WND – Tale of a Weekend

February 5, 2009


Step 1: Stop by the grocery store on Saturday to pick up some rock salt (to try and get rid of that ½ inch of ice that’s on your driveway – the collective sympathy in Boston for London’s 4-6 inches of snow is somewhat limited), and some milk.

Step 2: Wonder why the grocery store is packed to the gills at 2pm on a Saturday.

Step 3: Realize half way home that you remember reading something about the Vice President throwing a Super Bowl party. Realize they must have been talking about this weekend (my boss refuses to believe that I’m this oblivious, but he’s wrong). Spend the rest of the drive home trying to remember who’s playing.

Step 4: Forget that the Super Bowl is this weekend.

Step 5: Realize that they’re predicting another 6-10 inches of snow this week. Have even less sympathy for London and its one time 4-6 inches of snow. Plan to make stew for Dinner. Pause to check the weather in Minnesota and remind myself that it could always be worse.

Step 6: Remember that the Super Bowl is this weekend. Assume for no particularly good reason that it starts at 2pm.

Step 7: Go to the grocery store to buy beef and assorted other ingredients for stew. Realize that the Super Bowl must start later than assumed because the grocery store is packed.

Step 8: Forget that the Super Bowl is this weekend.

Step 9: Wonder why there’s nothing on TV. Realize that the Super Bowl is this weekend.

Step 10: Watch The Tudors on DVD instead. Struggle to ignore the causality issues created by choosing to make Henry VIII a decade younger than he’s supposed to be.

Step 11: Forget that the Super Bowl is this weekend.

Step 12: See that The Steelers won the Super Bowl on the elevator news. Comment on this at work. Enjoy everyone’s look of extreme shock that I (a) knew the Super Bowl was this weekend, and (b) who won. Refrain from telling anyone that I still don’t know who they were playing.

Beef Bourguignon
Egg Noodles

Beef Bourguignon
(serves 6-8 )


The internet is a wonderful tool. It can tell you how many cupcakes you will get if your recipe calls for 2 cups of flour. It will tell you about how many people 1lb of cheese will feed when it’s turned into fondue. It will cough up some basic recipes for beef bourguignon. However, as with most things it’s best to take this advice with a hefty grain of salt.

If you believe everything you read on the internet you’d think that fondue can be made with Velveeta (it can’t – I’d argue nothing should be made with Velveeta, but that’s another story). You’d think that fondue involves making a roux. It doesn’t. It’s melted cheese in wine, not a white sauce. More importantly you might come to believe that Beef Bourguignon needn’t involve wine. Beef Bourguignon by definition involves wine, if you leave it out you’ve just made beef stew. And while there’s nothing wrong with beef stew, it’s not Beef Bourguignon.

¼ lb bacon, cut into ½” lengths
3.5 lb stew beef, cut into even chunks
1/3 cup flour
4 Tbsp butter
½ cup brandy
2 carrots, chopped into ¼” slices
2 onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped fine
1 Tbsp tomato paste.
2 bay leaves
1 4” piece celery
2 wholes cloves
3 springs thyme (or a hefty sprinkle of dried thyme if you forgot to buy fresh thyme)
1 bottle red wine (traditionally a Burgundy, but any dry red wine will do)
1 lb pearl onions, peeled
1 lb mushrooms, cut into chunks

Sauté the bacon until it’s just starting to become crispy. Remove the bacon to a dish, pour off and reserve the drippings.


Pat the beef dry and then season with salt and pepper. Toss with the flour.

Reserve ½ Tbsp of drippings. Using up to 2 Tbsp butter and as much of the drippings as you would like, brown the beef in batches and remove to dish with bacon.

Note: Walk away from the pan while you’re browning your meat. Go wash some dishes, fold some laundry, chop some onions, something. If you stand over it you’ll never have the patience to let it really brown – at least I don’t.

Drain any excess fat from the pan. Add the brandy and use it to scrape up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Allow almost all of the brandy to cook off, and then pour over the meat.

Add the ½ Tbsp reserved drippings to the pan. Sauté the carrots, onions and garlic until softened and just starting to brown. Add the tomato paste and cook for 1 minute, stirring.


Add the beef, bacon and any accumulated juices back into the pan. Stick the two cloves into the piece of celery and add to the pot with the bay leaves and thyme (you can tie them together if you want, I never bother). Add red wine and bring to a simmer.

Note: Don’t cook with a wine you wouldn’t be willing to drink. I’m not saying use your most expensive red wine, but the flavors of the wine are going to be concentrated by the cooking time so use something decent.

Allow to simmer, partially covered, for 2.5-3 hours.

Note: The stew can be made to this stage 1-2 days in advance and refrigerated. One might even say it’s better made in advance because it gives the flavors time to mellow.

Skim the fat (if any) from the top of the stew.

Cut the mushrooms into chunks, and sauté in 1 Tbsp butter until they are beginning to give up their juices. Add to the stew.

Note: As with browning meat, walk away from the pan while you sear the mushrooms. If you stir them too much they’ll never really brown right.


Add a little more butter to the pan and then add the peeled pearl onions. Cook until slightly browned, then add 1.5 cups water (stirring to scrape up any brown bits that have developed) and cook until the onions are tender, and the water has been reduced to a glaze (15-20 minutes). Add to the stew.


Note: You can blanch the pearl onions in boiling water for 60-90 seconds and this will make them easier to peel. It depends on whether you think the aggravation from peeling the onions is worth the time it will take to boil the water and the extra pot you’ll have to wash.

I think you could just add the peeled onions to the stew and let them cook in the stew and skip this whole step. Alternatively, you can make your life really easy and buy frozen pearl onions from the grocery store, assuming that your grocery store carries such things.

Serve with buttered egg noodles, or boiled potatoes, or any other starch that will let you soak up the gravy from the stew.



One comment

  1. […] countryside? Use some red wine and beef broth (or leave out the beef broth entirely and create Boeuf Bourguinon). Want something more Anglo-Saxon? Use beer instead of wine. Looking for something a little more […]

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