Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Beef Stew and Board Games

Mac and Cheese. Lasagna. Meatloaf.
Beef Stew.
Chocolate. Comfort food for the stomach.

Monopoly. Sorry! Scrabble. Comfort food for the soul.

What better way to spend a weekend than combining a bit of both.

So late last week I kicked things off by making Anthony Bourdain's recipe (from his "Les Halles Cookbook") for Boeuf Bourguignon in anticipation of having it over the weekend. Don't be intimidated by the fancy name - it's just French for Beef Stew basically and it's super easy. And like anything else that cooks for a long time, it's always better the second, third, fourth...day as the flavors get more intense. It came out pretty darn tasty if I do say so myself. For dessert, I tackled Chocolate Mousse for the first time. Another classic comfort food. Also surprisingly easy. Man is that stuff intense. If you like chocolate, you'll love this recipe. I'm sure Mr. Bourdain wouldn't mind my sharing. Recipes are below. His cookbook is great if want to pick up a copy. He's got quite an edge to his writing which is hilarious and refreshing. His recipes are really straightforward - he doesn't want you to screw up. LOL. As an aside, I'm also reading his book, "Kitchen Confidential" which gives a hilarious insider's view of what goes on in restaurant kitchens (some things you don't want to know but it's very entertaining nonetheless).

And what better companion to one of the ultimate comfort foods than an old school board game. Lately I've been on a board game buying rampage. I think I'm craving some lo-tech activities in my life since I spend so much time with my laptop, iPod, cell phone blah blah blah. I just wanted to break out a simple board game with no plugs or lights or system upgrades and kick back old school. I recently acquired Scrabble (and of course had to get the accompanying official Scrabble dictionary for those times when we need to challenge the opponent). I've also picked up Sorry! (quite a vicious game actually - I LOVE it!) And of course, Monopoly, which, by the way, is difficult to find in its pure original state since there are all these stupid customized versions of the game (Boston Monopoly, Disney Monopoly, Star Warms Monopoly...I'm waiting for the Crack 'Hood Monopoly). Anyway, I bought the original. Nothing compares. Playing these games brought back a lot of fond childhood memories. I have 6 siblings and we spent a TON of time playing board games. Some of us were better sports than others (you know who you are) but we always had a great time.

I highly recommend a Beef Stew and Board Game weekend. If you're lucky enough to have a fireplace and get hit with a blizzard, all the better.

Anthony Bourdain's Boeuf Bourguignon

• 2 lbs of stew meet
• 1/4 cup olive oil
• 4 onions thinly sliced (i just threw them in the food processor)
• 2 tbsp flour
• 1 cup red Burgundy (i used some nice pinot noir i had in the house. the key is to use a nice red wine you would actually drink. a sip or two while you're cooking recommended)
• 6 carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
• 1 garlic clove
• 1 bouquet garni (again, don't be intimidated. this is just 1 sprig of fresh parsley, 1 bay leaf, 2 sprigs of fresh thyme tied together in cheese cloth so you can remove it later)
chopped fresh parsley for garnish

These two things are not in the recipe but I think they add some texture/flavor:
• Egg noodles (cook these and serve under the beef stew - they absorb the stew gravy. mmm)
• Toasted sliced almonds (just saute them in butter for a minute or two and put them over the beef stew - dee-lish)

Step One
Season the meat with salt and pepper. In a Dutch oven (or heavy-bottomed pot of some sort), heat the oil over high heat until it is almost smoking. Add the meat, in batches (NOT ALL AT ONCE!) and sear on all sides until it is well browned. Sear the meat a little at a time, removing it and setting it aside as it is finished. When all the meat is a nice, dark brown color and has been set aside, add the onions to the pot. (NOTE: FYI, this makes a lot of noise and stinks up the kitchen a bit - I had a contractor working in the kitchen and I think it was torturing him to smell it!) Lower the heat to medium high until the onions are soft and golden brown (about 10 minutes). Sprinkle the flour over them. Continue to cook for about 4 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, then add the red wine. Scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to get the "fond" mixed into the stew. Bring the wine to a boil.

Step Two
Return the meat to the pot and add the carrots, garlic and bouquet garni. Add just enough water (and two big spoonfuls of demi-glace if you have it - Whole Foods sometimes carries this in the meat department) so that the liquid covers the meat by one third. This is a stew, so you want plenty of liquid, even after it cooks down and reduces. Bring to a boil, reduce to a gentle simmer, and let cook for about 2 hours, or until the meat is tender (break-apart-with-a-fork tender).

Check the dish every 15-20 minutes, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pot to make sure the meat is not sticking or scorching (it's hard not to burn a tad of it but don't worry about that). You should also skim off any foam, scum or oil collecting on the surface, using a large spoon or ladle. When done, remove and discard the bouquet garni, add the chopped parsley and sliced almonds and serve over some egg noodles.

Chocolate Mousse

NOTE: If you can get your hands on it, use Valrhona chocolate. It's the best. If you're going to put the effort into making this, suck it up and pay for quality. Whole Foods carries Valrhona. This is a very rich dessert. If all bittersweet is too intense for you, you might want to (this is probably blasphemy to Monsieur Bourdain) mix it with milk chocolate. Hey, it's your Mousse. Do what you want.

• 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate
• 2 ounces Grand Marnier
• 4 tbsp butter
• 4 eggs, separate the yolks from the whites
• 2 tbsp sugar
• 1 cup heavy cream
• sprigs of mint (optional garnish - i skipped it)

Prep the Chocolate
In a medium pot, bring a few cups of water to a simmer. Place a glass or stainless steel mixing bowl over the pot and add the chocolate (serves as a double boiler). Stir gently with a whisk to help the chocolate melt and prevent it from scorching. Whisk in the Grand Marnier - it's going to really thicken, don't panic, just stick with it. Then whisk in the butter, one tablespoon at a time. Sitr in the egg yolks one at a time (or if you've broken them just pour it in a little at a time).

Lighten the Mousse
In another mixing bowl, using an electric mixer (recommended) or whisk (too much work), whip the egg whites until they hold soft peaks, gradually adding the sugar. Whisk one fourth of this mixture into the melted chocolate, then use a rubber spatula to fold in the remaining egg-white mixture. Gently transfer the mousse to individual ramekins or whatever you want to serve the Mousse in. Cover each with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Garnish and Serve
Just before serving, whip the remaining cream until it holds stiff peaks. Serve the whipped cream on top or alongside the Mousse. Don't leave out the fresh whipped cream. It makes it! Garnish with a sprig of mint if you like. Dig in!


Blogger xoxobono said...

YUMM! That sounds so yummy!
Can you get some spanish screbble? I'm sure I can beat you :)
keep up the great recipes!


5:18 PM  

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