As Spring is late in coming, I have made some dishes for colder times such as this beef stew, which is a variation on the well-known, but not always well-made, bœuf Bourguignon.
These hearty dishes take a lot of time to cook and are often rather fat.
However, you control the fat content yourself by using leaner pieces of beef or by cutting away the fat before using the beef. In France you would use paleron, or gite, or macreuse. In English this would be shoulder blade, chuck or top side.
It is important to marinate it well in red wine and vinegar. Some people insist, at least in writing, on making the Bourguignon stew with the same quality of wine that you would drink with it. With a top Burgundy wine, this would become expensive. But since you are using it to marinate, and you add vinegar, I find this snobbish nonsense.
You should not use plonk, of course, but a decent red wine. I used a red Macon from the supermarket.
The Provençal bit is mainly in the olives and the omission of pieces of bacon and mushrooms. In the south of France they would call a stew an estouffade.
The original recipe called for lard to melt in the pan before you seize the beef. That is a fat alarm step. However, for the taste, I fried some slices of streaky bacon until it became hard and dark brown and then removed them. I also omitted an orange peel, as it would alter the wine taste drastically.
- One kilo of beef, cut-up in 100-gramme pieces
- Four onions
- Four carrots
- Three turnips
- Mixed herbs
- A bottle of red wine
- Four cloves of garlic
- Several cloves
- Pepper corns
- Salt and pepper
- Red wine vinegar
- 50 grammes of butter and two tablespoons of olive oil
- Four slices of streaky bacon
- Cut up the beef, quarter two onions and slice two carrots.
- Put the ingredients in a large dish or casserole, add the mixed herbs, cloves, pepper corns and pour over the wine and a glass of red wine vinegar.
- Marinate for at least six hours (or overnight).
- Take out the meat and vegetables, drain but keep the liquid.
- Pat the beef dry.
- Pour the liquid through a strainer and put in a pan, reduce by half.
- Quarter two onions. Put butter and olive oil in a large pan – a special stew pan called Daubière in French is best, but a casserole or Dutch oven can also do the trick provided they are heat resistant and can be used on the fire.
- Add the onion and streaky bacon to the hot fat and fry until brown.
- Remove the bacon and add the beef, brown on all sides, not too quickly.
- Slice the remaining carrots and turnips and add to the pan. Add the vegetables from the marinade, add the mixed herbs and the cloves of garlic.
- Pour over the reduced marinade liquid, add warm water to get beef almost under the liquid, close the pan with a tight fitting lid and cook on relatively low heat for five to six hours.
- Let it cool down so that remaining fat sets on the surface.
- Near the serving time, that evening or another day, remove the fat from the top, remove the mixed herbs, add the olives and heat up.
- In the end, I separate the beef and vegetables again from the liquid to taste and any further reduction to obtain a gravy like sauce. Often there is too much liquid with the beef stews and the sauce is watery. You could thicken the sauce with either flour, starch or agar agar.
- Serve with boiled potatoes or Italian noodles, and a green salad to cleanse the palate after the still relatively fatty beef dish.