Let's cut straight to the chase, I was blown away by this one, kids. It not only gets a resounding 5 dangs on the ol' Dang Meter, but I might go as far as to give it 5.5 dangs! This is what I'll make the next time we have company over for dinner. This is what I'll make when I want to impress someone, like a foodie who thinks they know what good food is. This is what I'll make for my last meal, provided I still have teeth and can lift a fork. I've never had anything that I liked as much in the comfort food category - because that is what this is...extreme comfort food...it hits all the marks, it's filling, it's warm, it's bursting with a heady mixture of rich, complex flavors...to begin with, it has bacon (!) and then there's the beef, so tender you can cut it with a feather, but use a fork as feathers are messy...and, and, and...it's all served on top of a bed of garlic grits. Boy Howdy! Zee cowboy meets zee French chef and zee magic, she 'appens!
If taste was not enough of a reason to make this, let me give you another...everything goes into one pot at the same time. The lid is put on and 3 hours later...voila! You will have one of the finest meals this side of the Seine. Let me rephrase, you'll have one of the finest meals, including any you could have at any famous French restaurant you can name, this side of the Seine ...it will Eiffel your tower.
This recipe is from Daniel Boulud, famous French chef, New York restaurateur, cookbook author...I saw him on television before Christmas making this recipe. His charming French accent had me from the get-go but when he took bread dough and put it on top of the Dutch oven lid to bake, well, right then and there this recipe went to the top of the heap. After the lid is brushed with egg yolk and dusted with flour, the dough is placed on top, where it seals the lid to the pan, and baked! Fascinating, no?
As impressive as this was obviously meant to be, it wasn't...there had to be some behind the scenes "TV magic" because my bread was burned after 45 minutes! I even put foil over it but it didn't help. I used frozen bread dough, and after thawing, when baking it normally, it only bakes for 25 to 30 minutes, so zee chef must have been into zee wine because had I left the bread in the oven for 3 hours it would have been blacker than the mister's heart! I loved the presentation so much though that I'll continue to tinker around with it and hopefully find a way to make it work, without the magic of TV.)
We shared this stew with some friends, who immediately asked for the recipe - they loved it as much as we did. And I do mean we...the mister lapped it up! He loves beef stew, but the usual kind, meat-potatoes-carrots in gravy...this stew is very different from the usual...along with bacon and beef this also has fennel, fresh basil, fresh rosemary, kalamata olives, and an orange...very different! Flavors that you wouldn't think would go together, all braised together in a lovely bath of red wine and broth (although you could use all wine or all broth). It also has the traditional potatoes and carrots - it's cave-man proof!
Zee chef suggests ladling all of that deliciousness over a bowl of creamy garlic grits. I used instant grits and cooked them in milk instead of water (QFC carries them) so they would be extra creamy. You could also serve this over rice or pasta if you don't like grits. Give this one a try...a one pot wonder that is a real crowd pleaser!
French Beef Stew - Adapted from Daniel Boulud via Live with Kelly and Michael
(I adapted Chef Boulud's recipe quite a bit, for starters, he used lamb (Provencal Lamb Daube) and he marinated it over-night. Which is a great idea if you're serving this to company, you can assemble it the day before and just pop it into the oven 3 hours before you want to eat - the house will smell heavenly when your guests arrive. If you'd like to see his recipe, click here.)
4 lbs. beef, cut into 1-inch cubes (use whatever beef cut you like, sirloin, rib-eye, chuck roast, stew meat, etc. or you could use lamb)
6 slices bacon, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 large head of fennel, thinly sliced
1 can (28 oz.) diced tomatoes
1 small orange, peel on, cut into thin slices
4 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
8 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch or so pieces
4 small carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 onion, cut into thin slices
3 celery stalks, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup small olives, pitted (I used kalamata but you could use a mixture or your favorite green olives)
2 cups red wine (or substitute additional beef stock)
1 container (32 oz.) beef stock (or you can use more red wine, which zee chef used)
2 teaspoons fennel seed
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
1 small cinnamon stick
3 sprigs fresh basil, 2 springs fresh rosemary, 2 sprigs fresh thyme - all three tied together with butcher's twine so they can be removed easily
1 large bay leaf
In a large Dutch oven layer one third of the beef and bacon and top with one third of the vegetables. Repeat, creating three layers of meat and vegetables, finishing with vegetables. Add wine and broth, followed by the fennel, peppercorns, cinnamon stick and the fresh herbs and bay leaf. (At this point you can cover and refrigerate overnight if you want and then 3 hours before dinner you can pop into the oven - no fuss, no mess.)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees and place a rack in the center. Transfer the Dutch oven to a baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes. Reduce temperature to 275 and bake for another 2 1/2 hours. Remove from the oven to rest at least 15 minutes before serving. Remove fresh herb bundle and cinnamon stick. Ladle over garlic grits (recipe below) into bowls. Serves 8.
Garlic Grits - Pots and Pins
2 cloves of garlic, minced
3 cups milk
3 cups water
1 1/2 cups instant grits
3 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the milk and water just to the boil. Whisk in the grits, stirring constantly, until well combined. Stir in the butter, salt and pepper, cover and reduce heat to low. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, or until grits have thickened. Remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and/or pepper if desired. Serve with French Beef Stew, makes 8 servings.
In my last post I told you about me breaking a treasured cake plate...I was really so sad about it, much more sad than I should have been but then I have issues. This morning, as I was trudging back up the hill from my walk, a good friend was sitting in her car in my driveway waiting for me - she had a big box for me! As we walked into the house I remembered she had already given me a Christmas gift and it wasn't my birthday so I was perplexed, until I read her card..."There are certain rules in life...particularly in the kitchen AND if you break a cake plate it MUST be replaced!!!"
There is nothing so sad as an empty cake plate, feel free to quote me, so I'm off to bake a cake! A huge THANK YOU to my very generous (and wise) friend Kareena!!