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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

beef burgundy and three root-vegetable mash-- amongst the top 10 things i've ever cooked. maybe top 5...

me: i need to come up with an angle for my beefy post.
rob: what kind of angle?
me: you know, an intro or an anecdote-- something besides 'i made this and it was good.'
rob: 'i made this and it was REALLY good?'

that's as good a place to start as any. i made this. and it was really. REALLY. good. it was so delicious and satisfying, in fact, that when rob forgot to take the leftovers for his lunch the next day, he came home to retrieve them. unprecedented! if i had nothing to do but cook and eat and get really fat, this would be my daily meal.

we are big fans of slow-braised meats of all kinds-- wild boar ragout, lamb bolognese, elk with pappardelle-- big fans. my list of "things to learn to cook" has included a rich braised meat since the fall, and i finally took the plunge last week. i didn't suspect it would be a difficult preparation, but was concerned that there may be a trick to getting really great flavors. if there is a trick, gourmet's boeuf bourguignon from march 2001 has it.

i followed the recipe almost to the letter, even the first step of boiling the bacon. i'm still not sure what this step accomplishes, but it did appear to boil out some of the fat, which is just fine with me. the boiled bacon goes into the stew as whole strips, which i found unusual, but worry not-- the strips melt away into pure flavoring during the 4 hour cook time.

recipe link again: boeuf bourguignon, gourmet march 2001

(forgive me for not typing it out? it's kinda long, and i've got to wrap this up so i can prep the pork chops and watch michael pollan on oprah... you understand, yes?)

a few notes:
  • don't skip the deglaze with brandy-- it makes the house smell of a bacon and waffle breakfast for a few minutes.
  • i didn't have celery or parsley, so simply left them out.
  • i used baby shallots instead of pearl onions and didn't bother to blanch or boil first-- just gave them 30 minutes to an hour to cook in the stew.
  • i used dried porcinis instead of fresh mushrooms, and since i didn't reconstitute them first, i ended up having to add about 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup homemade beef stock towards the end of the cooking time. watch it, and if it starts to get dry, add a little water or stock.
  • one more thing, and this may be a controversial thing to say. i may need to eat my words one day, but... i've decided the missive "don't cook with what you wouldn't drink" is horse pucky. without hesitation i poured a $7 bottle of wine that had been open since mid-december into the pot (and not open with a wine-saver top, either!), and came back to one of the best meals i've ever made. (that said, before the bottle sat open for a month, it was something i would drink! there's still plenty of stuff i wouldn't even allow into my home, for cooking or otherwise.)
super-rich beef not your thing? maybe you'll like what i served it with, a mash of 3 winter root vegetables-- potato, carrot, and nutty sunchokes.

sunchokes, also called jerusalem artichokes , are nothing like globe artichokes that top your pizza and go into cheesy spinach dip at the bar n' grill. they look like ginger root, or extraterrestrial larvae, and are the tuber of a kind of sunflower. their texture is much like a water chestnut or crisp apple, and they have a fresh, earthy, and incredibly nutty flavor. i've read several accounts of them causing intestinal distress for certain people, but so far i've not noticed any side effects, though we are eating them in small quantities, and almost always mixed with other roots.

this mash was a flavorful alternative to pure mashed potatoes, and probably a little healthier, too.

from gourmet, december 1993
(serves 2)

1 carrot, peeled
1 russet potato, peeled
1/2 lb sunchokes, scrubbed clean and peeled (peeling optional-- but if you try it, just scrape off as much as you can. no need to be thorough.)
salt and pepper

chop vegetables into uniform chunks. cover with cold water and cook 20-30 minutes over medium heat, covered, until they are all tender. drain, reserving some of the cooking liquid.

transfer to bowl and mash together, or use mixer or food processor and mix to desired smoothness. add reserved cooking water to thin, if it's too thick. season to taste with butter, salt, and pepper.

stew beef and potatoes from olsen farms
most delicious bacon ever from skagit river ranch
onions from willie green's organic farm
dried porcinis from foraged and found edibles
carrots from nash's organic produce
sunchokes from stoney plains organic farm
baby shallots from pipitone farm

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