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Monday, April 6, 2015

Traditional Boeuf Bourguignon

I've been eating Boeuf Bourguignon for as long as I can remember.  My mother would make it as well as Coq au Vin (which is basically the same recipe, just swap the meat) as often as I wanted, even if I requested it all the time.  I never really thought of it as a French recipe growing up.  It was just normal food for me that I would make regularly myself in college and happily impress my guests (or passers by.. I didn't really have any criteria for having people eat at my table back then.)  Since I've been living in France, I haven't made it or even eaten it once.  I don't do i on purpose.  It's just that I feel I can have it whenever I want, so I don't go out of my way to make it.. and I end up never making it.
I also have a thing about serving French food to French guests in France.
The fact that it's been so long since I've made it makes me even forget that I have it in my repertoire.
A few weeks ago, I bought some wine that I didn't particularly like and was about to throw it away.  It makes me cringe to throw food away, especially if there's no real problem with it.  While trying to figure out who I could give it to instead of throwing it away, the Boeuf Bourguignon recipe came back to me... which made me wonder why I've been waiting so long to do this!
This dish is comforting to me in a reminiscent way.  The fact that I got the taste exactly how I was imagining it is even more of a treat.
The use of wine in this dish tenderizes the beef as it cooks, just as vinegar would, but without the crazy sour taste.  As it cooks, the alcohol evaporates so it is perfectly safe for children as well.  I should know, I've been eating it my entire life and I'm relatively sane as an adult.
So here, for once, I present a typically French dish (made famous by the American Julia Child).  I'm not cooking for guests, but it's probably one of the rare French dishes I wouldn't mind serving.
Serves 6-8
900g (2 lbs) stew beef, cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
350g (12.3oz) cured or smoked pork belly, rind removed and sliced into lardons (sub bacon)
1 Tbsp olive oil (if needed)
2 medium onions, sliced into moons
2 tsp dried thyme
1 1/2 Tbsp flour
1 Tbsp cracked black pepper
few pinches sea salt
3 cloves garlic, chopped
250g (8.8oz) mushrooms, washed and chopped coarsley
5 small or 2 large carrots, peeled and chopped coarsley
2 bay leaves
2 cups beef broth
1 bottle red wine (I used Corbières, but you should use Burgundy)
1 Tbsp tomato paste
2 handfuls flat leaf parsley, chopped
1.  In a wok or heavy based pan, render your sliced lardons.  If you bought good quality, there shouldn't be much fat.  You want to get them nice and crispy.  Set aside and keep 1 Tbsp of the renderings in the wok.  If nothing rendered, add the olive oil.
2.  Add the onions and let them sweat, then add the beef, salt, and thyme.  You want each piece to color on all sides.  This can take about 10 minutes.
3.  When the beef is colored, add the lardons back in along with the flour.  Stir well to coat, then remove from heat.
4.  Transfer all but 1 of the handfuls of parsley into a slow cooker.  The liquid should be almost level.  This is the important part.  It must be simmered for a long period of time.  Some people do it stove-top, which takes about 2 1/2 to 3 hours.  Some people put it in the oven on low temp, and others go the quick route and do it in a pressure cooker, under pressure for about 30 minutes.  I like the slow cooker route because you don't have to watch it like a hawk and you can go about your day, leaving the house if you need to without worrying.  Plus, the flavors are better when it simmers for a long time, even if a pressure cooker is quite handy.
Cook on low for at least 7 hours.
Serve garnished with the freshly chopped parsley over either pasta noodles, rice, or potatoes... and of course, with a glass of red.  I went the noodle route this time.
The broth is amazing in this.  You can get fancy and reduce some of the broth down to a thick sauce, but that's just not the way I'm used to eating it.

Don't worry, I'll be going back to spicy vegetarian very soon.. as soon as I finish all these lip smacking leftovers..

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