Monday, December 26, 2011

BEEF BURGUNDY, or BEEF STEW IN RED WINE, How I made it for the last party

Beef Burgundy is an old fashioned beef stew in red wine, and one of the first things I learned to cook.  It is an every-day kind of stew, but also and a great recipe to make for a party, as it can be made in advance and it gets better after a few days. It also freezes well. On party day, it can be warmed in a crock pot, or in the oven, leaving the stovetop free. Like any soup or stew, it can be different every time you make it, but it is always good.

Here’s how I made it for a lovely progressive dinner we had recently with our dear friends from the “original neighborhood”. Usually I will add the carrot whole, and remove it when I remove the bouquet garni (and eat it with lunch the next day), but sometimes I'm in the mood for carrots¸ so I diced the carrot and left it in. Sometimes I add garlic, too, but not this time (not in the mood for garlic). And adding a ham hock isn’t traditional, but ham hocks make just about anything better, so I like to add one if I have one around.
No pictures of the beef burgundy, but here we are with our salads!
There are recipes all over the place for beef burgundy, so it might seem silly to bother posting it here, but my friends requested it, so here’s the strategy, formula, and technique. The proportions are more or less, give or take. Multiply or divide as you wish

BEEF BURGUNDY, or BEEF STEW IN RED WINE, How I made it for the last party.
Serves @8 (I made twice as much for party of 13, with some left over)

4 or 6 T olive oil

Beef chuck roast, trimmed of fat and cut into ½ - 1” cubes, about 3 lbs
Flour for dredging

¼ lb pancetta or bacon (smoky not sweet variety), finely diced
1 large onion, chopped coarsely
1 small carrot finely diced

2 T Cognac
2 T tomato paste
1 - 2 quart beef broth (homemade is best)
½ bottle red wine, not sweet or light – think petit syrah, pinot noir, or Chianti
1 smoked ham hock

1 bay leaf,
3 sprigs thyme, (dried: 1 tsp)
2 sprigs marjoram, (dried: ½ tsp), all tied together into a bouquet garni with a kitchen string

pearl onions, 35 or 40, if fresh, blanched and peeled, or use frozen pearl onions
mushrooms, lots, at least 20 oz, sliced and sautéed in butter or olive oil until lightly browned

Heat 2-3 T olive oil on medium heat in a large heavy bottomed soup pot*. Turn heat to medium or low and add pancetta or bacon, for a minute or two, until edges start to brown. Add onions, cook for just a minute, and then add carrot and cook for another minute or so. Remove from pan.

Season beef with salt and pepper. Dredge lightly in flour.

Add another 2-3 T olive oil to pan and heat briefly. Add beef, and brown, a few pieces at a time so that they are not crowded and have space around them, on medium to low heat. Remove from pan and brown remaining beef in batches. Take your time and keep the heat pretty low. A dark brown crust will form on the bottom of the pot. This is good. Try not to scorch or burn it, though.

After all of the meat is browned and removed from the pan, keep the heat on low. Add Cognac and deglaze the pan, scraping up some of that brown crust on the bottom of the pan. Add tomato paste, stir it in, and then add about half of the beef broth a bit a time, stirring it in and scraping the bottom of the pot.

Return the beef and the carrot, onion, and pancetta/bacon mixture to the pot. Add wine, ham hock, and herbs. Turn heat to very low, and cook, uncovered, for several hours, at least two. I usually cook it on the top of the stove, but you can cook it in the oven at 300, or transfer it to a crock pot. Stir it every once in a while, and add more beef broth or water if it seems to need it.

After about two hours add onions and mushrooms, and cook for at least another hour until the flavors come together and it thickens slightly.

You can serve it right away, but it will be better if you cool and refrigerate it, and reheat it in a day or two.

Before serving remove ham hock and bouquet garni (or bay leaf if using dried herbs). Salt and pepper lightly, to taste.
Serve with egg noodles, rice or potatoes. If you’re on a diet or watching the glycemic index, beef burgundy is just fine on its own, without any starch.

