This Christmas, being that it is our third year as parents and by now have learned how limited time is on Christmas Day; we opted for a one-pot decadent menu… Beef Bourguignon! Simply downloaded the recipe and went to work. Unlike me, I followed it word per word this time and it turned out wonderful!

Recipe
Ingredients

6 ounces bacon
1 Tbsp. olive oil or cooking oil
3 pounds lean stewing beef , cut into 2-inch cubes
1 sliced carrot
1 sliced onion
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 Tbsp. flour
3 cups full-bodied, young red wine , such as a Chianti
2 to 3 cups brown beef stock or canned beef bouillon
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 cloves mashed garlic
1/2 tsp. thyme
Crumbled bay leaf
Blanched bacon rind
18 to 24 small white onions , brown-braised in stock
1 pound quartered fresh mushrooms , sautéed in butter
Parsley sprigs

Directions
Remove rind from bacon, and cut bacon into lardons (sticks, 1/4 inch thick and 1 1/2 inches long). Simmer rind and bacon for 10 minutes in 1 1/2 quarts of water. Drain and dry.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Sauté the bacon in the oil over moderate heat for 2 to 3 minutes to brown lightly. Remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon. Set casserole aside. Reheat until fat is almost smoking before you sauté the beef.

Dry the stewing beef in paper towels; it will not brown if it is damp. Sauté it, a few pieces at a time, in the hot oil and bacon fat until nicely browned on all sides. Add it to the bacon.

In the same fat, brown the sliced vegetables. Pour out the sautéing fat.

Return the beef and bacon to the casserole and toss with the salt and pepper. Then sprinkle on the flour and toss again to coat the beef lightly with the flour. Set casserole uncovered in middle position of preheated oven for 4 minutes. Toss the meat and return to oven for 4 minutes more. (This browns the flour and covers the meat with a light crust.) Remove casserole, and turn oven down to 325 degrees.

Stir in the wine, and enough stock or bouillon so that the meat is barely covered. Add the tomato paste, garlic, herbs, and bacon rind. Bring to simmer on top of the stove. Then cover the casserole and set in lower third of preheated oven. Regulate heat so liquid simmers
very slowly for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.

While the beef is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms. Set them aside until needed.

When the melt is tender, pour the contents of the casserole into a sieve set over a saucepan. Wash out the casserole and return the beef and bacon to it. Distribute the cooked onions and mushrooms over the meat.

Skim fat off the sauce. Simmer sauce for a minute or two, skimming off additional fat as it rises. You should have about 2 1/2 cups of sauce thick enough to coat a spoon lightly. If too thin, boil it down rapidly. If too thick, mix in a few tablespoons of stock or canned bouillon. Taste carefully for seasoning. Pour the sauce over the meat and vegetables.

Source: http://www.oprah.com/food/Boeuf-Bourguignon

… Joyeux Noël to all of you!

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We went out to brunch to celebrate me turning a year older. While I am always in the prowl for something new, the first meal of the day is one I don’t like to gamble with, the food has to be great and the coffee strong and bold.

On any given Sunday, you will find us at Cafe Patachou, or its sister restaurant, Petit Chou. On this given Sunday, this is exactly where we headed…. however this was the Sunday when I wandered out of “my usual” and met my new lady-friend – Croque Madame.

Croque Madame at Petit Chou

Croque Madame at Petit Chou

I am close to finishing Julia Child’s, My Life In France. With every word, I have sensed being right there with Julia. Having had limited exposure to French food has kept me from being able to make the connection to the food she so pasionately writes about; that was until my encounter with the Croque Madame.

A Croque Monsieur is a traditional ham and cheese sandwich, adorned with a creamy bechamel sauce. Top that with a fried egg, and you have a Croque Madame. One of the things I loved the most about this sandwich, was the light, yet rich in flavor French style bread. The proportions of bread to ham and cheese, in this case gruyere, we just perfect. The bechamel was creamy and provided the perfect amount of moisture required by a sandwich designed to eat with a fork and a knife.

And what else did I learn while at Petit Chou? That its Clay Terrace location will start serving dinner on April 8th. Even better, a few days ago I got the chance to sit down with Martha Hoover, owner of Cafe Patachou and get some great insights into her food philosophy and even got a sneak preview into the dinner menu. Check back next Sunday for the full scoop on that, and some mouth watering photographs!

p.s. in case you wonder what “my usual” is – Omelet of the Day, egg whites only w/ toast. Yes, I couldn’t have deviated more in the calorie spectrum. But it was soooo worth it!