Here’s the bouef

January 11, 2012

Chuck roast; underappreciated, but the best thing that ever happened to winter.

I continue to have a love affair with chuck roast. It makes the most delectable wintertime dishes, and it heats up your house so nicely on a cold, wintry, rainy day. And it just yields itself to whatever preparation you want to do to it — pot roast, carbonnades a la flamande, vegetable beef soup, stewed up in some kind of chili- or goulash-style prep.

Or bouef bourguignon.

Getting happy in the pot.

You will recall I was making bouef bourguignon on Sunday, with plans to eat it on Monday. And I did, and we did, and it was just outstandingly wonderful. I’m always amazed at how a watery sauce, banished to a low oven for half a day, turns so glossy and thick and shiny and unctuous, and just flows over the lumps and crevices of your mashed potatos (I LIKE my mashed potatos lumpy, thankyouverymuch) and the heavenly scent just wafts up to your nose….

No words. Just looking at it makes my stomach growl.

Have mercy. Sweet Baby Jesus, but this stuff is good.

Without further ado:

  • 1 3-4 pound chuck roast
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, or more, if you’re a garlic lover, or less, if you’re a vampire
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 3-4 carrots
  • 1/2 can tomato paste
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 pound boiler or pearl onions
  • 1/2 oz. dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 750-ml bottle of red wine
  • 2-3 cups beef stock
  • 2-3 sprigs of thyme
  • 1 sprig of rosemary
  • half a dozen fresh sage leaves

Prep: Whack the roast up into roughly 1 1/2 inch chunks; salt and pepper well, and set aside. Blanch the pearl onions for a minute or two, enough to loosen their skins; use about a cup of the onion-blanching water to rehydrate the shiitakes, and set those aside. Peel the onions and set aside. Thinly slice the big onion, and mince the garlic; cut the carrots in 1-inch chunks. Tie the thyme, sage and rosemary together in a bouquet garni.  Get out the wine and pour yourself a glass. Now you’re ready to cook.

In a heavy ovenproof Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium high heat and brown the meat in batches; you don’t want to crowd it because you want it to sear nicely on all sides, and if you crowd it, it’ll just steam and turn a nasty gray. Gray meat = not good. So brown it, good, on all sides, and put it in a bowl. Lower the heat to medium and throw in the carrots and onions; saute those for a few minutes, until the carrots start to brown and the onion gets soft and translucent, while you’re scraping up all the nice brown fond from the bottom of the pot. Fond is your friend.  Add the garlic and the tomato paste, and swirl that around and let it cook until the tomato paste turns a nice reddish brown. Add the mushrooms and their water, the meat with any accumulated juices, the wine and the bouquet garni. Cover it and bring it up to a boil, then stash it away in a 325-degree oven for at least four hours, preferably five, and you can go as long as six if you feel like it. Check it occasionally, and add the beef stock if it gets to looking too dry.

You can bring it out and eat it right then, but it really improves if you let it sit in the fridge for a day or two or three. Then you can return it to the Dutch oven, put it over low heat and let it warm. Resist the urge to add some water — as it warms, it will liquefy more.

I used to love to serve it over egg noodles or just with a big fresh baguette, but that was Before Celiac Disease, or BCD. I can testify, though, that it is Just Fine over mashed potatos, and would be equally fine over polenta.

I brought leftovers for lunch today. Lucky me.

The best part about it is that it’s not really labor intensive, and it can be merrily cooking away on Saturday or Sunday and making your house smell marvelous, and then you can bring it out and heat it up during the week, take 20 minutes to boil and mash some potatos, and Voila, you and y’mama ‘n ’em have a dinner that looks and acts and tastes like it took half a day to cook and that is a serious treat in the middle of the week.

It’s almost worth cold weather.

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3 Responses to “Here’s the bouef”

  1. Jason Stark Says:

    Thanks KB…
    Not every foodie is bold enough to say “Whack the roast up…”. I was half way through the article when I realized how normal that sounded.


  2. Nothing better in my book (nb, I also love it over pureed white beans- just as comforting, but with a few less carbs too).

  3. kayatthekeyboard Says:

    Oooh! Pureed white beans! Who’d’a thunk it? I have to try that


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