Now that it is officially fall, and the weather has turned “cold” in California, it’s time to have stew. Last week I made Coq Au Vin, and I still had some wine left, so I thought I should continue with my French comfort food and make this lovely Beef Burgundy, Boeuf Bourguignon.
Similarly to Coq Au Vin, Boeuf Bourguingnon is also one of those dishes that does well with tough meat, wine and long cooking time. The wine and long cooking time break down the meat so it is nice and tender. It also allows all the flavors to meld together nicely. Be prepared for this to simmer about two hours.
It is important with both dishes to get a decent red wine, not a sweet one! A nice Burgundy, Shiraz or Cabernet would do perfectly. You don’t need much, so there should be a nice glass or two for the cook, too.
When I was a little girl my mother used to make a beef dish that I loved. I never knew what it was until I became an adult and learned it was called brisket of beef. I liked that the meat was tender, and full of flavor. Finding it in the market, however, was a chore. I would only see Corned Beef, which I like very much, but it’s not the same thing.
While I was thinking about that brisket I had as a little girl growing up in Germany, I realized that my mother never made it after we moved back to the United States. Maybe it wasn’t my mother’s dish after all, maybe it was our German maid, Elfrida’s brisket I remember so fondly.
Either way, when I found brisket at the local butcher shop, I knew I had to try making it. I figured I would do something similar to Oxen Shvantz Suppe – Braised Oxtails, which also takes a long time to cook. It’s hot and I didn’t want to be in a hot kitchen all day, so I used my 4 quart Nesco to slowly braise the brisket. It was delicious!
Last night was the 86th Academy Awards show, and the first time Spane had watched it with me. We had seen several of the nominated movies, and he’s old enough now, at 10, to appreciate and understand the ceremony. Of course, he had a lot of questions, like “When is dinner!?”
I wanted to make sometime special for the Oscars, even though our Oscar party was just the two of us. I thought I had white wine, but at the last minute realized I only had red, and I didn’t want to miss any of the red carpet show before the awards. Red wine is strong, so it needs strong flavors to go with it. Instead of vegetable or chicken broth, I used beef broth, and blue cheese goes great with beef, and has a good strong flavor. I added cherry tomatoes to give the dish some color.
When I was a little girl, my mother had the entire collection of The Woman’s Day Encyclopedia of Cooking, and there was a recipe in for Hungarian Porkchops, which I have been making for many years. Today, I decided to change the recipe a bit, and came up with Pork Chops Paprikash.
In Glendale, California, which has a large Armenian population, we have Red Pepper Sauce. It’s basically paprika peppers, and I use it quite often, in sauces, eggs, and other dishes. There are many brands and you can probably find it in ethnic European stores. I highly recommend it.
Paprikash dishes call for sour cream. I have probably talked about this before, and I will say it again. When you buy sour cream, please only get the kind that has cultured cream. The other stuff has gelatin and other ingredients as fillers, and they just are not real sour cream. The Alta Dena brand has a wonderful saying on the top of the tub, “Those cravings you feel are totally natural”. I love that because it’s true – there is nothing in that sour cream except cultured cream, the way sour cream should be.
Mis en Place – Sour Cream, Red Pepper Sauce and Beef Base
When I was a little girl growing up in Germany, when we had Oxen Shvantz Suppe it was always a real treat. Braised with wine for hours they are tender and juicy. They are wonderful on a cold, rainy winter day.
What are ox tails, you ask? Well, they are the tail of an ox or steer which is cut into 2 to 3 inch pieces. They are very meaty and make a nice gravy, all on their own. How do you eat ox tails? You get most of the meat out with your fork, then you pick the piece up and suck all the goodness out of the bone. A bone bowl is a good thing to have on the table when you are serving ox tails.
When you go to buy ox tails, be sure and get them from a reputable butcher. The bony part should be bright white, the sinew pink, and the meat should be nice and red. I was lucky, my butcher brought out a tail and cut it there in front of me with his incredibly sharp knife. You can’t get any fresher than that.
Sometimes, on a cold day that looks like it might rain, you have to have chili. Usually, I make a big pot of it, and it cooks a long time to let the beans get nice and soft. Sometimes, you just don’t have that kind of time, but you don’t want something that came out of a can.
I don’t buy the Chili mix in the bag. I make my own, and you should, too. It’s very simple, and better because you can control the heat and you know what’s in it. Basically, it’s a mixture of chilies, cumin and a little salt.
If you live in California, you probably have access to fresh Anaheim chilies, if you live in New Mexico, you have the New Mexico chili which is a bit hotter than the Anaheim. Both chilies have thick skin, so they should be charred before use. When making my chili, I charred two nice big red bells peppers as well.
How to Char Chilies
Charring chilies is very simple. You need four things, the chilies themselves, a gas stove top, long tongs and a plastic bag (the one the chilies came in is fine). Put the gas flame up as high as it will go, and just lay the chili on the burner. Use the tongs to turn the chilies as they char. When most of the skin has been charred, put the chili in the plastic bag, close it, and let the chili steam in the bag. When the chili is cool enough to handle, remove the charred skin under running water. Not only is this a great way to skin a chili pepper, it also give the chili a nice roasted flavor. Of course, if you want really smoky flavor, do it on the Weber!