It’s a heartbreakingly gorgeous day here in Paris, mes amis, as evidenced by the photo above, which I snapped just this very morning.
Look at that sky! The sun! And, of course, I still pinch myself every time I see that steel tower…
I should be outside right now, soaking up some late afternoon sunshine. Instead, guess where I am?
Trapped in our apartment, waiting for the electrician.
The lights in our kitchen suddenly stopped working this morning and if we’re going to eat dinner at home tonight, I’d prefer not to cook it in the dark. So, I’m here waiting — and if things continue in a typically French fashion, I’ll be here waiting all afternoon.
Which got me thinking about cooking. Quite often, I find myself trapped in the house, not by a repairman or FedEx, but by food. The cake that’s baking. The stew that’s simmering. But at least for the stew, I have found a solution. If you break up the preparation over a few days, marinating and refrigerating at every step, you will make the task easier for yourself, and create a more delicious stew.
Voila, I present the recipe for my four-day boeuf bourguignon, which our friend Alain declared was “as good as if a French person had made it!” (This is the highest praise, I assure you.)
Ingredients: 4 lbs beef (preferably the collier, or neck meat)
Trim the meat of all fat and gristle, removing as much silver skin as possible. I generally find this task exhausting and enough for one day. Throw the meat into a giant ziploc bag and refrigerate until the next day.
1/4 lb lardons or bacon, chopped into small bits
Vegetable oil (I use canola)
Salt and pepper
Trimmed beef from yesterday
2 onions, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
3 bay leaves
5-6 sprigs of parsley
1 head garlic, separated, cloves crushed, but not peeled
1 tomato, chopped
1 bottle red wine
1-2 cups stock
In a large frying pan, heat a tablespoon or so of oil, and then add the lardons; fry until golden. With tongs or a slotted spoon, remove the bacon chunks to a large, deep casserole (I use my beloved le Creuset). Pat the chunks of beef dry with paper towels, sprinkle them lightly with salt and pepper. Add them to the frying pan in an even layer; do not overcrowd the pan. When the beef chunks are nicely browned, remove them one by one to the casserole, continue with the rest of the beef.
When all the meat is browned, deglaze the frying pan with a 1/2 cup or so of red wine, and maybe a dash of water, if necessary. Add this liquid to the casserole along with the onion, carrot, bay leaves, parsley, garlic, tomato, and the remainder of the bottle of wine. Add stock to cover the meat by 2 inches. Cover, refrigerate and set aside. The stove and surrounding areas will be an unholy mess from the spattering of the beef. After cleaning up, you will want to run from the kitchen.
Ingredients: Marinated stew
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bring the giant casserole, filled with marinated stew, to a boil on the stove. Set into the oven. Cook, covered, for 1 1/2 (possibly more) hours, checking every 30 minutes or so to make sure the liquid is simmering-bubbling. Test the meat to make sure it is tender — a long period of slow cooking in the oven will ensure that the meat turns fork tender.
When the meat is done, remove it to a giant tupperware container. Fish out the vegetables; press the juices out of them, using a strainer, and add to rest of cooking liquid. Discard the vegetables. Pour the cooking liquid through a strainer to remove all solids and add it to the giant tupperware. Tired, yet? This is the stopping point for today.
Cooked stew from yesterday
1 lb mushrooms, washed, de-stemmed, and cut into halves or quarters (if big)
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons butter
Salt and pepper
Place the mushrooms in a small saucepan. Add a small dash of olive oil, about a 1/2 cup of cooking liquid, salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Cover, and cook over medium-low heat until the mushrooms are fully cooked.
Meanwhile, place the cooked stew in a clean casserole and bring to a simmer. Add the mushrooms and their liquid, when done.
To thicken the stew, combine the flour and softened butter into a paste that is called beurre manié. Add 1 cup or so of heated cooking liquid, and then stir the mixture into the simmering stew. Stir for a few minutes, until lightly thickened. Mix up more beurre manié if a thicker consistency is desired. Taste, adding salt and pepper. Serve immediately, or cover, cool, and reheat as desired.
UPDATE ON THE ELECTRICIAN: He came, he delivered bad news, he left. We will not have lights in kitchen tonight, indeed, we will not have lights indefinitely. How this will affect dinner tonight, I don’t know…