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Classic Beef Bourguignon

beef bourguignon

Beef Bourguignon is one of those dishes that everyone who aspires to be a great cook should have to master. One the surface, its beef stew. And yet, calling beef Bourguignon a beef stew is like calling Beethoven’s Fifth a song. Technically accurate, to be sure, but nowhere near to conveying the subtle beauty of the dish. The great thing is that this dish is easy to make, but still requires the kind of attention and care that defines good cooking.

There are many versions of this dish around, and there is a great deal of variation from one version of beef Bourguignon to the next. The classic preparation uses whole small white onions, carrots and mushrooms in addition to the beef, some thyme and a red burgundy wine, which is 100% pinot noir. (I have this on the authority of no less than Julia Child, and that’s enough for me.)

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Red-Eye Shoulder Stew

red-eye shoulder stew

Red-eye is one of those things that the folks in the South, particularly, can’t (or don’t) do without for very long. Me? I can usually get by ok without that good ol’ red-eye gravy, but I can tell you this: if you’ve ever had really good red-eye gravy, then eventually you’ll  be back for more. It has that magnetic pull to it that you just can’t stay away from it forever.  All that’s to say that it was that bacon/coffee mixture that prompted me to start looking for a great stew that could use those same flavors. 

So first of all, if you’re not from the South, you probably have no idea what red-eye gravy is. In a nutshell, it’s a pork fat gravy (usually from ham, bacon or sausage) that’s made with very strong coffee. I’ve seen it used a lot of ways, but mostly it’s just served with the ham itself, and it’s great that way. But this time around, I had some beef shoulder, some veggies and I wanted to see if I could make a shoulder stew with coffee that would have some of the great red-eye taste. 

That’s pretty much how it came to be, and while it may not be necessary, I made this in a slow cooker, so in the end, it really took very little effort and the taste was extremely good (though I may mess with the spices a bit more next time around). And yes, the coffee definitely comes through.

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Bulgogi Beef on Skewers

bulgogi beef

Bulgogi beef on skewers is a great way to serve ribeye steaks in nice, eatable bites. It also works well And if you’ve never tried bulgogi, well, you really have to give that a try. Seriously, bulgogi is simple, but it’s like almost nothing else you’ve ever tried.

Basically, this is one of several marinades I’ve tried over the years and this one seems to be the one I most frequently go back to when I’m making something for guests or just for myself. And on the upside, it’s also very easy to make, using soy sauce, mirin, some sesame oil and some roasted sesame seeds if you have them handy.

And while I like skewers, especially for company, you can just thin slice the ribeye and cook it that way (maybe with some vegetables) and serve it over rice. Either way it’s great.

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Persian Khoresh Gheymeh

Persian Khoresh Gheymeh

You may recall that a couple of weeks ago, I asked some of the users on Reddit’s r/recipes to suggest some dishes they’ve enjoyed and would like to duplicate at home. I offered to research the dish and come up with the best version I could — one that might come close to what they remembered, but more important, could serve as a base for their own exploration. Khoresh gheymeh is one of the dishes that came up in that discussion.

I’ve not had the chance to sample much Persian food, so I had not encountered this amazing combination of meat (beef or lamb) and split peas. A bit of research, including calls to a couple of Persian friends and some web searching, made it clear that Khoresh gheymeh is the Persian equivalent of Grandma’s mac and cheese. Comfort food. It only took a couple of tries to get it right (at least to my taste).

As often happens with recipes from a particular region, this one has some ingredients that you probably won’t find in the local Safeway. In particular, it requires Persian dried limes (limoo amani) and a bit of rosewater (which seems to be optional, though I like what it did for the flavors). Fortunately, good ol’ Amazon came through and I was able to have both delivered to my door. (Note the links above.)

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Carbonade Flamande (Belgian Beef Stew)

carbonade flamande

Carbonade Flamande is one of those wonderful dishes that’s traditional to a country or place, and for which you can find a ton of recipes floating around the internet. Nearly all of the recipes have made some tweaks to ingredients and procedures. Most of the changes were clearly made to modernize or streamline the recipes, so I went in search of someone who could help me sort it all out and at least give me a sense of what the “traditional” version might look like.

Through a mutual friend, I connected up with a native of Beveran, a small town near Antwerp, who was generous enough to pass along (and translate) a recipe he found that closely resembles the way his family prepares carbonade flamande, and make a few notes to note where it differed from what he remembered. So at the end of the day, I have no idea whether this recipe is either traditional or even authentic — or even if any version can be authentic. It is something you might well find in a home or maybe a cafĂ© in the region around Antwerp. And it’s delicious.

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Easy Game Day Chili

game day chili

About a year ago, I shared  my Cincinnati chili recipe on a recipe forum and a boisterous (and sometimes rude) “discussion” erupted over whether it was, in fact, even chili, let alone edible. Chili, apparently, is a topic that many people are passionate about. Well, if you’re a chili enthusiast, this recipe is almost certainly something for you to pass by. On the other hand, if you’ve just been invited to a tailgating party or playoff watch party, this might be for you. It’s simple, quick to make and tolerates sitting for hours in a slow cooker. You can eat it with a spoon or treat it like a dip with tortilla chips. You can make a meal of it, or treat it like a side with sandwiches.

The recipe itself is flavorful, but also easy to dress up to your taste. You can add more or hotter chili peppers as you like, or even drop in a square of dark chocolate and a little cinnamon, if that’s your thing. It scales up really well. Got a big party? Double or triple the recipe without worry. And if you suddenly find that you’re getting more guests than anticipated, you can extend it by adding cooked elbow pasta or rotini. No prob.

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Beef Shank Braised in Red Wine

Beef Shank Braised in Red Wine

It’s rare that I come across good quality beef shank slices, especially hind shank, which is large enough — 12 inches in diameter or more — to feed a small family. If you’ve ever made osso bucco, you’ll know the cut I’m talking about: a circle of meat with a marrow bone in the center. When I do find hind shanks, especially if I can get them from one of the ranchers at the local farm market, it seldom takes long for the braising pot to make an appearance. Even from the farm market, beefs shank is far more economical than veal that’s cut for osso bucco.

The main thing about braised beef shank is that it takes awhile to cook. How long depends on many things. Grass fed beef tends to be more tender generally, but if the steer has done a good bit of work (for example by being pastured where there are steep hills), that will offset the tenderness advantage a bit. Seriously, it matters.  Since you can’t reliably know some of the factors, it’s mainly a cook and check kind of method. That requires a bit of leeway in the serving time.

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