*If you use a thin pot, you’ll have trouble with burning. If you don’t have a heavy bottomed pan, brown the onions, bacon, and carrot, remove from frying pan. Then brown the beef, as described above, in a heavy bottomed frying pan. Deglaze the pan, stir and scrape up browned bits, add a cup or two of beef broth, cook for a minute or two, and then pour it all into a deep soup pot or crock pot, and proceed with recipe.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

CHARCUTEPALOOZA 12: SHOWING OFF. Do we do that? Brian’s Never Perfected Ever Perfect Pizza.

Here we are at the twelfth instruction from Mrs. Wheelbarrow on the final Charcutepalooza challenge: “Create a menu, a meal, a dish, a platter. We challenge you to create a celebration.”

This, of course, would be pizza. I know that for a lot of people, pizza is everyday and don’t bother to light a candle boring, something you order when you come in late or can’t think of what else to eat, but for us, pizza is a celebration. You see, in his younger life, Brian was the proud proprietor of a Santa Barbara pizza joint, Pizza Express, and though the business didn’t last long, the lifelong love of pizza did. Over the years, Brian has made pizza for all sorts of occasions – for football parties, for visitors from out of town, for all of the kids’ birthday parties, and once for his family’s neighbor Kelly, who requested “Brian’s pizza and homemade peach ice cream” when she was dying of cancer.
Ever the perfectionist, Brian is critical of each pizza that comes out of the oven, evaluating how it could be better, though anyone who ever tastes it says that it couldn’t be better.

Finally, we figured out a way to make Brian’s pizza better: top it with home made sausage and home cured meat!

For this Charcutepalooza pizza celebration, we took the pizza in two different directions. 

One was sort of Italian, with pancetta, Mr. Cavataio’s Italian sausage and thickly sliced lonzino. 

The other was spicy and smoky, with chorizo, andouille sausage, smoked chicken, and tasso ham. 

Both had tomato sauce and a mix of fontina, assagio, parmesan, and mozzarella cheese. 

We passed fresh garden arugula and thinly sliced lardo at the table.

When you make and eat pizza, it’s a joyous experience, especially when you’ve got home cured charcuterie to top it with.


This is the old pizza dough recipe that Brian wrote out for me many years ago. You can make it the same day, but if you can make it a day ahead and let it rest in a cool place, it will be better.  Nowadays, he will often just use the Cook’s Illustrated Best Recipe- it is nearly the same as his, their 24 hour recipe works well, and as Brian puts it, “it’s a good recipe”.

2 Dough Balls

4.5 cups flour (high gluten is best)
1.5 cups water, warm
1 tsp sugar
½ cake yeast (1.25 tsp)
1 “glug-glug-glug” of olive oil (about 2 T)
1 tsp salt

Combine water, yeast, sugar, and oil in bowl and give it a stir. Mix in dry ingredients slowly, and add salt last.
It is best if you have a mixer with a dough hook, but can be done by hand. Mix until dough ball comes together in a unified mass. It should be fairly sticky – if it’s too dry it will split when you try to stretch it.
Completely oil the inside of two small mixing bowls, divide your dough in half, and knead each into a ball that has no seams. Coat dough ball with oil from inside of bowl, and cover with plastic wrap, sealing the edges.

Place in a cool place for 24 hours. A cool garage or refrigerator will do. The next day let it come to room temperature before you stretch it. (If you’re in a pinch for time, you can just let it rise on the counter and make it the same day, but it really is better if it rests for a day).

When you’re ready to stretch your dough, sprinkle some flour on the counter. Take your dough ball and rotate it in one direction with one hand as you press it with the other, forming it into a thick disc. To stretch, lift the dough, cupping over the backs of your hands (fingers curved), and, as gravity pulls the dough down, slide it around on the backs of your hands so that it stretches evenly. Let gravity do the work. Flip onto pizza pan (or curl if you’re cooking it on a pizza stone). We usually put it on a wire pizza pan, and then put that on the pizza stone, and if we ever cook it directly on the stone, we put it on parchment paper and then slide it onto the stone. We do it this way because Brian has found that in a home kitchen, without the high heat of a commercial oven, it is very difficult to slide a pizza directly off a peel.

