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.


  • 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


  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.

Venison Broccoli Stir Fry with Brown Sugar & Soy Sauce

venison broccoli stir fry n

Tasty, quick, easy and attractive, beef (or wild game) and broccoli is a dish almost nobody doesn’t like. Here’s our twist on a classic favorite.

More than half-way through our year in the Arctic, our freezers remain abundantly stocked with Alaskan seafood and wild game. Featured in this dish is a lean, tender cut of Sitka black-tailed deer. Asian-style stir fry such as this is perfect for days when you want something quick but delicious.

Most recipes for this dish call for corn starch. For a cleaner taste and presentation while still achieving the thick broth desired for this dish, try substituting rice flour for the corn starch. A generous drizzle of sesame oil toward the end of cooking really brings this dish together. As we live far from a well-stocked grocer, we used powdered seasonings.

Venison Broccoli Stir Fry

Ingredients: (for two servings)

  • 1/2 pound lean, tender wild game or beef, cut into slender 2″ strips
  • 1 tbsp rice flour + 1/2 tbsp rice flour, separated (or use corn starch)
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • a scant 1/2 tsp powdered garlic
  • 1/2 tsp powdered ginger
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 3/4 cup onion, chopped very coarse
  • frying oil such as light olive oil
  • 2 cups broccoli florets
  • sesame oil
  • 1/2 tbsp sesame seeds


  1. In a bowl, combine venison strips, 1 tbsp rice flour, water, olive oil, garlic and ginger. Mix thoroughly so that each meat strip is thoroughly coated with mixture. Set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together soy sauce and brown sugar. Set aside.
  3. In a wok or large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, add venison, stirring continuously for about 2 – 3 minutes to sear and lightly cook through. Remove venison to a bowl and set aside.
  4. Add a little more oil to the pan and add the onions. Stirring frequently, cook until onions just begin turning translucent but are still fairly crunchy. Add broccoli and continue stir frying till broccoli begins to turn bright green, adding a little more oil if necessary.
  5. Add venison, sesame oil, sesame seeds and brown sugar and soy sauce mixture, stirring quickly to thoroughly mix ingredients together. Cook just long enough to reheat venison.
  6. Serve immediately on a bed of steaming rice.

Caribou Stroganoff: A Classic Favorite Featuring Wild Game

Caribou Stroganoff on homemade fettuccine_n

From San Francisco to Sydney and from Tokyo to Toronto, Beef Stroganoff is a popular dinner item. Here’s a twist on a classic favorite.

Ever since its origination in 19th century Russia, Stroganoff has been served to rave reviews. Early iterations were created with beef cubes and and early written recipe for the sauce included mustard. Mushrooms and onions came later. These days, cubes have largely given way to thin strips of meat and mustard is considered optional by many cooks.

I’d not made Stroganoff till recently. Happy to fill requests, I put some caribou we’d recently been given to good use. The Stroganoff came out can’t-stop-eating-it good and we and our guests made short work of it. But even as I was simmering the sauce, I knew next time I’d add tarragon.

In our view, the addition of this herb really brought the dish alive. Other than that, be gentle with additional flavors, including garlic. This dish is about meat and mushrooms.

Caribou Stroganoff


  • 1 pound caribou cut into thin strips, about 1/4″ x 1″ (or use similar meat game such as elk, venison or lean beef)
  • 1/2 cup beef broth. (Excellent broth can be made using Better than Bouillon)
  • 3/4 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 pound mushroom caps, sliced thin (Shitake mushrooms are a good choice. Here in bush Alaska, we use dried mushrooms.)
  • 1/2 large onion, sliced thin
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped fine
  • 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tbsp flour, separated into equal portions
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil separated into equal portions
  • salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dried tarragon
  • red wine – just a splash


  1. In a bowl, combine Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, sour cream, heavy cream, a few grinds of pepper and tarragon. Set aside.
  2. Place caribou strips in a large bowl. Add 1 tbsp flour and a few grinds of fresh pepper and mix ingredients so that meat is coated.
  3. In a large pan over medium heat, heat 1 tbsp olive oil. When oil is hot enough to cause a drop of water or a pinch of flour to sizzle, add the meat. Stir and turn meat frequently to ensure all sides are seared. When meat is cooked through (about 5 minutes), place in a bowl and set aside.
  4. Pour pan juices into a bowl and set aside to cool.
  5. Deglaze the pan with a splash of red wine. Add 1 tbsp olive oil and butter, heat over medium heat, and add the onions. Stir frequently. After about two minutes, add the mushrooms and garlic and sprinkle the pan’s contents with flour, reducing heat if necessary. Continue to cook and stir just till onions begin to become translucent (about 5 minutest total).
  6. Return the meat to the pan. Thoroughly mix ingredients together and add the beef broth. Cover and simmer over low heat till broth is well reduced (cooked down) – about 15 to 30 minutes.
  7. Combine pan juices with sour cream mixture and stir into the pan. Heat to piping hot (but do not boil) and serve over fettucini, other pasta, or rice.

