Brrrr. With all apologies to our northern neighbors for whining…us Floridians are really sissies when it comes to cold weather, and these last few weeks have been really cold. While we haven’t had snow (although our brethren in the panhandle have) our tropical plants are wilted and looking quite pathetic, our lips and cheeks are chapped, and almost nobody I know here has enough winter clothes—so we’re all wearing the same sweatshirts, sweaters and pants over and over and over again. Like I said brrrr.
The good news is that this weather has given us an unprecedented opportunity to cook our favorite winter comfort foods—and eat them in front of a warming fire. And in my family, Beef Bourguignon is at the top of the list of comfort foods. Who doesn’t like a long-simmering rich, deeply flavored stew studded with beef that is dark brown on the outside and tender to the fork, our favorite sturdy winter vegetable trilogy of onions, carrots and mushrooms with a sauce that is happy to be spooned next to mashed potatoes, over wide egg noodles, or wiped clean with a crusty sourdough or other fresh baked bread. Add a salad and a glass of red wine or cider, and feel the warmth of family contentment. This recipe makes enough to feed a party—or for a family of four to enjoy the leftovers through the week.
(Adapted from The New Basics Recipe by Julee Rosso & Sheila Lukins)
Serves 8 to 10 generously
Preparation time: 1 hour
Cook time: 2 hours
Total time: 3 hours
½ pound bacon, diced
3 pounds beef chuck, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 large onion, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups of a hearty red wine (burgundy if you have it)
3 cups beef stock
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon rosemary (fresh or dried is fine)
4 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 bag of frozen white pearl onions
8 ounces fresh mushrooms (any kind you like, but wild is nicest)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon red currant jelly
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a Dutch oven or ovenproof casserole, sauté the bacon until crisp. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and set aside. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon drippings. Brown the beef in the bacon fat in batches so as not to overcrowd the beef. When all are brown, return the beef to the pot and add the onion. Sprinkle the beef and onion mixture with salt, pepper and the flour. Stir to combine well and cook, continuing to stir for 3 minutes (the idea here is to make sure that the flour has cooked enough to lose its “flour” taste—it should brown a bit with the onions and the beef). Add the wine, the beef stock, the tomato paste, the rosemary and the reserved bacon. Stir to deglaze the pot and bring the mixture to the boil. Cover and place in the oven to cook for two hours or until the meat is very tender.
While the beef is cooking, prepare the vegetables. Drain the pearl onions in a colander (they can be thawing while they’re draining). Bring water to the boil in a small saucepan. Add the cut carrots and parboil for about 7 minutes until crisp tender. Add them to the colander with the onions and drain. Wipe the mushrooms clean, remove their stems and cut the caps into quarters. In a small sauté pan, melt the butter and then sauté the mushrooms until they have released all of their juices and are slightly browned. Set aside.
When the meat has cooked for 1 ½ hours, add the onion, carrots, mushrooms and jelly to the pot. Return to the oven and continue to cook for another 30 to 40 minutes to heat the vegetables through. Serve immediately or cool and store in the refrigerator. This stew improves with age.