Thursday, February 28, 2013

Ina’s Beef Bourguignon and a Man in the Kitchen

Hello to all and I’m so glad to be back. You have no idea how much your get well wishes and lovely comments have meant to me these past several weeks. I’ve missed blogland immensely, especially reading your blogs and visiting with you. My life has been lonely and boring without you. I’m glad to report that my neck pain has improved greatly due to the treatment and physical therapy and isn’t nearly as painful as it was. Gone - no, but much better. However, my back pain continues to be a constant problem that just will not go away. I have to learn to adjust to limitations and some days are better than others. As one of my favorite writers, David Baldacci, said in his book The Camel Club, “Old age always sneaks up on one, but once it’s fully present, the effects are hardly subtle.” 

My dear husband Meakin has been doing more of the cooking lately with me doing the menu planning, prep in the kitchen, and of course my homemade vinaigrettes and salads. Having a good life partner has been the best thing that’s ever happened to me. “We do it together” is our motto. Meakin is a real jewel and I don’t know what I would do without him. And he’s a great cook and taught me a lot of what I know. I will continue to do my weekly postings with Meakin’s help in the kitchen as well as his being MCK’s photographer extraordinaire, so plan on seeing more of the “we” word from now on.

Beef Bourguignon is one of our favorite comfort dishes. I decided to try Ina’s recipe because, first of all you can count on her recipes to work because she does an outstanding job of testing, and second, she served her bourguignon on thick slices of toasted country bread or sourdough and I thought that sounded rustic and appealing.

With regard to testing recipes, Ina’s instructions do a great job of guiding you through the cooking process and help you to avoid glitches that other recipes tend to overlook. Case in point - she reminds you to dry the beef before you sauté it. This is a very important step to keep the meat from splattering when you brown it and often is overlooked by other recipe developers. If you’ve ever been splattered from oil in the pan when you added damp meat, you know exactly what I’m talking about. The other reason to dry the meat, and the most important one, is that if you don’t dry it well, it won’t brown properly and ends up stewing.

We thought serving the bourguignon over toasted country bread was a big success and would definitely do it again. The only thing I will add to that is that it made the dish slightly heavier compared to serving it over the traditional noodles or potatoes. It’s nice to know there is another alternative and one we’ll remember.

A caution regarding the ½ cup of Cognac that is called for in the recipe – that is an awfully lot of Cognac to flame, especially if you’re shy about flambéing (that would be me). Meakin even commented it seemed a bit too much and he's very comfortable flambéing dishes. You’ll see below that I’ve changed it to ¼ cup. (See discussion about why to flambé in the comments section.) You can also lighten up on the amount of bacon if you wish and avoid heavily smoked bacon or it will dominate the dish. Don’t leave out the fresh parsley in the end. Fresh herbs such as parsley give a braise dish a nice blast of freshness in the end. Give this recipe a try – it’s a winner.

Ina’s Beef Bourguignon
Adapted from The Barefoot Contessa via The Food Channel – serves 6
Printable Recipe

1 tablespoon olive oil
¼ pound apple wood smoked bacon, diced
2 1/2 pounds bottom round beef, trimmed of excess fat & cut into 1-inch cubes
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
1 pound carrots, peeled, then sliced diagonally into 1-inch chunks
2 yellow onions, peeled and sliced
2 teaspoons chopped garlic (2 cloves)
1/4 cup Cognac or brandy
1 (750 ml.) bottle good dry red wine such as Cote du Rhone or Pinot Noir
2 cups fat free, low sodium beef broth
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves or 1/2 teaspoon dried
4 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature, divided
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 pound frozen whole onions (or fresh small onions, parboiled & browned)
1 pound fresh mushrooms, stems discarded, caps thickly sliced
Country bread or sour dough, toasted or grilled and rubbed with garlic clove
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F. Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven. Add the bacon and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the bacon is lightly browned. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon to a large plate lined with paper towels.

Dry the beef cubes well with paper towels, then sprinkle them with salt and pepper. In batches in single layers, sear the beef in the hot oil for 3 to 5 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Remove the seared cubes to the plate with the bacon and continue searing until all the beef is browned. Set aside. Toss the carrots and the sliced onions in the fat in the pan, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Remove the pan from the heat and add the ¼ cup of cognac. Stand back and ignite with a match to burn off the alcohol. (You can add up to ½ cup of cognac if you wish).

Put the meat and bacon back into the pot with the juices. Add the bottle of red wine plus enough beef broth to almost cover the meat. Add the tomato paste and thyme. Bring to a simmer, cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and place it in the oven for about 1 1/4 hours or until the meat and vegetables are very tender when pierced with a fork.

Time out for a cook’s note: If you wish to prepare this dish in advance, at this point when it cools you can cover it and keep it covered for several days in the refrigerator. We like to skim off the excess fat from the top with a spoon when it’s removed from the refrigerator and still cold. Braises served the next day are always better for maximum flavor.

Combine 2 tablespoons of butter and the flour with a fork and stir into the stew. Add the small whole frozen onions or if you are using fresh onions, parboil in lightly salted water for 30 seconds, drain and brown in a little oil oil, the add a little salt and add to the stew. Sauté the mushrooms in 2 tablespoons of butter for 10 minutes until lightly browned, lightly sprinkle with salt and pepper and then add to the stew. Bring the stew to a boil on top of the stove, then lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Season to taste.

To serve, toast the bread in the toaster or oven. Rub each slice on one side with a cut clove of garlic. For each serving, spoon some stew over a slice of the toasted bread and sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley.

Cook's notes: The French would not use overly smoked bacon in their Bourguignon. Therefore I suggest that you use a lightly apple wood smoked bacon and stay away from the heavily smoked bacons such as Nueske’s and Benton’s. Both brands are excellent smoked bacons, but save them for a BLT or breakfast. You don’t want your Bourguignon to taste too smoky.

I will be sharing this with Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farms, Miz Helen’s Country Kitchen Full Plate Thursday, Foodie Friday at Simple Recipes, Foodtastic Friday at Not Your Ordinary Recipes, Weekend Kitchen Creations, Seasonal Sunday at the Tablescaper, The Clever Chicken Chick, and On the Menu Monday at Stone Gable.

Have a great weekend everyone. It’s great to be back.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Checking In

Hi everyone. I’m just checking in, midway through my therapy, to say hello and also to say how much I miss visiting with you and reading your blogs. On my last post I touched on that I’m suffering from neck pain right now that stems from my chronic back pain and my time allotted at the computer has been drastically reduced. I’m seeing a physical therapist who has put me on a restricted schedule of what I can and cannot do right now. A great big thanks to those of you who have stayed in touch and asked about my progress. Right now I’m about half way through and my therapist feels that I am progressing nicely. The best news is that I’m feeling much better. So my life should be back to normal in a couple of weeks.

Part of my prescription is to take it easy and what better place to take at easy than at the beach. Last week Meakin took me to the Yucatan Beach Stand for lunch where we devoured a couple of their spicy Yucatan Sunfish fish tacos, filled with grilled fish, crunchy cabbage, tomatoes, and cilantro with a dash of ranch dressing - a house specialty. Then we enjoyed a leisurely stroll along Fort Myers Beach.

Photo source

Life is good - we are enjoying retirement and a mild winter. The only kind of white stuff I ever want to see in the winter is powdery white beach sand. Have a great week everyone and I hope to be back to blogging in a couple of weeks.