Serve with fall vegetables and a gin and tonic with a wedge of lime.

Rustic Moose Pot Pie

Lean wild game, roasted to perfection, sliced into bite-sized cubes and baked in a pie topped with a hearty whole wheat crust is the kind of meal that can fend off consecutive days of negative 20 degree cold.

When a friend recently presented us with a two-pound moose roast, we were thrilled. But we were also a bit perplexed. Looking over the meat, I couldn’t find even a trace of fat. Add that to the fact that neither one of us cooks roasts, and I was at something of a loss as to what to do. “Stew,” was the suggestion I most frequently came across. “Stew or stir fry,” was a friend’s suggestion.

We love good stew. In fact, we have enough caribou stew in the freezer to see us through the end of the school year. So that was out. Stir fry, too, is a regular dinner item. I wanted to do something traditional but new for us.

In the end, I did roast the moose. Inspired by a recipe for lamb from the cookbook Nobu West by Nobu Matsuhisa, I marinated the roast in miso seasoned with garlic and ginger before putting it in the oven. Despite my best efforts it came out a bit drier than I had hoped, although the miso marinade helped to caramelize the roast when I pan-seared it prior to roasting. I served the finished roast sliced thin with a tosa-zu dipping sauce along with carrots and parsnips cut into long, thin strips and sautéed in a combination of olive oil, butter, garlic and soy sauce.

Dinner that night started with scallop, shrimp and smoked quail egg chawan mushi, segued to roasted beats with pan-crisped pine nuts, was followed by cedar planked shrimp on mushrooms and culminated with the moose roast. For dessert, Barbra brought out individual baked apples capped with pastry. Inside each apple was apple pie filling. The dessert was delicious – and fun, and the whole-wheat pie crust topping the apple gave us the idea of making a large pot pie stuffed with leftover moose, vegetables and gravy.

Regarding the recipe below, a note about bouillon: We’ve become fans of Better Than Bouillon products. In our opinion, the flavor is superior to other soup bases we’ve tried.

Rustic Moose Pot Pie


  • 1 3/4 cups water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons “Better Than Bouillon Beef Base” (or other bouillon, or use beef broth)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1 2/3 cups potatoes, cut into 1/2″ cubes, skin on
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/2 pound roasted moose meat, cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 1/2 cup sweet corn
  • 1/3 cup celery, diced coarse
  • 1/2 cup carrots, sliced into discs or chopped coarse
  • 1/3 cup broccoli florets, cut coarse
  • (Optional) 1/3 cup mushrooms, chopped coarse
  • 1/2 rounded teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried sage
  • several generous grinds freshly cracked black pepper
  • salt, to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 375 °F. **Baking time and temperature may vary depending on type of crust used.**
  2. Place the water in a pot and heat over medium-high heat. Stir in enough beef bouillon for a strongly flavored base. Add bay leaf and rosemary. Bring to a simmer.
  3. Add potatoes. You will simmer potatoes till just tender, but do not overcook. When potatoes still have about 5 minutes of cooking to go, add the carrots. When there is about 1 minute, add all the remaining vegetables. Continue simmering until potatoes are just tender and remove from heat. (They will continue cooking in the pie.)
  4. Use a strainer to separate potatoes and vegetables from the beef stock. Remove bay leaf and place potatoes and vegetables in a large bowl. Return beef stock to original pot.
  5. Place approximately 4 tablespoons olive oil in small frying pan and heat over low to medium-low heat. When oil is heated, slowly stir in flour. Continue stirring until mixture thickens. Remove from heat.
  6. Heating beef broth over medium heat, stir in oil and flour mixture. Combine thoroughly. This will result in a thick gravy.
  7. To the bowl that already has the potatoes and vegetables, add the meat, gravy and the remaining seasonings and mix together.
  8. Pour meat and vegetable mixture directly into a deep pie dish. Cover with a crust. Be sure to make holes in the crust to allow steam to escape. Brushing on a beaten egg will help create a golden brown crust.
  9. Place on baking sheet and bake at 375 °F for 25 – 30 minutes or until crust is golden brown.

Serve piping hot with big glasses of Old Vine Zinfandel.