I Can’t Believe It’s Not Boeuf Bourguignon!

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Having made traditional boeuf bourguignon via Julia Child’s recipe, when I encountered this version on the New York Times’ cooking page, I was all in: there’s that slow-cooked beef that you crave with traditional boeuf bourguignon, ample wine added to the roux, mushrooms, and onions–but the recipe is dramatically simplified, and spiced very sparingly. I also found the wine flavor in the traditional version to be overpowering, whereas in this recipe, the positive flavors in the wine come through, but only just. In short, the beef is really taking center stage, as beef is wont to do.

I think all meat-eaters can agree, there’s nothing like slow-cooked meat. When meat is falling-off-the-bone tender, packed full of flavor and juicy, it’s terribly hard to resist. (So why would we? The answer is, we don’t.)

Of course, we can’t eat meat like this for every meal. Aside from being labor- and attention-intensive, meat like this isn’t always the most holistically nutritious thing we can put in our bodies for dinner. I wouldn’t say it’s bad for us, per se. But a head of broccoli probably has a little more to offer in the “nutrients” department…(I’m sure there are some meat fans out there ready to argue with me. Shower me in your meat stats, you carnivores!)

Additionally, and I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you this, reader, but it’s not the best for the environment. Unless you buy locally-sourced, organic, grass-fed-and-finished beef (costly and often not quite as convenient as the grocery store standard), it’s a little challenging to negate your carbon footprint on some delicious, delicious beef brisket.

I will say I could not find organic brisket at the grocery store. If you really want “guilt free” brisket, this may be an occasion to stop by your local artisan butcher! Support local, eat local, reduce the carbon footprint. Rock on with your bad self. Rock on!!

In summary, a dish like this really calls for an occasion. In this instance, my sister and I ate this together before I take off to move across the country; this, of course, made it taste all the better.

This is one of the most comforting dishes I have prepared in a long, long time. Warming spices, slow-cooked beef, and mashed potatoes–I didn’t even make a vegetable to go along with dinner! It was all meat and potatoes, all dinner long. Who is complaining about this? I ask you!

Of course, if it’s not your bag to eat just meat and potatoes, add some green stuff on a separate plate. The world is your oyster! (Whatever that means.) But tuck in for a cozy, candlelit dinner with someone you love, maybe with a bottle of Beaujolais or maybe with some Amber O’Douls, and feast on the fruits of this 4.5 hour dinner. The wait is definitely worth it. Trust me.

i was really pleased with this beef broth i found at the grocery store–it’s made with grass-fed beef bones and tastes great. i even bought some of their lemongrass and ginger beef bone broth, which makes a great medium for a simple soup. don’t forget to heat low and slow, so the broth doesn’t boil and ruin all that wonderful collagen!

I seasoned the brisket with salt and pepper, trimmed a small layer of the fat cap, and cut it into cubes to be browned in vegetable oil in my cast iron.

Meanwhile, I sautéed chopped onions and mushrooms in rendered beef fat in my Le Creuset, then added spices, thyme, wine, broth, and the browned beef…

i’ve really been pushing the le creuset to its maximum volume capacity lately; somehow, this reduced with minimal spillage. thank you, guardian cooking angel

About 3 1/2 hours over low heat later, aaaand:

cue “heart eyes” emoji

Yes. Yes to all of this!! I was stuffed after one serving, but still wanted more…leftovers just got a lot more exciting.

yep, the only green on my plate came from the ceramic itself, and chives. oh, and those are cheesy mashed potatoes, in case you’re wondering

[This recipe adapted from Pierre Franey of the New York Times.]

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Boeuf Bourguignon!

Serves 6-8

  • 4 lbs beef brisket, trimmed to 1/4” fat cap and cut into 1 ½” cubes
  • Reserved brisket fat, for rendering
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 Tbs vegetable oil
  • 2 c chopped onions (about two medium onions)
  • 5 heads of garlic, pressed
  • 1 lb fresh mushrooms, preferably bella
  • 5 sprigs fresh thyme
  • ¼ c all-purpose flour
  • 1 bottle Beaujolais wine (Beaujolais Villages is a great low-cost bottle)
  • 1 c low-sodium beef stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 2 whole allspice

Generously season brisket with salt and pepper, and rub spices into the meat. Heat vegetable oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat and add the meat cubes in a single layer, with the fat side down first to render the fat. This will take several batches. Drain browned meat cubes on a plate lined with paper towels. (The point here is not to cook the meat all the way through, but to sear it on the outside.) 

