Monday, 1 February 2010

The 21st Century Housewife's© Beef and Shallot Bourguignon

This recipe really isn’t difficult to put together, and it is a great one for company. You need to use the kind of beef you cook long and slow for it. It’s always cheaper so that helps to keep costs down while still producing something really delicious. I find all the terms for beef that you need to cook long and slow vary wildly between countries, but here it is called braising steak, stewing beef or chuck steak. You know what I mean :)

Two little hints - be sure to use a good wine and don’t leave out the celery!  Good wine does not have to be expensive anymore, just be sure to always cook with a wine you are happy to drink. (It’s lovely to be able to serve the remainder of the bottle with the meal.)   Beef Bourguignon is traditionally made with a full bodied wine such as Burgundy, but I have also had great results with cheaper Cabernet Sauvignon blends and Shiraz.  As long as it is red and reasonably full bodied and tasty, it’s fine. As for the celery, I recommend you leave the sticks whole and remove them before you eat but please do not leave it out as it adds the most gorgeous flavour – not celery-like at all, just a lovely fresh taste. (My husband hates celery, but he loves my this which I always make with it!)

I use a Le Creuset casserole for this as it can be used on the stove top first and then go into the oven.  If you do not have an oven safe casserole you can use on the stove top, just do the first few steps in frying pan with a lid and then transfer the meaty mixture to an oven safe casserole before you add the vegetables. 

Although the recipe sounds boozy with the brandy and the red wine, the vast majority of the alcohol cooks off and leaves only a fabulous flavour, so folks are pretty unlikely to get tipsy from eating this! This is wonderful served with crispy roast potatoes, mashed potatoes or rice (I even served it with couscous once), so you can make whatever you like best!

If there are leftovers this is wonderful if you refrigerate it and re-heated it the following day - or make it the day ahead on purpose so you can spend lots of time with your guests. This will serve four, but it’s really easy to double it if you have lots of folks coming for dinner.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound of braising steak, chuck steak or stewing beef, cut in pieces about an inch square (just roughly)
1 cup of chopped bacon or bacon ‘lardons’ (pre-chopped bits of bacon)
about 20 shallots, peeled, cut in half if they are on the big side
2 tablespoons flour
¼ cup brandy
½ to 1 cup beef stock
¾ cup (6 ounces) good red wine
1 clove of garlic
2 teaspoons thyme
2 - 3 sticks of celery left whole
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large stove top to oven casserole with a lid.

Place the flour in a small bowl and dredge the pieces of beef in the flour. Add them to the casserole and fry gently, stirring so that they brown on all sides. When they are just about browned, add the bacon, and cook for about two or three minutes before adding the shallots. Get the shallots all coated in the oily bacony juices, and then pour the brandy over top.

Working quickly but very carefully, flambé the casserole by putting a lighted match near the casserole. The alcohol in the brandy should ignite. Allow it to flame for a few seconds and then put the lid on to extinguish any remaining flames. (Always keep the lid nearby when doing this so you can put out the flames quickly if you need to. I like to wear an oven mitt on the hand holding the lid as well.) After a few seconds, take the lid off the pan and add the wine and 1/2 cup of the beef stock. Grate the garlic into the casserole, and add the celery, thyme, salt and pepper. Stir and cover. (If using a frying pan, please transfer the mixture to an oven safe casserole now.)

Place the casserole in the oven for about 1½ - 2 hours on a low heat.  I suggest 325℉ (160℃).  Every oven is different though so go carefully because it is the long slow cooking that makes this casserole so delicious. Check and stir every half hour, adding a bit more beef stock if necessary.

The Beef Bourguignon is ready to serve when the beef is fork tender.  Just remove the celery, give it a stir and you are all set to go! This is lovely served with mashed potatoes or rice, but my favourite accompaniment is crispy roast potatoes and a nice green vegetable like broccoli.

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