As much as I enjoy all the happiness and cheer of the holiday season, I, like many, am often quite exhausted after the hubbub is over. I have come to accept the fact that my chosen career path is one that requires working additional long and strenuous hours during most of the exciting occasions throughout the year. Because of this, it’s not surprising that I sometimes have trouble taking care of myself, precisely when my body needs the additional attention the most. What is surprising to a lot of people, however, is that although I spend my entire day working with and around food, during the holidays I frequently get to the end of the workday and realize I’ve only grazed a little here and there, and I’m so beat that I wind up neglecting my desire, and need, to eat a hot, wholesome dinner.
This season, I was slightly more on top of things. I prepared and froze a few meals in advance, and I made pots of soup that would last for days on end. But my saving grace was this Boeuf Bourguignon. Requested by a client for Christmas Eve dinner, upon making it I recalled how nourishing and delicious it was and found that the hands-on energy needed was not too demanding for me to ignore it as a special meal for my family during a hectic time. To put it simply, it was the perfect antidote for the short lull between Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
Laden with a generous serving of tender beef and studded with seasonal vegetables, I’ve given this classic French stew a bit of a makeover to reduce planning and preparation time without sacrificing any flavor. Traditionally made with lean stewing beef, I tried years ago making the dish with boneless beef short ribs, which are usually much more marbled and consistent than stew meat, and have never looked back since. And the best part about dishes like this is that they’re actually tastier after a day or two of refrigeration, so make a big batch, and savor the leftovers. They only get better!
2 two-inch pieces celery
6 stems parsley
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
¼ pound thick-sliced bacon, cut into ¼-inch thick batons
3 pounds boneless beef short ribs (may also use beef chuck or other stewing meat cut), cut in large 1–2 inch pieces
Salt and pepper
¼ cup brandy
2 tablespoons whole wheat pastry flour (optional, *see note below)
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 750 ml bottle red wine
2 cups beef broth (or use all red wine)
1 pound small onions (pearl onions, Cippolini, etc), peeled, with the core left intact (so the layers stay together), and left whole or cut in half, if large
4 small carrots, peeled and cut in 1 1/2 inch lengths
1 pound button mushrooms, left whole or cut in half or quarters, if large
2 tablespoons butter
1. Preheat the oven to 325 F. Push cloves into the inner curve of one of the celery sticks then place bay leaves, thyme, and parsley on top. Add second celery stick, then secure the entire bundle with butcher’s twine. Set aside.
2. Brown bacon in a large, heavy pan. Scoop out with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel. Reserve bacon fat in pan.
3. Season beef with salt and pepper and sear in bacon fat until deeply browned on each side, cooking in multiple batches, if necessary. (If you crowd the meat in the pan too much, the beef will steam and not brown effectively). Transfer with tongs to a large Dutch oven or other heavy, oven-safe pot. Pour remaining fat from pan into a small bowl and set aside.
4. Add brandy to pan and bring to a boil, scraping up browned bits with a wooden spoon. Simmer until brandy is reduced by about half, then pour brandy into pot with beef.
5. Return reserved bacon fat to pan, and add diced onion. Cook over medium heat until onions begin to color, about 5 minutes. Add flour (if using) to onions and cook, stirring, for a minute or two. Add garlic, tomato paste, wine, and beef stock to onions, whisking to combine. Bring to a boil. Pour into pot with beef. Add the cooked bacon and the celery stick/herb bundle to pot, cover, and bring to a boil on the stovetop. Cover pot with a lid and transfer to the oven. Cook, covered, until beef is very tender, about 3–4 hours. Discard celery bundle before eating.
5. Meanwhile, steam onions and carrots until almost tender. Drain and set aside. Melt butter in a large pan and sauté mushrooms until golden-brown. Add carrots and onions and continue cooking until all the vegetables are tender. Stir the vegetables into the stew at the very end of cooking.
*If you prefer not to use flour, you may opt to thicken your stew at the end with arrowroot or another starch. If you eliminate the starch altogether, your stew won’t be as thick.
To choose your organically grown and fresh ingredients wisely, use the following criteria:
·chemical- and hormone-free meat
·pastured-raised, organic eggs
·whole, unrefined grains
·virgin, unrefined, first-press organic oils
·whole-food, unrefined sweeteners
·pure, clean, spring water
·raw and/or cultured milk and cream products