Beef in winter: A friend of mine who is not much of a carnivore the rest of the year recently said, smiling, "Ah, what else is there?" Fortunately, if we continue to exercise, it doesn't have to be detrimental to zipping our jeans. It's natural to crave meatier foods to keep us warm, drive away the gray day blues, and fortify us for braving the elements.
As I wrote this and tested the recipe, there was a forecast for snow, then actual snow and ice as we celebrated our new president's swearing-in. Feeling festive and aware of the cold, I dug out from the freezer a beef chuck roast, kept there for the purpose of an impromptu beef burgundy. By the time the meat had marinated in the wine, school closings numbered more than 100, and snow-laced tree branches visible from the kitchen window reminded me that, as balmy as those late-December days were, we are not exempt from our share of the tundra. It's almost like the gift of slow time: Let it snow, I've got my meat to keep me warm. The beef burgundy here is meant to recall the long-simmered comfort food you'd find in any French village bistro. I've adapted it to the crock pot for locavores on the run, and even without the mushrooms and carrots, this is special enough for Valentine's Day dinner if you're staying in, and makes a divine Sunday lunch to share with friends. Serve it with braised winter greens or baby lettuces from the markets and a crusty baguette for mopping up the sauce.
Don't be put off by the list of ingredients—which is long because of the marinade—because this is really an easy dish that simply needs time to soak and cook in such a way that the ingredients work their flavor magic.
Note, in keeping with locavore values, mushrooms, which are a fall crop and hard to find at the farmers' market even when they are in season, are optional for this recipe. And if you can't get local carrots, just leave them out because the store-bought ones are usually too sweet. Without carrots and mushrooms, this is a pot roast stewed in wine and works wonderfully. There are as many definitions of beef burgundy as there are farmhouses in France, and this one is probably most inspired by Ruth Reichl's recipe from her memoir Tender at the Bone.