Laura Calder’s Beef Bourguignon

At lunch a few weeks ago, my friend Amy mentioned that she really enjoys Laura Calder’s Cooking Channel show, French Food at Home. Never heard of it, I said.

For a person who makes her living food blogging (ha! yes, that was a joke), it is stunning how little I know. Honest to God, I had no idea such awesomeness existed. But when Amy appealed to my narcissistic tendencies and told me that Laura Calder reminded her a little bit of me, I ran right home to DVR the show toute de suite!

As one of my best friends, Amy clearly sees me through very kind and loving eyes, for I am nowhere near as attractive and competent as Laura Calder. However, I did recognize that we share a certain dorky enthusiasm, passion, sincerity, and slightly know-it-all demeanor which I’d like to believe inspires more confidence than irritation. Needless to say, I think she’s fabulous!

A couple years ago I made Julia Child’s Boeuf Bourguignon, and it was every bit as complex and wonderful as all the hype. However, it is a heck of a lot of work. Don’t plan to do anything else besides eat and do dishes the day you try to make it Julia’s way. I encourage everyone to try it at least once for the experience, but I was personally in no hurry to spend hours in the kitchen making it again despite numerous requests from Ed. When I saw Laura’s version of Beef Bourguignon, I was intrigued. It seemed so…relatively simple!

Verdict? A very worthy Beef Bourguignon. All of the flavor, less than half of the work. I can’t imagine making this any other way now. Sorry, Julia, I still love you!

Laura Calder’s Beef Bourguignon (printable recipe here)

Ingredients

  • For the stew
  • 4 pounds boneless stew beef, such as chuck or sirloin tip, cut into large chunks
  • 2 tablespoons pork fat or olive oil, plus more if needed
  • 2 carrots, peeled and halved
  • 2 onions, peeled and halved
  • 4 cloves garlic, just crushed
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 (750ml) bottle red wine (Dawn used a ten dollar cabernet sauvignon — nothing fancy)
  • 4 cups beef stock
  • 1 bouquet garni (made from bay leaf, parsley stems, and thyme sprigs)
  • For the garnish
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more if needed
  • 6 to 8 slices bacon, cut into lardons
  • 40 baby onions, peeled
  • 16 ounces mushrooms

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Remove the meat from the refrigerator and bring to room temperature, about 20 minutes.

Heat the oil in a large casserole. Working in batches, brown the stew meat well on all sides, removing as you go. When the meat is done, cook the carrots and onions in the same pot until tender and lightly golden. Add the garlic, and cook one minute. Add the flour and cook, stirring for 2 minutes. Pour over the wine and the stock. Add the bouquet garni. Return the meat to the pot, cover, and transfer to the oven until the meat is very tender, about 2 hours.

While the meat cooks, prepare the garnish: Heat the oil, in a pan and brown the bacon, and remove. Add the onions and cook until browned all over, remove. Finally, brown the mushrooms, and remove. Deglaze the pan with 1/2 cup water, reduce, and then pour over the garnish. Set aside.

When the meat is done, remove it from the pot. Strain the stock, discarding the vegetables. Pour the liquid back into the pot, and boil until thick enough to coat a spoon. Return the meat to the pan and add the garnish. Cover, and simmer until the onions are tender and the flavors have blended, 10 minutes. Adjust the seasonings. Serve.

Does anything make you feel so French as tying herbs in a bow and saying “Bouquet Garni” to all who will listen?

The garnish of bacon, mushrooms and pearl onions which gets added at the end.

Voila! What it lacks in beauty, it makes up for in deliciousness.

To Love

Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage. — Lao Tzu

I know it’s popular these days to hate Valentine’s Day and rail against its commercial nature, but I have always been a fan. Relax, no one is making you spend money, just thoughtfulness. I do understand the urge to rebel against someone telling you how to express your love, especially if you feel you’re already quite good in that department. But are most of us, really? Can’t we benefit from a gentle nudge in the love direction once a year? At the end of our life, we will never regret expressing our love and appreciation to others. In fact, I’ll go out on a limb and say that most of us will wish we had done more.

We have always celebrated Valentine’s Day with special food. Aside from our first year of dating, we neverevereverevereverEVER go out to dinner on Valentine’s Day. The service is poor, the prices are jacked up, and the restaurants are crowded with people who otherwise never step foot in a restaurant. No thanks!

Instead we either get take-out and eat it in the dining room by candlelight or make something special from one of my cooking magazines. 90% of the time, I am in yoga pants instead of something fancy. If I’m cooking, I like to prepare something nicer like lobster or filet mignon. Ed, old fashioned guy and fabulous role model, always buys me a sweet card, roses and chocolate, and even though I always yell at him not to waste his money (and I’m on a diet!), I secretly love it. I know people who go all out with big ticket items, but I am truly happy with our setup.

This year Valentine’s Day in our house is rescheduled to the 13th due to two basketball practices on the 14th, and I decided to make something the whole family enjoys: Beef Bourguignon! Shhh, don’t tell Julia, but I will be trying out a new recipe. I will report back on Monday or Tuesday and let you know how it turned out. Usually on Valentine’s Day we just feed the kids whatever is quick and easy, but I’m glad this year they are sharing our special meal with us on Faux-Valentine’s Day. Sometimes you just have to have glorified beef stew on a Monday night in yoga pants to remember you are Real and surrounded by so much love.

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams