Taste Scene

Michael Devlin

Good things come to those who wait for their beef

IT JUST GETS BETTER AND BETTER…With beef bourguignon, the leave-it-overnight rule has been cast in stone forever more.

I made beef bourguignon on Boxing Day and it was fine.

Just fine. But then the following day when I dutifully put away the left-overs with a thick slice of buttered bread and some grated cheddar – sweet Jebus on high – I thought I’d died and gone to a restaurant in heaven.

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The difference, to coin an oft used terms, was night and day. And it was such a change, this leave-it-overnight rule has been cast in stone forever more. Having said that, it will take some mighty willpower when I make this classic French stew again, not to eat some on the day it’s created.

It being a classic dish, you can be sure that there are infinite variations available.

For the meat alone you can either use chuck steak, shin, braising steak, cheek… so long as it’s a cut of meat which can bubble away in the oven for a few hours without drying into inedibility. I previously spotted a recipe on-line which adds a lump of oxtail, so maybe that’ll be an addition for a future bourguignon.

Also, it being a classic dish, it’s something which is open to interpretation, I think anyway. And that means there’s wriggle-room when it comes to the ingredients.

In this case I used braising steak and, not wanting to make things overly rich (so that the little humans would eat it), I didn’t add a whole bottle of wine as pretty much all other recipes suggest. I wanted mine to be family friendly; Sweet Jebus knows ours are a picky bunch when they want to be. Instead of a whole bottle of vino, I sloshed in half, with added beef stock to make up the liquid requirements.

The purists might also baulk at my use of flour. But to them… I stick out my tongue and laugh.

If you do try your hand at this and I sincerely hope you do, try leaving it overnight before you tuck in. It makes all the difference in the world.

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INGREDIENTS
1 tbsp of goose fat
800g of braising steak cut into big chunks
1 heaped tbsp of plain flour
3 rashers of dry-cured un-smoked streaky bacon, roughly chopped
2 onions, roughly chopped
2 carrots, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp of tomato puree
1 tsp of balsamic vinegar
half a bottle of fruity red wine (I used Californian cabernet sauvignon)
at least 500ml of beef stock (or enough so that everything is mostly submerged)
1 punnet of chestnut mushrooms, each one halved
half a tsp of dried thyme (or a few sprigs of fresh if you have it)
small pinch of dried rosemary
salt and pepper
buttered baguette pieces and grated cheddar (optional)

THE PLAN
Put a large (ideally cast iron) casserole dish on the heat and add one tablespoon of the goose fat. When hot, brown the meat in batches, so as not to overcrowd the pan. You don’t want to cook it all the way through, just colour a little. Also, I tend to season the meat as it hits the pan.

When it’s all browned, remove from the pan and set aside. Add the bacon and fry until almost crisp.

You might need another teaspoon of the goose fat if things look a little dry.

Then add the onions and garlic and stir fry for another minute or two then add the tomato puree and cook it off for a minute.

Add a half glass of wine to deglaze the pan, scraping away any caramelised bits which have accrued, then dump in the carrots, the vinegar, bay leaf, herbs, the browned meat (including any leaked juices), the stock and the rest of the red wine and sprinkle on the tablespoon of plain flour (this will thicken the gravy slightly).

Stir through and bring it all to a boil. The moment that happens, stick a lid on and retire the dish to an oven at 140˚C.

Walk away from the oven for at least an hour and a half – maybe drink a glass of red wine – then, remove the dish from the oven and add the halved mushrooms for the last half hour.

If the gravy is a little thin, you can always take the lid off for the last half hour.

After that time, taste the gravy for seasoning and you’re done.

If you were traditionally minded, you could serve this up with some simple mashed potato and some extra buttered carrots but I urge you to try the buttered bread and some grated cheddar for sprinkling. It may not be classically correct but it’s devine. And don’t forget to let it sit overnight!

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