Saturday, March 23, 2013

Reading, Cleaning & Bourguignon

Yesterday I had an unexpected day home from work. Jake, my seven year old, stayed from school with a fever. He spent most of the day napping and watching TV, which left me with a lot of time on my hands since my littlest guy was at preschool.

Normally, an unexpected day at home would send me on a mad cleaning spree, giving myself impossible goals for the day like cleaning out all of the closets in the house. This time, I decided to see if "baby steps" are all they're cracked up to be and assigned myself four tasks; cleaning out my (very messy) car, getting caught up on laundry, cleaning out the fridge and cleaning out Ben's cubby when I picked him up from preschool (it was full of artwork, photos, socks, etc.)

None of these tasks took me very long. I finished them with plenty of time to snuggle with Jake and read a book (God's Lions: The Dark Ruin. I'll write more about it another day. In the meantime, support Indie authors!). I thought that rather than feeling like I'd accomplished something by completing these tasks, I would feel on edge thinking of all the other things I could be doing instead of relaxing on the couch with Jake. The disaster that is Jake's room and the giant dust bunnies under the bed come to mind. I'm happy to report this was not the case at all. Completing these seemingly small tasks took weight off my shoulders and cleared some mental clutter, with not a single thought about the other things I could have taken care of.

That said, Jake's room is truly horrifying. My little man is going to have to help me take care of it sooner rather than later.

Before the day was over I made a pot of Beef Bourguignon. I do a riff on Ina Gartens version from her book Barefoot in Paris. Her version is delicious but too time consuming and wine-y for a family meal. So I've pared down the recipe and make it at least a couple of times a month (recipe below).

Now if you'll excuse me I'm going to start the boys bedtime routine an then watch Zero Dark Thirty with The Scotsman. If any of you have any favorite beef stew recipes I'd love to hear about them.

Shortened (and less wine-y) Beef Bourguignon (serves 4 with a little bit of leftovers)

Adapted from Ina Garten

1 TBS olive oil
4-oz bacon, diced (sometimes I get lazy and ditch the bacon)
1.5 lbs beef stew meat, cut into cubes
salt and pepper to taste
1.5 cups baby carrots
1 onion, sliced
1 tsp minced garlic
1 bottle dry red wine
1 cup beef broth
1 TBS tomato paste
1 tsp dried thyme
2 TBS unsalted butter
1.5 TBS all purpose flour
1 cup frozen pearl onions
8-oz mushroom, quartered

Preheat the oven to 250.

Heat the oil in a large dutch oven. Add the bacon (if using) and cook until browned, about 8 minutes. Remove the bacon from the pan and set aside on a plate.

Dry the beef cubes with a paper towel (both Ina and my stepmother swear this will make the beef brown better. They're both excellent cooks so I believe them.). Sear the beef in the hot oil (and bacon fat if you used bacon) turning to brown on all sides. Remove the beef and place it on the plate with the bacon.

Add the carrots, sliced onions, salt and pepper to the pan. Stir occasionally and cook until the onions are slightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for one more minute.

Put the bacon and beef back into the pot. Add half of the bottle of wine (and then pour yourself a glass out of what's left) and the beef broth. Make sure there is enough liquid to just cover the beef. If not, add more wine or broth (your choice.) Add the tomato paste and thyme. Bring to a boil, cover the pot tightly with a lid and cook it in the oven for about 1 1/4 hours (because of this, I usually make the Bourguignon up to this step the day or night before I want to serve it, and do the following steps on the day it is to be eaten.)

Remove the pot from the oven (or the fridge if you made it the day before.) Combine 1 TBS of butter and the flour and stir into the stew. Add the frozen pearl onions. In  separate pan (I know, another pan to wash. But I swear this step is worth it,) saute the mushrooms in the remaining tablespoon of butter. Cook until lightly browned and then add them to the stew. Bring the stew to a boil and then simmer for 15 minutes. Voila! You're done!

 The meat is so dark from the wine. This is  photo of the batch I made yesterday. I decided to add tiny Yukon Gold potatoes because they had been sitting forlornly on the counter for quite a few days. I added them just before I put the stew in the oven.

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