EASY PEASY BURGUNDY BEEF

Summer is winding down, and so is our local farmers’ market. Apples and pears fill baskets of all sizes. The air is bathed with the singular smell of roasting chiles. That smell always anticipates the fragrance of burning piñon as nights cool off and fireplaces are lit. Nearly every vendor has piles of potatoes of all shapes, colors, and sizes. This last week I bought fresh-roasted green chiles which I used for pork posole for my visiting son and fingerling potatoes with no particular fate in mind for them.

I considered creamed potatoes with green peas, which is a long-time family favorite, I decided against that because I would still have to come up with a protein. Then I thought of Burgundy beef or, in its French guise, boeuf Bourguignon. The first time I ever had Burgundy beef was in my internship days. I was making $75 a month, so any cheap or free food was always welcome. Most of the hospitals still had staff meals, so they served as the house staff’s main source of sustenance. In general, the food was less than gourmet.  One of my colleagues was dating  a dietetics intern who worked at the VA hospital. She always knew the menus in advance, and the VA food was by far the best. We would make sure to go to the VA when the menu was especially good, and we always were sure to make Burgundy beef night.

At the time we were mystified about the name, certain  – especially with the VA – that it didn’t refer to Burgundy wine. What a surprise when a couple of years later, my new bride and I were watching Julia Child on our 14-inch black and white television set in our basement apartment. Julia made what we considered to be a very fancy French dish. boeuf Bourguignon. We realized that it was our old VA standby, Burgundy beef. We tried out Julia’s recipe in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume I. It was the most delicious stew that either of us had ever had. But like most Julia recipes, it was not straightforward, requiring multiple steps to get each ingredient cooked just so before everything was combined.

This is an easy version that is still pretty good. I used a braising pan in the oven, cooking the stew for about 4 hours at low temperature, but a slow cooker would work perfectly. Julia Child’s recipe doesn’t call for green peas. She suggests them on the side, but I tossed in some frozen peas at the last minute for color and a boost of the healthy index. The most important thing is to make it easy on yourself.

RECIPE

Easy Peasy Burgundy Beef

Ingredients

  • 1 pound stir-fry beef, cut into 1 – 2 inch chunks  (Choose your own kind of beef. Stew meat is fine; filet would be over the top.)
  • olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 6-8 stems of fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 8 ounces white button mushrooms (one fiberboard basket)
  • 10 boiling onions, blanched, outer skin peeled, root and stem ends trimmed and pierced
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and cut in obliques
  • 1 rib celery, cut in triangles
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup frozen green peas, thawed (optional)

Method

  1. Over high heat in a braising pan, brown the beef in olive oil. Stir in the flour to coat the beef. Cook until the flour is lightly browned and the oil is absorbed.
  2. Add the beef stock, red wine, tomato paste, thyme, bay leaves, garlic, mushrooms, onions, carrot and celery. Return to the boil and cover.
  3. Transfer to the middle of an oven preheated to 215°F. Braise for 4 hours, until the potatoes are cooked through and the beef is tender. Stir occasionally, and correct the seasoning with salt and pepper.
  4. About 10 minutes before you are finished cooking, stir in the peas. Serve.
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