Beef Bourguignon on Rustic Pan Fried Toast

Cooking flame cognac n

It’s the flamed Cognac (not to mention the half bottle of red wine) that gives this savory dish it’s unique, caramelized flavor. When you light the Cognac, stand back! Can you see the horse head in the flames?

Deep in the heart of winter here in Mongolia, we find ourselves craving traditional cold-weather comfort foods. Beef Bourguignon (also known as Beef Burgundy) is a classic stew from France’s Burgundy region. As is true of many stews and chowders, this dish has its origins as peasant fare, but over time was refined into the not-overly-difficult crowd pleaser familiar today. Why not give it a try some cold winter’s night!

As a stew, ingredients can be substituted fairly freely. (The pearl onions this dish traditionally calls for are difficult to find where we live. Coarsely diced regular onions work fine.) It occurs to us that the addition of rutabaga, pumpkin, parsnips or hard squashes would add appropriate flavors to this dish. Also, remember the basic rule for cooking with wine: use one you’re happy to drink. A full-bodied, dry red is best.

beef bourguignon n

The finished beef bourguignon is traditionally served on toast and is a great excuse (if you need one) to pop the cork on a favorite red wine. The better the toast, the better the entrée. See our method, below.

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 oz thick-cut bacon, diced into small pieces
  • 1 1/4 pounds beef cut into 1-inch cubes. Tri-tip or chuck work well, as do higher quality cuts.
  • smoked sea salt (or regular sea salt)
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 lb carrots, sliced thick
  • 1 lb onions, chopped coarse
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped medium coarse
  • 1/4 cup Cognac
  • 2 cups quality dry, full-bodied red wine such as Syrah, Shiraz, Zinfandel, Merlot or Pinot Noir or a blend of similar wines
  • 1 cup beef broth – made from stock, canned or made from bullion
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 to 2 tbsp all-purpose flour or rice flour
  • 1/2 pound mushrooms, stems removed, sliced into large chunks

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees F (120 C) and adjust rack to a low position.
  2. Dry the beef cubes with a paper towel and place them in a bowl. Add smoked sea salt and pepper and mix together. Set aside.
  3. In a large oven-safe pot or sautéing pan with high, straight sides, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook till edges just begin to crisp. Remove bacon to a plate, but reserve the oil and fat in the pan.
  4. Add beef to hot pan to sear. Do not overlap or crowd. Use tongs or a spatula to turn beef so that each side is browned. Remove seared beef to a plate.
  5. Add carrots and onions to the pan. Add additional olive oil, if necessary. Season to taste with salt and pepper and sauté till onions are slightly browned and carrots are just tender – about 10 minutes.
  6. Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute.
  7. Add the Cognac and exercising due caution, light it with a match. This will burn off the alcohol and create a rich, caramelized flavor.
  8. Stir the tomato paste into the beef broth.
  9. Place the beef and bacon in the pan. Add wine and enough beef broth/tomato paste mixture to almost cover all the ingredients. Add the thyme and bring everything to a simmer.
  10. Cover the pan with a lid and place in oven for about an hour and 15 minutes.
  11. Meanwhile, heat half the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the flour and mix together thoroughly.
  12. Remove pan from oven. Place on stove, stir in the butter and flour mixture and bring to a simmer.
  13. In a skillet over medium heat, sauté the mushrooms in the remaining butter. Add them to the stew. Continue cooking for about 10 minutes. Taste for seasonings.
  14. Serve piping hot on toast (see below).

Pan-Fried Toast – Use any hearty, rustic bread sliced fairly thick.

Heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan over medium to medium low heat. Mince two cloves of garlic (a fine cheese grater works well for this). Spread one side of bread with olive oil and a thin spread of minced garlic. Place bread garlic-side down in pan and fry, being careful not to let the garlic burn. When the garlic is golden brown, flip the bread and fry the other side. The finished bread should be beautifully browned and crisp on the outside.

Whaler’s Stew with Beef or Wild Game: A Hot, Filling Meal on a Cold Winter Day

whalers bowhead stew n

Ladle out a bowl, mug or thermos of hot, hearty stew to fuel up for wintertime activities or for just enjoying a movie by a cozy fire.

If you’ve never made a stew, or if you haven’t cooked one up in a while, the heart of winter is the perfect time. We’ve been using this basic recipe for years, varying the ingredients with what we have on hand. Different iterations have featured beef tri-tip, moose, elk, caribou, and even bowhead whale. Sweet potatoes, other potatoes, brussels sprouts, corn, tomatoes and other vegetables feature nicely. A favorite of ours is parsnips, which add a distinctive flavor that goes well with beef and wild game. While corn starch or all purpose flour are traditional thickeners in stews – and perfectly fine – we use rice flour. It dissolves easily, is virtually without flavor and thickens without becoming pasty.

Rather than provide specific amounts of ingredients for this delicious meal, we recommend taking a loose approach. A volume ratio of about three to one vegetables (combined) to meat works well, but there’s no need to measure or to be overly exact.

Whaler’s Stew

Ingredients (Each vegetable is optional and could be omitted while increasing the amount of other vegetables or substituted for something else.)

  • lean, boneless meat such as chuck steak, tri-tip, or a similar cut from wild game. Cut into cubes or chunks.
  • olive oil
  • onions, chopped coarse
  • garlic, minced or chopped fine
  • red wine or sherry (optional)
  • beef bouillon (or vegetable bouillon, or water) – enough to just cover all ingredients when combined. We use Better than Bouillon.
  • carrots, sliced into discs
  • russet or Yukon gold potatoes, cubed
  • pumpkin, squash, sweet potatoes or yams, cubed
  • parsnips, chopped coarse or sliced into discs
  • mushrooms, chunked
  • brussels sprouts, cut in halves or fourths, depending on size
  • tomatoes, diced
  • sweet corn
  • seasonings: sea salt or smoked salt, pepper, thyme, bay leaf, sage, cloves

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, add meat, olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly.
  2. In a heavy skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. When skillet is hot enough to make the meat sizzle, add it, stirring and turning to sear meat. Reduce temperature and continue cooking meat through, about 6 minutes.
  3. Add onion and additional oil, if necessary. Add a splash or two of sherry or red wine (optional). Stir until onions become barely translucent but are still crunchy.
  4. Stir in garlic and cook for about 30 seconds.
  5. Stir in seasonings and add bouillon mixture or water.
  6. Add potatoes and any other slow-cooking vegetables such as sweet potatoes, pumpkin, etc. Simmer for 20 minutes.
  7. Stir in rice flour – a little at a time to prevent clumping – to achieve desired thickness. Start by adding a total of 1 tbsp, wait a few minutes as broth thickens, and continue adding to desired thickness.
  8. Add additional vegetables, adding corn last as it doesn’t need much cooking time. Simmer till vegetables are tender, tasting and adjusting seasonings as necessary.

Alternatively: Place vegetables, (except corn) in individual bowls – each to its own bowl. Mix thoroughly with olive oil, salt and pepper. Keeping vegetables separate according to their kind, place them all on a heavy, oiled baking sheet and roast them at 400 degrees F, checking and removing each type of vegetable as it is done and setting them all aside in a large bowl. This ensures that all vegetables are cooked to the right consistency, and the roasting brings out sweetness. Cook meat as above, set aside with the oil it cooked in, and then add all ingredients to a large pot to finish cooking. Add the corn last. Vegetables can be grilled in this fashion too. It’s a little more effort, but it makes a difference.