Saturday, September 12, 2009

How to say I love you with a stew

I sometimes drive William crazy asking "what sounds good for dinner?'

And he drives me equally crazy when he says "hot dogs."

I was mortified the first year we were together and I wanted to fix him something special for his birthday and told him to pick anything in the world he wanted and the thing he requested was sloppy Joes, the kind you make with the crap in a can.

I guess the difference between our outlook on food stems from the different ways we were raised. His dad did most of the cooking. His mom made holiday desserts and roasted pecans. Food was something you fixed because you had to eat.

My mom was more the Betty Crocker type who stayed at home and had dinner waiting on the table when my dad got home at 6 o'clock, so cooking has always been on my radar.

A combination of events turned my average interest in cooking into a passion. When our twins, Ryan and Emily, were born and I had to quit my job, it gave me something creative to do. And then, there's Ryan.

Without going into details, I can honestly say that when he was small, and even to this day, feeding him and keeping him healthy has been one of the greatest challenges of my life.

To me, in it's most elemental definition, food is love.

If you want to watch a movie that poignantly illustrates this philosophy, I suggest Babette's Feast, based on a book written by Isak Dinesen, author of Out of Africa. It's beautifully filmed and the story will touch your heart.

I could never recreate the meal Babette serves at the conclusion of this film, but Beef Bourguignon is also a labor of love.

Beef Bourguignon

Ingredients for the Stew:

8 ounces thick sliced bacon,
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 lbs lean stewing beef, cut into 2-inch cubes
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 onion, peeled and sliced
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper, freshly ground
2 tablespoons flour
3 cups red wine (a full bodied wine like Bordeaux or Burgundy or Chianti)
2-3 cups beef stock (Simple Beef stock is posted on the site, unsalted and defatted)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 garlic cloves, mashed (you may choose to add more)
1 sprig thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme)
1 bay leaf, preferably fresh
Ingredients for the braised onions
18-24 white pearl onions, peeled
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup beef stock
salt & fresh ground pepper

Ingredients for the Sauteed Mushrooms
1 lb mushroom, quartered
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil


First prepare the bacon: slice width wise into 1/4 inch pieces (lardons)

Preheat the oven to 450°F.
Put the tablespoon of olive oil in a large (9" - 10" wide, 3" deep) fireproof casserole and warm over moderate heat.

Saute the lardons for 2 to 3 minutes to brown lightly.
Remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon.

Dry off the pieces of beef and saute them, a few at a time in the hot oil/bacon fat until nicely browned on all sides.
Once browned, remove to the side plate with the bacon.

In the same oil/fat, saute the onion and the carrot until softened.
Pour off the fat and return the lardons and the beef to the casserole with the carrots and onion.

Toss the contents of the casserole with the salt and pepper and sprinkle with the flour.

Set the uncovered casserole in the oven for four minutes.
Toss the contents of the casserole again and return to the hot oven for 4 more minutes.

Now, lower the heat to 325°F and remove the casserole from the oven.
Add the wine and enough stock so that the meat is barely covered.
Add the tomato paste, garlic and herbs.
Bring to a simmer on the top of the stove.

Cover and place in the oven, adjusting the heat so that the liquid simmers very slowly for three to four hours.

The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.
While the meat is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms and set them aside till needed.

For the onion, if using frozen, make sure they are defrosted and drained.
Heat the butter and oil in a large skillet and add the onions to the skillet.
Saute over medium heat for about ten minutes, rolling the onions about so they brown as evenly as possible, without breaking apart.

Pour in the stock, season to taste and cover.

Simmer over low heat for about 40 to 50 minutes until the onions are perfectly tender but retain their shape and the liquid has mostly evaporated.
Set the onions aside.

For the mushrooms, heat the butter and oil over high heat in a large skillet.
As soon as the foam begins to subside add the mushrooms and toss and shake the pan for about five minutes.

As soon as they have browned lightly, remove from heat.

To Finish the Stew:
When the meat is tender, remover the casserole from the oven and empty its contents into a sieve set over a saucepan.

Wash out the casserole and return the beef and bacon to it (discarding the bits of carrot and onion and herbs which remain in the sieve).
Distribute the mushrooms and onions over the meat.

Skim the fat off the sauce and simmer it for a minute or two, skimming off any additional fat which rises to the surface.
You should be left with about 2 1/2 cups of sauce thick enough to coat a spoon lightly.

If the sauce is too thick, add a few tablespoons of stock.
If the sauce is too thin, boil it down to reduce to the right consistency.
Taste for seasoning.

Pour the sauce over the meat and vegetables.
If you are serving immediately, place the covered casserole over medium low heat and simmer 2 to 3 minutes.

Serve in the casserole or on a warm platter surrounded by noodles, potatoes or rice and garnished with fresh parsley.

If serving later or the next day, allow the casserole to cool and place cold, covered casserole in the refrigerator.

20 minutes prior to serving, place over medium low heat and simmer very slowly for ten minutes, occasionally basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce.



2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 1/2 cups flour, sifted
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder

Bring a saucepan of salted water it a boil, reduce the heat, and maintain a simmer.

In a bowl, stir all the ingredients together. Place a colander over the pan, pour about1/4 of the batter into the colander, and press through the holes with a plastic spatula into the hot water.
When the spatzle starts to float to the surface, cover the pan and keep covered until the spatzle appears to swell and is fluffy. Remove the dumplings and repeat procedure with the remaining batter.

French Bread


1 (1/4 ounce) packet active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 cups water (105 -115 F)
4-4 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons salt

Sprinkle yeast and sugar over warm water and let stand in the bowl of you mixer until foamy, about 5 - 10 minutes.

Stir in flour and salt and process with the paddle attachment of the mixer until mixture forms a stiff dough.

Change to the dough hook and knead dough on low for 8 minutes, or until smooth and elastic, adding in enough of remaining 1/2 cup flour to keep dough from sticking.

Transfer dough to a lightly oiled deep bowl, turning to coat with oil, and let rise, bowl covered with plastic wrap, until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.

Preheat oven to 475 and place a Dutch oven filled with water on the bottom rack of the oven.

Punch down dough and form into two long loaves.

Put each loaf diagonally on a lightly greased large or 17 x 14-inch baking sheet and let rise, uncovered, about 30 minutes.

Make 3 or 4 diagonal slashes on loaf with a razor or sharp knife and lightly brush top with cool water.

Bake in middle of oven 30 minutes, or until golden and loaves sound hollow when tapped Transfer to a rack to cool.

1 comment:

Emily said...

This is really, really cool, mom. Your slide shows are really great and I think they add a lot to the entries, especially for the more culinary-challenged among us. It makes me want some borgounion (however you spell it). Ryan wants me to make some mediterranean food this week but I may twist his arm and make this instead. Poor guy!