Food » Locavore Cooking

Beef Burgundy keeps out the cold

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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.

Crock Pot Beef Burgundy

2 pounds beef chuck or round roast, cut into 2-inch cubes
1 large storage onion sliced, or a cup of chopped baby leeks or spring onions
3-4 large carrots cut into 1-inch chunks (optional)
1 bottle ordinary dry red wine (3 1/4 cups)
1/4 cup cognac or brandy
2 sprigs fresh parsley (from that pot on your window sill), plus extra for garnish
2 bay leaves
2 cloves of garlic, whole
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon kosher salt
6 thick slices bacon
2 cloves of garlic, minced
6 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup tomato puree
1/2 cup beef broth or water
1 pound mushrooms, sliced (optional)
2 tablespoons butter

Combine the beef with next nine ingredients, and allow to marinate six hours to two days, the longer the better. Set up crock pot on medium heat. Remove meat from marinade, reserving leeks or onions and the wine mixture to make the sauce. Pat meat dry with paper towels, and set aside. Meanwhile, fry bacon in a large, heavy bottomed skillet until just crisp, not brittle. Transfer bacon to crock pot, and drain skillet of liquid fat, leaving any browned bits stuck to the bottom. Add to the pan 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, minced garlic and reserved onions or leeks pulled from the marinade. Sauté until soft but not browned. Remove onions and garlic to crock pot.

Add remaining olive oil to skillet and brown the meat, in a single layer. (Note, before browning you may dredge beef chunks lightly in flour if you're looking for a thick sauce finish, but I have found this ever more unnecessary. Simmering the stew without a lid for the last 30 minutes yields a lovely sauciness.) When brown, remove beef to crock pot; add reserved marinade to skillet plus tomato puree and beef broth. Bring to a boil, scraping up any meat bits into sauce while stirring, then pour the lot over other ingredients in crock pot.

Crock pots vary in how hot a "medium" setting is, so if yours needs to go a bit higher or lower to keep the burgundy at a bubble, adjust accordingly. Put a lid on it and let simmer for three hours, removing lid for last 30 minutes. If you want to serve it the next day (it keeps getting better), allow to cool to room temperature, refrigerate and gently reheat. Serves six.

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