The first thing the entire world has unequivocally believed is that these are unprecedented and strange times. Locally and beyond, we’re scrambling to reimagine our lives in this new context and the only thing that’s familiar is that we still need to connect, though virtually, we still sleep at night (well some of us marathon Grey’s Anatomy to block out reality until the eyes finally droop), and we still remember the taste of that last delish meal we had at that awesome County restaurant that’s now been officially mandated to close by our government to help contain the spread of the virus.
The grocery stores have done their best to restock shelves and other ingredient providers are dreaming up ways to get their wares into the hands of their customers—from delivery to curb-side and parking lot pick-ups.
A Cooking Series in the Time of Covid-19?
So my bestie, Cynthia Peters (Chef & Owner of From The Farm Cooking School) and I, hopped on a call to discuss how a recipe series might look in these times and how it could contribute to the immediate needs of our County community today in this minute.
The outcome? Three things: It needed to happen at home. It needed to connect County people to great food they could make in their own kitchens. And it needed to require ingredients that we can still get. Thus the ‘Home Bistro’ series was born.
Chef Cynthia on Basic Beef Bourguignon
This is one of my favourite comfort dishes. And given our current climate, a perfect one to feed our souls. My version is quicker, while still achieving tenderness and flavour. All accomplished by caramelizing ingredients beforehand, using a more tender cut of meat and marinating. Also buying store bought beef broth, no salt please, helps significantly.
The recipe is done in three stages and takes from start to finish, about 5 hours (including the marinating time). So, it can become a fun, day activity for the whole family while we are all spending time at home. Every stage has some chopping and stirring and the smells in your house will linger for hours.
Please read the recipe in its entirety before you start. Most of the ingredients are likely in your kitchen, with just a few items to pick up in town. If you have more than you and your family need, why not drop off dinner for a neighbour? If you have any questions, I’m available during the day by text and always happy to help answer your cooking questions.
Cheers, From the Farm
- 3 pounds sirloin, cut into 1” cubes
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme or ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
- 1 bay leaf, crushed
- 1 cup red wine – PEC Cab Franc
- 2 tablespoons sunflower oil
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 cups mushrooms, diced
- 1 cup onion, diced
- 1 carrot, diced
- 1 celery stalk, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 cup pearl onions*
- 2 thick slices bacon, diced
- 2 tablespoons flour or arrowroot
- ½ cup red wine
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- 1 cup tomato, diced
- around 2 cups beef stock (no salt) **
- 2 tablespoons cold butter + 1 tablespoon flour or arrowroot
- ¼ cup parsley, finely chopped for garnish
Prepare the marinade. Trim and cut the sirloin into 1” cubes and place in a bowl. Sprinkle the salt and pepper and all the rest of the herbs. Toss and massage the ingredients into the meat. Place in a Ziploc bag and add the wine. Seal and place in the fridge to marinate for 2 hours.
In the meantime, prepare your vegetables. Cut and place each vegetable in a small dish beside your large frying pan. Over a medium high heat, add 1 tablespoon of each – oil and butter to your pan. When foaming, add the mushrooms and cook to golden. Don’t stir too much. Remove and place in your Slow Cooker or Dutch Oven.
In the same pan, add 1 tablespoon of oil and sauté the onion, carrot and celery for 5 minutes till golden. Add in the garlic and cook a further 30 seconds. Remove from pan and place in your preferred slow cooking vessel. With the remaining butter, sauté the pearl onions till golden brown and place on a plate on your counter.
Retrieve your beef from the fridge. Stack a few layers of paper towel on your counter. In batches with your hand, squeeze the beef as you remove it from the bag and let the juices collect in the bag. Lay the beef on the paper in a single layer and place more paper on top to absorb the extra moisture. The beef needs to dry out before frying in order for it to brown correctly.
Now you are ready to the final stage of the dish. Prepare the bacon and other ingredients while the beef is drying. Place the diced bacon in a medium hot pan and cook till crisp. Leave the fat in the pan and place the cooked bacon in your cooking vessel. In small batches, brown the beef and place on a plate till all is complete. In the final couple of batches, add a little oil, if needed. When done, place all the beef (with its juices) back into the pan and sprinkle with flour. Stir over high heat for 2 minutes. Remove beef and place it in your vessel with the vegetables. Pour the marinade from the bag into the pan, add ½ cup red wine and deglaze over high heat, scraping up any crispy bits from the bottom. Add in pepper, salt and the tomato. Stir and pour it into vessel.
Finally, pour in beef broth, enough to barely cover the beef. Pieces should be poking through. Place on the lid and bring up to a simmer. Do not let it boil and continue to check often through the cooking process. Cook for 1 to 1½ hours stovetop, or 2 hours for slow cooker, till beef is tender. In the last ½ hour, add in the pearl onions. Taste and adjust seasoning. For a thicker sauce, mix butter and flour and stir into the stew.
Place in a serving platter, sprinkle with parsley and serve with sides. Enjoy with the rest of the PEC Cab Franc!
- boiled baby potatoes or mashed or buttered egg noodles
- peas or steamed broccoli
- crusty baguette
- non-stick large frying pan
- medium size – enamelled, cast iron Dutch Oven (Le Creuset) or Slow Cooker
*When you are defrosting the onions, place on paper towel to absorb extra moisture.
** If you are using a Slow Cooker, heat up the beef broth before you add it.
Where to Get the Goods!
As of time of writing, here are some options for where to find these ingredients.
- I prefer this cut, as it cooks quicker. Just increase the cooking time if you choose a tougher cut. Try one of these local shops for whichever cut your choose. Fresh from Ralph’s Meat Market and local grocery chains. Local frozen beef at Jubilee Forest Farm and County Farm Centre.
- Pearl onion is a classic ingredient to add. Available frozen at County Farm Centre in Picton. It’s optional though, as you are already covered with the other onion.
- Wellington Mushroom Farm store is closed to visitors right now. Pick up your favourite type at our local grocer. I love King or Cremini (brown) for this dish.
- I would choose a PEC Cab Franc for this dish. You only need part of the bottle for the dish, the remainder is for drinking!