While meat is draining, heat reserved beef fat in a heavy bottomed cooking pot, like a Le Creuset or cast iron kettle, until you have several tablespoons of liquid fat in the bottom of the pan. Toss fat chunks or feed to a lucky dog.

Add onions, garlic, and mushrooms to the first cast iron pan used to cook the meat cubes, and sautée about 5 minutes, or until onions become translucent. In the second pan with the rendered beef fat, add the flour and cook over medium heat, stirring well, for about 1 minute.

Add wine, beef stock, bay leaf, cloves, allspice, thyme, sauteed onions, garlic and mushrooms, and beef cubes to the second pan. Bring to a simmer, then lower heat and cook, covered, over very low heat for about 3 and ½ hours, or until the meat is tender and falls apart when gently squeezed with tongs.

Remove bay leaf and serve with mashed potatoes, noodles, or rice. Red wine or dark ales are wonderful compliments to this dish.

Chicken and Dumplings

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Well, the rain is back. It feels right, really. Like, the only thing that’s made sense so far this year is the return of the grey skies and precipitation to this PNW town. (Aw, man. I hope I didn’t jinx it–after all, it’s only September…)

I ponder this as I sip my spicy chai and munch on a slice of sourdough layered with ricotta cheese and homemade concord grape/serrano pepper preserves. It’s good to have a roof over my head. It’s even better to have whole milk cheese and spicy grape jelly.

With the driving rain comes the desire for comfort foods and, for me, naps. (Any fellow nappers out there?)

Since I’ve already made two lasagnas in the last month, I decided to go with chicken and dumplings. Y’know, vamp up my usual autumnal habit of throwing stuff from my refrigerator that’s about to go bad into a pot of hot broth and calling it soup (which Samin Nosrat tells us never, ever to do). But hey, I can’t help but try to run a no-waste kitchen–even if it means bending a few culinary “rules.” Sorry, Samin. (But I still love you oh-so-much!!!)

I’d never made chicken and dumplings before–in fact, had never tasted it–but I saw Alison Roman’s recipe with the New York Times and had to give it a try.

I was reminded of Julia Child’s boeuf bourguignon as I scraped browned bits of meat from the bottom of my Dutch oven and wondered briefly if this humble American staple perhaps had French roots.

A Google search informed me it’s accredited to the southern United States and gained notoriety during the Great Depression. It kinda makes sense. The chicken is cooked in such a way that the meat falls off the bone, so it’s easy to use whatever animal scraps are on hand; and the hearty, flour-rich broth and steamed dumplings make for a cheap, filling meal. Plus, it’s actually a very satisfying bowl of stew, if I can call it that. It’s kind of its own thing. You’ll just have to make it for yourself and see.

I happened to have a whole chicken from my foray in the local farmer’s market this past weekend; thus began the adventure of “butchering” my own bird into recognizable pieces.

I watched a slew of instructional Youtube videos and channeled my inner Julia Child as I held my knife to where the leg meets the rest of the bird, daring it to challenge me.

Turns out, it’s actually kinda fun. Carving out two thighs, two drumsticks, two wings, and two breasts rewards you not only with the palatable meat, but the carcass (perfect for making stock!!) which I immediately sealed in a ziplock back and placed in the freezer.

stock gold!!

I don’t know if it was the crunching of bones or the smell of raw meat, but both animals hovered around me as I cut.

Internet, meet Gus!

After carving the bird and seasoning the pieces with salt and pepper, I gathered the necessary ingredients to make the quick stock.

it’s a simple stock, really–but the flavor is so special because of the simplicity of the ingredients

Well, I should add everything here is organic, mostly local, and free range–I am referring, of course, to the thyme! (Stand down, Chris D’Elia. This girl’s got jokes!)

