When it is as cruelly cold out as it has been this week, beef bourguignon is one of my favorite things. If there is anything better than a symphony of onions, carrots, red wine, broth and a scoop of tomato paste simmered for hours, I haven’t met it. I don’t want to meet it. I already know my favorite.
Julia Child’s recipe was always my mother’s go-to dish for company and back in the day, the smell of it braising in the oven was enough to get me to reconsider my vegetarianism. I cheated more than once, ladling the braise broth over egg noodles, and never felt that I wasn’t missing a thing. In fact, I always argued that most of the things people thought they liked about meat they actually liked about the sauces and braises and spices they were cooked in, which is why I have been dreaming up a vegetable based bourguignon for ages.
But I finally figured out how I wanted to do it on Monday night, and just in time: it’s a freaking icicle out there. I used the same approach — sauteed onions and carrots, tomato paste, thyme, broth and wine — but swapped out the beef with meaty slices of mushrooms. I didn’t spare any of the fixings — it was finished with a thickening butter and pearl onions and we ate it over egg noodles.
It was heavenly, warm and comforting and I dare say, the best antidote to this shivering January. Well, the best antidote that is not a Caribbean island. Though I guess that goes without saying.
Cupcakes! I have the tiniest of articles in the February issue Martha Stewart Living about cupcakes for every occasion. It was really fun to see the behind the scenes process at the magazine. I watched them work on the cupcakes in the test kitchen, got to see the photographer shooting the cupcakes and even had a sample of each to bring home and “ponder” while I wrote my blurbs. (Tough life! Though after one bite each of about 10 of them, I was ready to swear off cupcakes forever! Alas, it didn’t last.) Check it out.
Chocolate Stout Cake: The Chocolate Stout Cake gets gussied up for Valentines Day in the February issue of Elle. It’s all of the way back in the magazine’s nosebleed seats, heh, page 139, but they do an adorable adaptation of it in a heart shaped pan. Check it out. (P.S. I’ll be scanning both clips in as soon as I figure out how to use my new scanner.)
The best part about this — well, besides all of it, if I can so humbly say — is that it’s a bourguignon without the heft of beef, but all of the indulgence. Plus, since you don’t need to braise it in the oven for three hours, it can be a weekday night dinner. And you can serve it to vegetarians. And nobody will miss a thing.
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter, softened
2 pounds portobello mushrooms, in 1/4-inch slices (save the stems for another use) (you can use cremini instead, as well)
1/2 carrot, finely diced
1 small yellow onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup full-bodied red wine
2 cups beef or vegetable broth (beef broth is traditional but vegetable to make it vegetarian; it works with either)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (1/2 teaspoon dried)
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup pearl onions, peeled (thawed if frozen)
Egg noodles, for serving
Sour cream and chopped chives or parsley, for garnish (optional)
Heat the one tablespoon of the olive oil and one tablespoon of butter in a medium Dutch oven or heavy sauce pan over high heat. Sear the mushrooms until they begin to darken, but not yet release any liquid — about three or four minutes. Remove them from pan.
Lower the flame to medium and add the second tablespoon of olive oil. Toss the carrots, onions, thyme, a few good pinches of salt and a several grinds of black pepper into the pan and cook for 10, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for just one more minute.
Add the wine to the pot, scraping any stuck bits off the bottom, then turn the heat all the way up and reduce it by half. Stir in the tomato paste and the broth. Add back the mushrooms with any juices that have collected and once the liquid has boiled, reduce the temperature so it simmers for 20 minutes, or until mushrooms are very tender. Add the pearl onions and simmer for five minutes more.
Combine remaining butter and the flour with a fork until combined; stir it into the stew. Lower the heat and simmer for 10 more minutes. If the sauce is too thin, boil it down to reduce to the right consistency. Season to taste.
To serve, spoon the stew over a bowl of egg noodles, dollop with sour cream (optional) and sprinkle with chives or parsley.