Beef Bourguinon With Cheesy Mashed Potatoes

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Julia Child was a pioneer in making French food accessible to Americans. I fondly remember watching her show on PBS as a kid. To be honest, I was too young to appreciate her talents at that age. But now, I am so thankful that she stuck to her guns and kept forging ahead with her cooking. Watching “Julie and Julia” made me really curious about this special dish called beef bourguinon. I wondered what the big fuss was all about. From all the different steps to preparing the ingredients to the long slow cooking process in a fancy Dutch oven that costs almost as much as my part of the rent.

My version does not use a Le Creuset Dutch oven, but I doubt that it made a huge impact on the flavor since I pulled out all the stops to develop flavor in the broth. The key to creating depth of flavor lies in all the browning, sautéing, and deglazing processes. So if you take the time with those steps, you should be good to go, fancy equipment or not. =)

With the busy holidays coming up, I’m not sure how many posts I’ll be able to make. So I will make this my main holiday dish post. Beef bourguinon is supposed to be a dish for special guests and special occasions. All the time and effort that go into the stew can be tasted with every morsel. I remember making this for my husband’s office a few weeks ago. They are a small company with close ties, and there was news of the sudden passing of one of his coworkers. Everyone was blind sighted by this, and struggled with get through the week. It also happened to be my husband’s birthday a few days later. In hopes of cheering folks up or at least providing some comfort, I made this stew for his office-mates. After all, what is more comforting than stew? I am really glad that I can offer comfort to those that I care about through my cooking.

I hope that this recipe is helpful to you when you are looking for that special dish that will uplift spirits and warm the soul. Happy Holidays everyone.

 

Cooking notes/tips:

When working with a slow-cooker, always be careful in the timing of your cooking and be sure to place ingredients in at different times because if you put meat and veggies in at the beginning of a stew, the veggies will all disintegrate by the end of cooking. It is easy to overcook dishes when using a slow-cooker, which will result in dry meat paste. So for this dish, make sure you turn off the slow-cooker once your meat is just falling apart with the touch of a fork.

Make sure you sauté your mushrooms separately and then add them into your stew only at the very end of cooking. Otherwise, your mushrooms will disintegrate into the stew.

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I’ve made this stew and served it with cheesy polenta/grits, which works equally as well as mashed potatoes. It’s a matter of personal preference. You can also just eat it with a nice loaf of crusty fresh bread.

Choose a red wine that you enjoy drinking rather than relying on “cooking wines.” I personally do not drink alcohol very often, so I usually just find a relatively cheap bottle of Pinot Noir in the $10 range.

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 5 hours

Beef Bourguinon
5 lbs beef stew meat, cubed
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
5 large carrots
1 cup pearl onions
1 small can tomato paste
1 tsp salt, or to taste
1 tsp pepper, or to taste
1 cup dry red wine (Pinot Noir)
1 quart beef stock
1 quart water
4 stalks of fresh thyme
3 bay leaves
2 tbsp butter

1 cup baby portabello mushrooms, quartered
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp corn starch
4 tbsp water
1 spring of fresh thyme, stems removed

Cut beef into 2-inch cubes and season with salt, and pepper. Allow the meat to sit for 10 minutes.

In a heated oiled skillet, brown the beef. Add red wine and tomato paste. Cook for 5 minutes. Season with more salt and pepper.

Place beef mixture into crockpot/slow cooker and add in beef stock, water, fresh springs of thyme, and bay leaves. Slow cook on high setting for 4 hours.

With one hour left of cooking, add in carrots and pearl onions. Allow too cook for 1 more hour or until beef is tender.

Meanwhile, heat a skillet on medium high heat and add in butter and olive oil. Add in mushrooms and allow to brown, with minimal turning. When mushrooms are beginning to brown, add in minced garlic and fresh thyme. Sauté for 1 more minute and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

When beef is tender, taste broth and beef for seasoning. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Mix corn starch with cold water until corn starch is dissolved. Then add this to your stew to allow it to thicken ~5 minutes.

When stew is thickened, add in sautéed mushrooms and serve with mashed potatoes (recipe below)

Cheesy Mashed Potatoes
2 lbs potatoes, cut and peeled
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
6 tbsp butter
½ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
~ 1 tbsp garlic salt or sea salt

Boil 2 quarts of water. Place cut and peeled potatoes into boiling water. Boil until potatoes can be easily pierced by a fork ~20 minutes.

Heat heavy cream, milk, and butter in a sauce pan. Add in salt and mix well.

Drain potatoes and mash with a potato masher. When potatoes are mashed, add in cream mixture. Mix well into potatoes.

