
2. In the same casserole, melt the lard over medium-high heat, then cook the chopped onions and potatoes until the onions are golden, about 8 minutes, stirring frequently and adding small amounts of water to scrape the browned bits off bottom of the casserole if necessary.
3. Return the meat to the casserole. Pour in the beef broth and wine along with the bouquet garni, orange peel, whole clove-studded onion, the bay leaf, garlic, tomato paste, and chopped olives. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until the sauce is thick and the meat tender and falling off the bone, about 4 hours. Remove and discard the orange peel, bouquet garni, whole onion, and bay leaf. Serve immediately.