Sunday, January 3, 2010
Dark Days Challenge Week 7 - beef burgundy
With temperatures in the 10's and 20's F, it has definitely been "a big pot of something bubbling away on the stove" weather. I decided to use stew beef this week, and made beef burgundy over mashed potatoes and turnips with a side of Brussels spouts. This version of beef burgundy had grass-fed stew beef from Long Meadows, leeks and thyme from the garden, carrots from Wayward Seed CSA, Cabernet Franc wine from River Village cellars, Ohio-made beef stock, and non-local cremini mushrooms. I used slightly more potatoes than turnips in the mash, since the turnips were incredibly pungent; next time I will use a 50/50 mix, I think, or perhaps slightly more turnips than potatoes. My fridge is still overflowing with turnips, rutabagas and beets from my CSA! The Brussels sprouts were from the very last holdout vendor at the North Market farmer's market.
I'm not sure why I decided to make beef burgundy; it was most likely inspired by the (not local) package of mushrooms that followed me home from the store. I knew I wanted red meat, red wine, and mushrooms together. I used no recipe and have never made this before; in fact, I'm not even sure how I knew what beef burgundy is. I used to read recipe books while I ate, so I'm assuming it was a remembered thing. Also, I know that red meat, red wine and mushrooms all go together very well, and I know the basics of stew-making.
I started by dredging the meat in seasoned flour and browning it. There are a lot of theories behind both the dredging and the browning; I dredge because I like the resulting texture of the meat, plus the slight thickening property of the flour. I brown because once you've dredged something in flour you pretty much have to brown it. Grass-fed beef is lower in fat than regular beef so it needs to be cooked - and browned - at lower temperatures (I never go above medium.)
The thing about stew beef is that it is notoriously tough, and tough meats really need to be braised (which will break down all that chewy connective tissue that makes it tough.) Once the beef was browned I added red wine (the acid in alcohol and fruit can also help tenderize tough meat) and a bit of stock. I put the pot and low and let it cook for a little over two hours, and took my time chopping and adding the leeks, carrots, and finally mushrooms. When the stew was finally done it was a bit more liquid-y than I'd wanted, so I pulled out a few cups of the liquid and reduced it in a saucepan (which isn't as much work as it sounds; I just let it do it's thing on medium-high while I cooked the Brussels sprouts and mashed the leeks and turnips.)