About Me

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I started cooking as a kid and have found it to be a passion for me throughout my life. I've worked in a cooking specialty store, ran a catering company and most importantly, fed my family and expressed my love for them through food.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Beef Bourguignon - a saga in beef

I feel like I have a lot in common with Julia Child.  She was 6 feet 2 inches tall.  I'm 6 feet 3 inches tall.  She loved to cook and share.  I love to cook and share.  Julia was quirky, warm, extremely talented and worldly and had an infectious laugh.  I'm 6 feet 3 inches tall.

Regardless, I have always wanted to tackle her Beef Bourguignon.  And I say tackle in almost a literal way.  This recipe (below) may seem simple.  It is not.  This is not for the faint of heart as it has a lot of steps.  There are 2 additional recipes that go into this recipe (braised onions and sauteed mushrooms).  When you start out on this journey, know that the end point will be worth it.    Please recall this as you sweat and juggle and re-read the recipe and sweat some more. 

First, make a commitment that you will follow the recipe.  Every single step.  They matter, really they do.  You will need to boil bacon (yes, you read that right) before frying it.  You will coat the browned meat in flour and stick the pan in the oven, take it out, stir it, return it, lower the heat, blah blah blah.  You will be braising 25 small white onions that need to be carefully peeled first.  You will dirty about 4 pans and about 5 bowls, a strainer, a colander, tongs, 2-3 wooden spoons and endless tasting spoons and just about the time you think to yourself, "This is nuts!  Why on earth am I doing all of this for stew???" You will start to smell it.  The aroma is amazing.   It transports you somehow to some old world inn in which large steins of ale are clanked together with gusto and beef bourguignon is served in earthen bowls and the men who consume such fare end the meal by leaning back and unbuttoning their pants in subtle appreciation for such splendid food. 

With all of that said, the end product may move you to tears. It is seriously that good.  The broth is rich and full and yet not heavy or overpowering.  The beef is fork tender but not mushy and the onions and mushrooms are like little jewels, nestled into the meat.  I served it over buttered noodles with a crusty bread for sopping up sauce. 

I made this in the Le Creuset dutch oven my amazing mother in law Agnes gave me.  I love this piece of cookware and it makes a huge difference when cooking.   And I love Agnes for sharing a love for good cooking and eating! 

And so, if you're into 30 minute meals and find anything else a silly waste of time, keep on a walkin' friend.  This recipe ain't for you.  But if the idea of crafting a meal sparks something in you, please give it a try.  The resulting meal will be among your favorites.

Happy Eating

Julia Child's Beef Bourguignon

One 6-ounce piece of chunk bacon

3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

3 pounds lean beef, cut into 2-inch cubes  - best from a roast

1 large carrot, sliced

1 medium onion, sliced

Salt and pepper

2 tablespoons flour

3 cups red wine, young and full-bodied (like Beaujolais, Cotes du Rhone or Burgundy)

2 1/2 to 3 1/2 cups brown beef stock

1 tablespoon tomato paste

2 cloves mashed garlic

1/2 teaspoon thyme

A crumbled bay leaf

18 to 24 white onions, small

3 1/2 tablespoons butter

Herb bouquet (4 parsley sprigs, one-half bay leaf, one-quarter teaspoon thyme, tied in cheesecloth)

