I didn’t want to let another week go by without making a recipe from Around My French Table. This month’s recipes so far have not been easy to adapt to a diet without grains and legumes, and eating dairy only every other week. In last week’s dish, the lentils really were the focus, even though it included roasted salmon and this week the onion biscuits look great, so I look forward to messing around with a paleo-ish low-carb gluten free version sometime in the future.
It might have been the last blast of cold weather earlier in the week, but on my trip to the store, the beef stew meat was looking particularly good. The thought of a comforting slow simmered stew to warm a cold night was too much to resist. While Dorie mentions in her recipe for My Go-To Beef Daube (a French beef stew) that you should buy a beef chuck roast and cut it into larger 2-3 inch cubes, I’ve successfully made similar long cooking beef stews with smaller 1-2 inch cubes. Of course, by Wednesday when it was cooking, the weather had warmed back up. Ah, March in the South – t-shirt one day, hat and gloves the next.
The stew uses several items I’ve come to associate with French stewed meats: cooked bacon, which is then simmered with the meat, shallots and garlic, and a bottle of red wine as well as some Cognac. Dorie mentions using a fruitier wine, like a Syrah. I took this as a sign to use up party leftovers, three partial bottles of wine from the fridge, a Shiraz, a soft red, and an Australian sparking white. Side note: Did you know that some sparking wine is coming with re-sealable “corks” called Zorks? What a fantastic idea! When I popped the cap off the sparking white, it was still as bubbly as when it was opened. I poured myself a glass and put the rest in the pot.
Both D and I enjoyed the the stew, me perhaps a bit more. While it was browning, the pan developed a wonderful dark patina that deglazed into the cognac and wine to form the base of the stew. It smelled great even uncooked. Once it had finished stewing for about 2.5 hours, D noted the “tangy” flavor of the wine as being more pronounced as the dish was consumed, something that put him off a bit (note we both had second helping though 😉 ). I loved the beefy-ness of it, without having used any beef stock of beef bullion, and thought the wine brought out the rich flavor of the beef very well. A few notes:
- We love bacon and I bought my favorite, jowl bacon, chunks of cured bacon made from the jowls of the pig, to use in this dish. I cut it in thick slices, and fried it until brown. The jowl bacon I buy has a milder, less smoky, less salty, taste than some other bacons and I prefer it for cooking stews.
- Given our love of pig, I left the bacon drippings in the pan to cook the beef and aromatics.
- I used the carrots (for flavor and for D), but not the parsnips. This is another good place for diakon radish chunks, if we’d had any in the house.
- Next time, given how long the stew cooks, I may just put in whole peeled garlic gloves rather than a halved head. The head broke apart, scattering the unpeeled cloves through the dish. It would have been difficult to remove them all even if we wanted to, but we would rather eat the peeled cloves than pick out peelings from between out teeth.
- I used my big daddy 13.5 quart Le Crueset, mainly because I had four pounds of beef and wanted to make sure the browning in batches did not take all night. I did not seal the top with foil, though in hindsight, perhaps I should have. Much of the liquid – really all wine, cooked off and I did have to add some water at the end to make the sauce. It tasted great regardless.
The French Fridays with Dorie cooking group cooks a recipe each week from Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan. This week they made saint-germain-des-pres onion biscuits named for Dorie’s neighborhood in Paris, a wonderful blend of American pastry with French flavor. French Fridays are not publishing recipes (though if you click on the link in the second paragraph, you’ll find the beef stew), but you can pick up a copy of AMFT online, in bookstores, or take a peek via your local library.