Just a little yucky out yesterday. Cold and damp with a lazy (can't be bothered to go around so it blows right through you) north wind. The cattle were happy and there wasn't a lot of outside work to be done, so I worked on a slate of (shudder) business stuff, mostly (gag) taxes.
Since it was cold and yucky out and since I had guest coming for dinner, it was a perfect day to get a steaming cauldron of rib-sticking goodness on. I thought about chili but one of my supper guests is a bit on the delicate side, so I decided on Beef Bourguignon.
Sounds fancy, sounds French, sounds like years of professional training and slaving away over a hot stove all day.
Yes, yes, no, heh.
Which is a good thing because while I really enjoy cooking I don't enjoy it that much. And just because I enjoy it doesn't mean I'm good at it.
I wanted to insert the coffee-in-the-eggs scene from Lonesome Dove here. Couldn't pull it off. Sigh.
Anyway, the classic French techniques are beyond me, or at least I assume they are. Still, how hard can it be? At the end of the day Beef Bourguignon is plain ol' beef stew with a splash of red wine. It's not that hard.
1.5 lbs stew meat, 3/4 inch cube. I use sirloin.
4 slices bacon, 3/4 inch dice
1 cup shredded carrot
3 cloves garlic, chopped medium-fine
1 medium yellow onion, chopped fine
1 lb. sliced mushrooms
1 tbsp. tomato paste
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp. thyme leaves
3 small bay leaves
2 cups beef stock
1 cup dry red wine
I like to do the cubing, dicing, and chopping up front, and to measure ingredients into separate containers before doing any actual cooking. The French call this mise en place, according to that Anthony Bourdain guy, so I call it mise en place, too. I think it's strange that mice apparently make up a substantial part of the French diet, but I'm not going to judge.
So. Meat. Well marbled sirloin and thick-sliced applewood bacon. No rodentia here.
Garlic. Always from the bulb, never from the bottle or jar. Except when it's more convenient. Both are good, but using fresh whole cloves is more Frenchified, and that's rather the point if you're making Bourguignon rather than stew.
And the mise.
First brown the beef in batches.
Set the browned beef aside and introduce Le cochon fume sainte to the pot.
Saute the bacon until it begins to brown, then add the carrots, onion, garlic, thyme and bay leaf. I actually mince the onion in a food processor. This is because one of my guests was apparently traumatized by an onion in a past life. Cooking reduces the minced onion to a state where it's not detectable by mouth feel, yet leaves all the yummy flavor.
While the vegetables saute, mix tomato paste, broth, and wine in a medium bowl, then whisk in a quarter cup flour. This frothy, purplish, mess is the secret to the rich, thick sauce of Bourguignon.
A word on wine. The experts say you should use drinking wine rather than cooking wine. They also say that inexpensive wine is fine for cooking. I wouldn't use Ripple, but this $8 Beringer Cabernet Sauvignon is fine.
I'm actually more from the Fred Sanford school when it comes to wine...
And as long as the wine's out, might as well crack a cold frosty one...
If I was cooking for myself, this is the point I'd add the Franks. But I'm not, so I won't.
Now, beef in the crock pot, followed by mushrooms. The French do it in the oven, but I like the ease of the crock pot.
Then add the purple froth and give it a stir. Add a bit of broth and another splash of wine if the liquid level is too low. This is a trial and error thing, learning how to get the sauce just right.
Seal the crock pot with foil. This keeps a bit of pressure in the pot which speeds cooking and enhances flavor infusion. That's my theory anyway.
One hour on high, followed by 3-4 hours on low. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.
I'm clearly not a "food designer."