Thursday, November 5, 2009

Maybe I'll Cook French for Awhile!

I like the food section in the daily newspaper. In our paper, the Appeal-Democrat, Wednesday’s food section has a wine column, a *Cooking With Your Neighbors* feature, and various recipes. I like these recipes because of their spontaneous nature. They may be about anything. One time I learned from a walnut grower’s wife that you can leach the bitterness out of shelled walnuts by blanching and then drying them. She also went on to give a recipe for gluten-free cookies, using ground walnut meats.

The other day I clipped a recipe for Beef Bourguignon. I’ve made this in the distant past, but this recipe looked more hearty, more rooted in France. I stuck the clipping (actually it was not a clipping, it was a tearing, since I never take the time to get scissors, I just rip it) to the refrigerator until I could get the ingredients and make the time. Yesterday, I made the dish.

It was supposed to bake in the oven for 2 hours, and I was late getting started, so I’ll admit that I got a little anxious and hurried at times. That usually means an incredibly messy aftermath, but hopefully, no major mistakes. Cooking the bacon to get the grease and flavor is always the aromatically enjoyable part. To enjoy it even more, I read down the ingredient list. One half bottle of full-bodied red wine. Good! One for me, one for you! I poured a glass of my favorite cheap Cab, Foxhorn, and rendered a nice pan of grease.

While browning the pieces of beef, I prepared the carrots and onions. Then came a major speed bump. One head of garlic. One HEAD of garlic? As in, all the cloves within the clump? Yes. And it was a big head, all its aromatic halitosis bundled up in little paper-covered ovals. I began stripping the papers. It called for dicing up the stinking rose, but I preferred to not be aware of the actual moment I was eating a piece, so I used my wonderful garlic press. One after another, I squished those suckers in the pan until I finally lost my nerve and stopped about 4 cloves shy of the whole thing. Mmmm! Ack Ack! The kitchen was definitely smelling French!

Next step, pour in the half bottle of wine. Good, there was still a half bottle left! After I tipped it in, the contents of the pan were a terrible sight. Purple, with bits of brown and orange and white. And it smelled like a nasty Halloween punch. Luckily, I am experienced enough to know that it would all change by the time it was done.

I have a friend who had heard that red wine was good in beef stew. He told me that he had poured some in a stew once, but was so horrified by the look, smell and taste that he poured all the broth off and started again.

I accidentally added the mushrooms and then had to fish them out because they weren’t to be added until the dish was done, and first sautéed by themselves in butter. Now I had to add Herbs de Provence. I couldn’t find the blend at my grocery and had figured I’d look up what they were in my cookbook at home. No luck! Next try, The Internet: dial-up, loading, loading, error, re-loading, not what I wanted, loading, (the high point of my anxiety to get this in the oven!) until finally it compared the French herb blend to Italian Seasoning. Good enough for me! The seasonings: Herbs, fresh ground pepper, and kosher salt to taste. I took a guess with the herbs and pepper and figured I’d salt at the end.
For 2 hours the house was filled with the heady aromas of cooking garlic, red wine and onions (OK, so it reeked). I just figured that if we were all going to eat it, we wouldn’t notice the breath. And let tomorrow take care of itself.

I served it over egg noodles. The dish was beautiful, a lovely roasted brown with a bubbling sauce. The flavor was rich and meaty, dark, but with delicate notes. The flavor of the wine had held up, but had been transformed into a food taste instead of a beverage.

Whenever I complain about the taste of a food or drink, it is usually due to a mono-taste. From the lips down to the stomach, the flavor remains the same. I like to eat and drink complex items, I want to experience a multitude of changing flavors in one beer, wine or food. This Beef Bourguignon fulfilled that. I had to take my time, savoring each small bite. I had to get a little more, *for my mouth.* But best of all, my husband told me to put it in my book because it was a *keeper.*

½ pound bacon
2 pounds beef, in 1 inch cubes
½ bottle full bodied red wine
1 cup tomato sauce
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 pound carrots, sliced thin
1 head garlic, minced
Herbs de Provence, black pepper, kosher salt, to taste
½ pound sliced mushrooms
4 ounces butter

Fry up bacon, remove bacon, crumble and set aside. Brown beef pieces in bacon grease. Pour in wine and tomato sauce. Add onion, garlic, carrots, crumbled bacon and seasonings. Cover and bake 350 degrees for 2 hours. Sautee mushrooms in butter; stir into the casserole. Serve over egg noodles or mashed potatoes.


  1. I thought you were cooking "boring" so that certain people in the household would lose weight?????

    I notice you have figured out how to hyperlink and are now using copious amounts of them... :)

  2. Wow Mumsy. A-mazing. Everytime I think of "do it yourself nuts", I rememeber those Hwy 70...that we then spend all that time shelling, only upon tasting to discover they were the poisenous kind lol.

    One for you, one for me heehee...I love the way you cook. And yes, tomorrow *always* takes care of itself when cooking something beautiful :D I shall have to try this sounds devine!! (oh, virus program installed, no problems :)

  3. How did you know I was going to talk about those nuts?

  4. I'm such a weakling when it comes to good food! Just before I go shopping, I swear that we'll have beans and rice this week, and then I throw all those other things in the cart.