I’m experimenting with whole-wheat crusts, too, but haven’t perfected it yet.
It didn’t make the light, stretchy dough I’d like, and this time the dough was a little dry. It had to be rolled out with a rolling pin, and was a little more brittle than regular dough, though it didn’t taste bad. Here’s how I modified his dough: instead of bread flour, I used 1.5 c whole wheat pastry flour, 1.5 c barley flour and 1 c oat flour, and 1 tsp gluten. Look for improvements on this in the future.

Swirl an even layer of sauce on your pizza, cover with obscene amounts of cheese, and then 
whatever toppings you like, keeping in mind that super finely sliced onion on any pizza is a must. Be sure that your oven is preheated and very hot, as hot as it will go, probably 450 or 500. Bake for about 10 minutes, check at 8 minutes, but gauge it by the cheese, which should be starting to brown and bubbly when the pizza comes out of the oven.

The tomato sauce has evolved, too, with minced onion replacing the added sugar, and a splash of wine or vermouth.

1 large can crushed tomatoes
1 tsp salt
1.25 T sugar
.5 T Basil (or less)
.5 T Oregano (or less)
3 medium cloves garlic
.5 tsp pepper

Heat and cook until flavors come together.


Saute 1 small onion, minced finely in some olive oil. Add minced garlic and a splash of red (or white, or vermouth, or even red vermouth), then
1 large can crushed tomatoes
1 tsp salt
.5 T Basil (or less)
.5 T Oregano (or less)
2 medium cloves garlic
.5 tsp pepper
pinch of red pepper flakes

Cathy Masey, daughter’s mother-in-law, kindly shared her father’s recipe for Italian sausage, and the most adorable picture of Aaron at the age of four making sausage with her dad. This sausage recipe is dynamite, and I highly recommend it. It’s a simple recipe, but the flavors are balanced, and it works well in any recipe. It has become my favorite, go-to Italian sausage recipe.


5 lbs pork
1 lb beef
2 T salt
4 tsp black pepper
.5 tsp red pepper
1 T parsley
1 T fennel
.5 – 1 c water to mix seasonings in

So ends the year of meat. It has been a lot of fun to participate in such an outrageous activity, and to share the experience in this blog. I’ve stretched my already far flung boundaries, and ventured into culinary territory that I may not have explored without Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s gentle prodding in her monthly challenges.

One of the nice things about it has been that we have had a consistent and plentiful supply of meaty goodies in the freezer, ready to go, to make whatever it is that I’m cooking taste better. It is nice to have it around, to pull out and use in this and that, on an ordinary day. One of my favorite “side effects” of Charcutepalooza was not even a meat, but smoked tomatoes (try that in your coulis!) and smoked salt (try that on anything!)

Back in the spring, when I got that miserable lab work back from the doctor, I almost dropped out of it. I’m glad that I didn’t, because rather that ruling it all out, I’ve learned modify recipes slightly, to use this kind of meat more as a seasoning than as a main ingredient, so I can enjoy it and still  keep the cholesterol in check.

And there was something uplifting about joining in with other just-that-kind-of-crazy types from around the country (and the globe!) and doing this kind of activity together. It gave it another dimension, and it was so nice to be connected in that way to each other. I enjoyed occasionally dropping into the Tweet room, and spent many pleasant hours visiting my fellow Charcutepaloozians’ blogs. Over the course of the year there were some who let it go, but also many who kept with it. I’ve been touched, impressed, and inspired by these people and their blogs. I’m thankful that they were inclined to share their experiences with me and look forward to checking in on them from time to time.

