Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Beef Bourguignon (Page 440)

  • Date: Thursday, December 27, 2007 -- 7pm
  • Location Westerville, OH
  • Kitchen: Karen and Dave's House
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Dining Companions: Karen H, Dave, Deniz, Brad, Jinx, Eddie, Michael S, Phil, and Kayla
  • Recipe Rating: B

Karen thought everyone would enjoy having Beef Bourguignon for dinner last week, so Matty and I made it on Thursday. This dish was tasty. Opinions varied on how tasty it was. Matty thought it was amazing -- he went on and on for days about the amazing flavor of the sauce, and the tenderness of the beef, etc... I thought it was good, but I wasn't in awe of it. In fact, I can safely say that I won't make it again. It is undeniable that the beef was very tender. It fell apart with the touch of your fork, as properly braised meat should. I didn't think the sauce it was that great though. Everything that went into it was good (a bottle and half of wine and 3/4 of a cup of brandy for instance!), but I thought the end product tasted mainly like meat in meat sauce. It was extremely rich. For accurate representation, I should note that Matty completely disagreed with my assessment that the sauce tasted only of meat -- he thought it had lovely depth and an amazing flavor. Perhaps the explanation is just that I am not a huge fan of beef bourguignon -- I haven't had it in a long time, so I can't remember ever loving it. But honestly, I would have preferred my mother's beef stew to this recipe. That said, I enjoyed eating it -- it was definitely not bad. But I wasn't terribly impressed by it either.

Here is the recipe.

It seems that people rarely braise any more. I don't understand it -- braising is amazing. You take the cheapest cuts of meat, and cook them for hours and hours in barely simmering liquid, and the meat turn out flavorful and unbelievably tender. Why has this gone out of fashion? People always say it's because braising isn't terribly healthy. True, the cuts of meat one uses to braise tend to be fattier than the cuts you would roast. But they aren't fattier than what you would use to make a good hamburger! Plus, so much of what we eat these days is prepared in a restaurant (where you would be appalled by how much butter and oil is used) that I don't buy this "people don't braise because it is unhealthy" reasoning. I think that as a culture we don't braise much because braising takes time. This beef, for instance, cooked for more than 4 hours. I can understand looking at a recipe, seeing that it takes 5 hours to prepare, and being overwhelmed. But the thing is, you don't have to do anything for the vast majority of that time. This beef didn't require attention for those 4 hours -- you don't even need to stir! Braised meats also keep well and often taste better the next day, so I usually braise late at night, after I am in for the evening. I take it out before I go to bed, and the next day I have something delicious waiting for me. In summary: yay braising! If you've never braised before, you should give it a try. This recipe is fussier than most, so I would start with something easier. If you have The Book, try the Brisket a la Carbonnade -- it is simple and delicious. Unfortunately that one isn't online though...

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