1 pound mushrooms, fresh and quartered

Cooking Directions
Remove bacon rind and cut into lardons (sticks 1/4-inch thick and 1 1/2 inches long). Simmer rind and lardons for 10 minutes in 1 1/2 quarts water. Drain and dry.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Sauté lardons in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a flameproof casserole over moderate heat for 2 to 3 minutes to brown lightly. Remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon.
Dry beef in paper towels; it will not brown if it is damp. Heat fat in casserole until almost smoking. Add beef, a few pieces at a time, and sauté until nicely browned on all sides. Add it to the lardons.
In the same fat, brown the sliced vegetables. Pour out the excess fat.
Return the beef and bacon to the casserole and toss with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
Then sprinkle on the flour and toss again to coat the beef lightly. Set casserole uncovered in middle position of preheated oven for 4 minutes.
Toss the meat again and return to oven for 4 minutes (this browns the flour and coves the meat with a light crust).
Remove casserole and turn oven down to 325 degrees.
Stir in wine and 2 to 3 cups stock, just enough so that the meat is barely covered.
Add the tomato paste, garlic, herbs and bacon rind. Bring to a simmer on top of the stove.
Cover casserole and set in lower third of oven. Regulate heat so that liquid simmers very slowly for 3 to 4 hours. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.
While the beef is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms.
Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons butter with one and one-half tablespoons of the oil until bubbling in a skillet.
Add onions and sauté over moderate heat for about 10 minutes, rolling them so they will brown as evenly as possible. Be careful not to break their skins. You cannot expect them to brown uniformly.
Add 1/2 cup of the stock, salt and pepper to taste and the herb bouquet.
Cover and simmer slowly for 40 to 50 minutes until the onions are perfectly tender but hold their shape, and the liquid has evaporated. Remove herb bouquet and set onions aside.
Wipe out skillet and heat remaining oil and butter over high heat. As soon as you see butter has begun to subside, indicating it is hot enough, add mushrooms.
Toss and shake pan for 4 to 5 minutes. As soon as they have begun to brown lightly, remove from heat.
When the meat is tender, pour the contents of the casserole into a sieve set over a saucepan.
Wash out the casserole and return the beef and lardons to it. Distribute the cooked onions and mushrooms on top.
Skim fat off sauce in saucepan. Simmer sauce for a minute or 2, 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 stock. Taste carefully for seasoning.
Pour sauce over meat and vegetables. Cover and simmer 2 to 3 minutes, basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce several times.

***You can stop here...let it cool and put it in the fridge to serve up to 24 hours later.  It just gets better.  Then to serve just heat gently on medium heat.

Serve in casserole, or arrange stew on a platter surrounded with potatoes, noodles or rice, and decorated with parsley.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Legends in Lincoln - that's NOT good eating

I don't usually do this but I had one of the worst dining experiences of my entire life on Saturday. And I won't be back but what I would also like to do is to keep others from having a similar experience.

After a fun day at the horse show, Craig, Tessa and I stopped by Legends sports bar in Lincoln (84th and Holdredge) for lunch.  We've been there many times before and for sports bars, it wasn't bad.  Lots of TVs for the hubby to catch up on basketball..TVs in the booths to keep a 5 year old occupied and decent enough burgers,  all in a comfortable environment.

What we experienced this time was wildly different.  First, we tried 4 different booths before giving up on a working TV in the booth.  All were not working.  There were a few TVs on overhead but the four large screens were blank.  The waitress informed us that they were "busted".  The sports experience was lost.  The hope of entertainment for our daughter, dashed.  No colors and placements, no TV and REALLY slow service.  We watched wait staff just going from table to table trying to figure out where food went.  The table next to us had food for their 6 guests come out seperately and then they sat there for about 5 minutes without silverware or napkins.  We had to go ask where our order was at.  We didn't get silverware either and when we asked, it took a while.  The fries were soggy, the portions were meager, and generally, the food was not good.  My burger was tasteless.  My daughter got 2 chicken strips in an order which seemed lame.  We watched people sit down, wait 10 minutes without anyone bringning a menu, water, nothin.  One table turned several times...people just got up and left. 

The sports memorbilia on the walls had been removed and the walls were half painted.  The bathroom was out of paper towels.  There were platforms where there perviously were booths...now tables and chairs...don't sit there...you are dangerously close to having your chair fall off the platform.  Not that anyone would care.

Let me say this...our waitress tried but frankly, she didn't and couldn't get it done in that environment. 

A large group of Boys Basketball fans from Blair came in and I was just hoping that this didn't sour their opinion of Lincoln.

We heard from a "regular" that they are trying to turn it into more of a restaurant. Great...I just don't want to be the "test subject" patron while they figure that out.

Food - D
Atmosphere - F
Service - D
overall experience - just on principle - FFFFFFF

Be warned.  DO NOT GO TO LEGENDS. There is my public service announcement for the day!!