I can feel your eye rolls from here, so I’ll carry on to the meat browning in my beloved Le Creuset!

mmm, dark meat <3

Then, drain the fat into a liquid measuring cup and set the seared meat on a plate with a paper towel.

Any Type A folx driven crazy by this photo??

Then, add celery, onion, and half the carrots. Cook for a few minutes, then add water, thyme, and seared meat. Not to worry–those brown crusty bits end up coating the veggies as they release moisture during the cooking process. Mmmmm!

Yep, hard to go wrong with these ingredients.

This gets cooked at a simmer for a little over a half an hour, or until the liquid has reduced by 1/4. Then it’s time to make and add the dumplings!

she’s not much to look at now, but she cleans up reaaaaal good

Once you dollop the dumpling dough into the broth, it’s time to cover and steam for about 20 minutes! Check a dumpling by cutting it in half to make sure it’s cooked through all the way–and boom! You just made chicken and dumplings! 🙂

add fresh herbs to garnish. parsley is usually a good idea.

Chicken and Dumplings

Adapted from Alison Roman’s NYT recipe

Chicken 

  • 1.5-2 lbs skin-on chicken on the bone, preferably thighs or other dark meat
  • 2 Tbs canola oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 5 celery stocks, chopped
  • 6 medium or 4 large carrots, peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch slices
  • 5 sprigs thyme
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbs butter (add more as needed)
  • Salt and freshly cracked pepper

Dumplings and Presentation

  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ½ tsp freshly ground pepper
  • ¾ cup buttermilk, or 2 tsp lemon juice or vinegar added to milk of your choice, equaling ¾ cup
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 Tbs melted butter (I used salted)
  • ½ cup parsley, chopped (for garnish)

Season chicken generously on all sides with salt and pepper and let sit for 15 minutes at room temperature. Heat canola oil in a large, heavy bottomed Dutch oven (I used Le Creuset) and place the chicken skin side down in the oil. Cook about 8 minutes, or until chicken skin appears golden brown and fat is rendered from the meat. Flip and cook another 5 minutes or so. Using tongs, transfer chicken to a plate with a paper towel, and pour the rendered fat into a liquid measuring cup or bowl. Ideally, you will have 5 Tbs total. If your chicken was not so fatty, add the necessary amount of canola oil to make 5 Tbs.

Return 2 Tbs of fat to the pot and add onions, celery, and half of the carrots. (Don’t worry about the browned bits on the bottom of the pot—as the vegetables cook and release water, any chicken “crusties” will dissolve and their wonderful flavor will be incorporated!) Season vegetables with salt and freshly cracked pepper and cook for about 5 minutes. Return the chicken pieces to the pot with thyme and 8 cups of water. Simmer uncovered until the liquid has reduced by about ¼, about 35 minutes.

Pull chicken from the pot and transfer to a plate with a fresh paper towel. Strain the stock with a colander over a bowl and throw the vegetables and thyme sprigs out; you should have about 5 cups of liquid. Wipe out the Dutch oven, if you feel so inclined.

Heat the last 3 Tbs of chicken fat with 1 Tbs of butter over medium heat. Sprinkle in flour and whisk until it is golden brown, about 5 minutes. Gradually whisk in chicken stock and bring to a boil, being careful to work out lumps. Add remaining carrots and season with salt and freshly cracked pepper. Lower heat to a simmer as you pull apart the chicken meat from the bones. Cook and stir until the mixture is thickened and the carrots are tender, around 10 minutes.

As this mixture is thickening, make the dumplings. In a medium bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. Mix buttermilk and beaten egg together, and add to the dry ingredients, followed by the melted butter. Mix until just incorporated with a rubber spatula, being careful not to over mix. (Being careful to gently mix during this time makes for tender dumplings!)

Dollop the dumpling dough into the hot liquid in a heaping tablespoon, taking care to give the edges an opportunity to make contact with the broth and absorb the flavor. When all of the dough has been placed into the pot, cover and cook for 18 minutes, or until a sacrificial dumpling is fluffy and cooked all the way through when cut in half. Scoop your chicken and dumplings into a bowl and enjoy with chopped parsley or the herb of your choice.