It is kind of sad to be coming to the end here, but I feel like I’ve just started. It seems like just yesterday that I was figuring out how to set up a blog, and I still haven’t created a proper index for it. A few months ago, when I was browsing through other Charcutepalooza blogs, I came across a food photography class that was being taught up in Frederick, so I spent a wonderful Saturday at Frederick Foodie’s cooking school with food photographer Andrea J. Walker, learning about how much I need to learn in the realm of food photography.
And as far as charcuterie is concerned, there is always another piece of meat to cure. I think I’ll try that duck proscuitto again, oh and I really want to do a ham, could I do a country ham?, and maybe some pepperoni too. Come to think of it, that pizza would have been better if I’d have bothered to make my own cheese…
With food & love,

Thursday, December 1, 2011

CHARCUTEPALOOZA 11, CURING: Lardo and Lonzino, or the Fat and the Lean

One time Jack referred to Brian’s bresaola as the “old meat hanging in the basement”, and little did he know how good that old meat would become. Over the past few years, Brian has gotten the bresaola thing down, each one more mind-blowingly delicious than the last. He’ll present these little plates of perfectly seasoned cured beef, so thinly sliced that they’re translucent and they melt in your mouth. Usually they’re served in the classic way, with some of his garden arugula, large curls of shaved parmesan cheese, and a few drops of lemon juice, but I always try to eat an unadulterated slice or two so I can taste just it.
 So I was just slightly intimidated by this month’s Charcutepalooza challenge. What on earth could I make that wouldn’t pale in comparison to Brian’s bresaola? I figured I might be safe trying something that we’d never eaten before, so we wouldn’t know just how good or lousy it might be. I figured that pork is a pretty safe bet; you can’t go wrong with it. And Lonzino, a pork loin cured in the same way as bresaola, might even be ok on the new eating plan. But then I remembered a nice piece of milk-fed pork fat from the Amish farmer that was in the freezer, and thought it might be interesting to try curing two opposite cuts of the pig, the lean loin and the pure fat, and to compare them, even though I’ve been working really hard to be more like Jack Sprat and less like his wife!

For the Lonzino I used Hank Shaw’s, of Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, recipe (great site, by the way), and followed Ruhlman and Polcyn’s guide for the lardo.

First the meat & fat got a good covering of salt and spice.

Into the refrigerator they went for a few weeks, being turned every once in a while.

Then they were wrapped and tied.

And they went to the basement to hang out for awhile. The little bathroom down there, with lights off, a humidifier, and a towel at the door is the best place for this.

The Lonzino was brought up and rubbed with brine and/or vinegar a few times to keep any nastiness out.

It didn’t take too long, and they were ready to go.

How do they compare?

The lardo is, well it’s ok.  Maybe it would be more interesting if you were to rub it with a fresh batch of spice before wrapping and hanging.  Maybe a thicker slab of fat would be better. Brian thinks it needs a glass of wine alongside it. I’m wondering if maybe Mrs. Sprat is losing her taste for fat.

But the lonzino, well the lonzino is another story. The texture is right, and the seasonings peek through in just the right amount. I wish we had a few fresh figs to go with it. Lonzino on bread is super, and lonzino on a slice of apple is sublime.


Both of these meats are just fine on their own, but also good with a mild cheese. This spread, made with mild ricotta, roasted garlic, and a hint of lemon, is just right for a sliver of lonzino.

Drain 1 c ricotta cheese and 3 T yogurt in a cheesecloth lined colander for at least a half an hour. It should be fairly thick and dry.

Meanwhile, slice off the top end of a head of garlic, and roast it in a medium oven for about 20 or 30 minutes until it begins to turn golden.

Pop the cooked garlic out of its skin and whir, along with the drained cheese yogurt mixture and 2 – 3 tsp olive oil, in a food processor until smooth.

Stir in grated zest of one lemon, 1 tsp of lemon juice, a pinch of hot pepper flakes if you like, and salt and pepper to taste.

With the lonzino I like the mildness of the ricotta, but you might want to try one of these variations: try with cottage cheese, drained, or farmer’s cheese. Goat cheeses are nice, too, but may have a stronger, more tangy,  flavor. Drain according to the wetness of the particular cheese you’re using. Fresh herbs, of course, are always nice mixed into a soft cheese; try chives, chervil, and thyme, or whatever other combination you like.