Ridiculous, I know, but I pride myself on my ability to avoid cooking meat. While I am not exactly a vegetarian, I greatly prefer the vegetable family to the meat family; besides the ethics, mainly for its performance on the dinner plate. I can whip vegetables into a Chez Panisse-inspired taste frenzy, whereas red meat no matter how delicately prepared always seems stringy and dry. Alas my new found fascination with the godmother of television chefdom, Julia Child, is in direct conflict with my vow to avoid meat. Solution: my assistant chef and all around husband of the hour will tackle all meatious-beastious dishes. In the summer, that consists of grilling in our urban backyard, much smaller than most suburban garage footprints. Only once did we have to whisk all visitors into the house to avoid the ten-foot flames. No fire fighters were summoned, we save that for the car explosions out front.
Alas, in the dead of March we are forced to follow Julia Child down the french path for non-natives. Trying to use up the organic, free range stew meat we bought last fall from Bobolink Dairy, Beef Bourguignon (beef in red wine sauce) became the night's meal. Note to the lovely reader: my assistant chef Andy is not by any means a skilled chef. He reported this recipe translated easily to the lay man's ability and he learned a few new stylees in the process. For vegetable accompaniment I cooked the super amazing warm red cabbage salad from The Greens Cookbook by Deborah Madison, and sauteed some mushrooms in butter, with shallots, per Julia's suggestion. Naturally the deceased 6 foot 2" diva did not dine with us, but we (including 6 year old DJ Icepack) were all truly amazed at the tasty flava flav half a bottle of wine can give to meat cooked for two hours with carrots and tomatoes.
Not as fabulous as dining in Le Marais in March, but pretty fabulous for a stateside dub version. Bon Appetite!
Beef Bourguignon, serves 6-8. cooking time 2 1/2 hours
2-3 tbs cooking oil
about 4 pounds trimmed beef chuck, cut into 2" cubes
salt and freshly ground pepper
2 cups sliced onions
1 cup sliced carrots
1 bottle red wine (we used malbec, but JC suggests zinfandel or chianti)
2 cups beef stock
1 cup chopped tomatoes
1 medium herb bouquet (8 parsley sprigs, 1 large bay leaf, 1 tsp dried thyme, 4 whole cloves, and 3 cloves of smashed unpeeled garlic together in a washed cheesecloth.)
In a large fry pan, brown the chunks of meat on all sides in hot oil, season with salt and pepper, and turn them into a heavy casserole. Remove all but a little fat from the frying pan, add sliced vegetables and brown them, then add to the meat. Deglaze the pan with wine, pouring it into the casserole along with enough stock to almost cover the meat. Stir in tomatoes and add herb bouquet. Bring to a simmer, cover, and simmer slowly, either on the stove or in a preheated 325 degree oven, until the meat is tender-taste to check. (it took Andy about 2 hours of cooking till tender)
Drain through a colander set over a saucepan and return the meat to the casserole, (not wanting to toss the tasty carrots, as instructed per JC, we included them with the meat). Press juices out of residue into the cooking liquid, then degrease and boil down the liquid to 3 cups. Off heat, whisk in the beurre manie (3 tbs flour blended to a paste with 2 tbs butter), then simmer for 2 minutes as the sauce thickens lightly. Stir in sauteed mushrooms at this point, then correct seasoning and pour over meat. (may be completed a day in advance up until this point)
To serve, bring to a simmer, basting meat and vegetables with the sauce until thoroughly hot throughout.