To create a smoother creamier texture, use handheld immersion blender to whip potatoes. Add in Parmigiano cheese and season with salt and pepper to taste.

 

Enjoy!

Addictive sautéed mushrooms

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As fall begins to kiss the air with its crispness in southern California, I find myself craving earthy rich flavors, soups, stews, and overall more sumptuous hearty food. Tonight for dinner we are having some marinated beef ribs to change things up from our typical steak dinner on Fridays. Fridays have become date night, a small tradition we’ve started to dangle a carrot in front of us throughout the workweek. The daily grind often feels so repetitive and unending that we need to see that light at the end of the tunnel. On date nights, we sometimes choose to eat out, but there is an unparalleled satisfaction that comes from preparing food with your own hands and watching other people consume and enjoy it. Michael Pollen spoke about this on his documentary entitled “Cooked.” He described the primal instinct to hunt, gather, and interact with food on a very intimate level. Anyway, as the prepared meals for the week have been almost completely devoured, I was prompted to cook a nice home-made meal for our first date night of the fall season.

When I think steak, the usual suspects include creamed corn, creamed spinach, and some kind of mashed or baked potato dish. As I’ve described previously, we are still in the midst of making lifestyle changes to our diet, so that essentially negates most of the usual side dishes that come with a proper steak dinner. Thinking outside the box using fresh healthy vegetable-based ingredients, I was struck by the earthiness of beef and thought that mushrooms would be a lovely pairing. When treated properly, mushrooms are the meat of the ground. They bind onto our umami receptors and create a delightful sensation that can only be described as “yum.” Paired with some butter, aromatics, and a splash of white wine and you have a delicious side-dish that bursts with flavor and deserves a spot on your dinner table in its own right!

Cooking Tips
Browning of mushrooms requires a good amount of oil, changing the heat and patience. If you have a lot of mushrooms that will crowd the pan, all you need to do is add some more oil, let the mushrooms cook down and release their juices, and then turn up the fire to let those liquids evaporate and leave behind their concentrated umami goodness.

Controlling heat and flames is such an important part of cooking. Mastering control of temperature and heat will help you to sauté to perfection every time. I was taught to cook Chinese food first and foremost. For stir-fries, you want your pan to be literally smoking hot before you place your oil and food to be cooked. For all other sautéing, I do not allow my pan to smoke. I place my hand above the surface of the pan to check for temperature. If I can sense the heat and it makes it uncomfortable for my hand to remain there for more than a second, I know that the pan is ready. Another check is that your cooking oil should become shimmery and start to disperse (becoming looser) if your pan is hot enough. This is when you can place your meats, veggies, and other foods for browning or sautéing. For veggies or meats that require longer cooking time due to thickness or the type of protein that needs to be cooked down, it is imperative to lower your flame to either medium or medium-low to prevent burning. At times, it may be necessary to add a liquid (e.g., water, broth, wine) to de-glaze your pan and prevent food from sticking to the bottom of the pan and burning. This is also a great opportunity to imbue your food with delicious flavors.

Servings: 3-4
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients
3 large king trumpet mushrooms
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
2 shallots, sliced
½ tsp salt, or to taste
1 tbsp black pepper
splash dry white wine
2 sprigs of scallion
optional: splash of truffle oil or pinch of truffle salt

 

Thinly slice mushrooms, shallots, and scallion.

Heat a skillet on high heat and add 1 tbsp butter and 2 tbsp olive oil. Once butter is melted and well incorporated with olive oil, add mushrooms. Sauté for 5 minutes on high heat and place a lid on the skillet. Cooked covered for 5 minutes.

Uncover lid and continue cooking until mushroom juices evaporate. When almost all liquid is gone, lower fire to medium and allow mushrooms to sauté until browned, stirring occasionally.

When most mushroom pieces have become golden brown, add shallots and scallion stems. Turn fire lower to medium-low. Sauté until shallots are translucent, stirring occasionally.

Add salt and pepper to taste. Then pour a splash of white wine into mushrooms. Turn fire to high to allow wine to evaporate, then back to medium once liquid has evaporated. Again, sauté to allow mushrooms to brown and caramelize. Add in scallion tips (the green tender parts) and the other tbsp of butter and sauté for another minute.

Taste for flavor and add additional pinches of salt, pepper, or even red pepper flake for additional flavor. If you are feeling fancy, go ahead and add some truffle salt. Sere and enjoy! If you are feeling even fancier, drizzle some truffle oil upon serving. Never heat up your truffle oil because that will destroy its delicate flavor.