There are leftovers on the stove, as there often are at Eat Here. Tonight's are good enough to write home about, except as I'm already home, I thought I'd just write to you instead. Vegetarian friends, I love you dearly but you may want to skip this menu and its associated how-to.
The center of the plate is a variation on a recipe for Boeuf Bourguinonne. I'd always avoided this dish because it was Difficult. Julia Child said so. But I read the recipe and as usual adapted it to my own skill level and intuition, and this is more or less how I made it.
I am the very proud owner of a vintage cast iron Dutch oven, given to me by my menfolk (see how smart they are?) several years ago as a Christmas present. I considered this amazing piece of cookware carefully while opening the first bottle of the season's beaujolais nouveau. Full stop, to allow for the wine tasting. This is always an interesting taste for me because I am NOBODY's wine connoisseur. Some years I think it's a pretty good tasting wine, immature even to my decidedly undiscriminating palate. Some years I think it's too awful to drink. This year, I thought it was good. So I dove in. To the recipe, I mean, not the wine. Well, okay. To both.
I had a bit more than a pound of round steak, and 6 slices of good quality bacon. Cook the bacon to the delightful crispy but not overdone texture you know it should have, then remove it from the pan and add about 2 tablespoons of oil. Contrary to direction, I used XVOO. While the bacon is cooking, cut the round steak (or London broil or whatever cut of lean braising beef you're using) into 1-inch pieces. Dredge in flour seasoned with salt and pepper (I added some ground cayenne and dried thyme to the flour, too). After the bacon is set aside and the oil you added is hot enough, quickly brown the floured beef in batches small enough to maintain an even temperature in your pan. Set this all aside as each batch is done - it took me 3 batches to cook the 1-1/2 pounds of beef. Add about 2 tablespoons of butter to the pan. The traditional recipe seems to ask for a dozen or so small pearl onions but I didn't have any. I quartered a red onion and half a sweet onion instead.
Toss the onions into the cast iron Dutch oven (or whatever pan you're using) and cook them slowly until they're softened. Add some finely minced garlic (I used about 2 tablespoons, but I'm a bit Emeril Lagasse on this topic - use your own instincts for this). Cook for a few minutes until the garlic is nicely browning but not close to burning, which can happen pretty quickly. Deglaze the pan with red wine (this year's beaujolais nouveau isn't a bad choice at all, but you can use any red wine you wouldn't be afraid to drink, I think). From here, I added about 2 cups more of the wine and another 2 or 3 cups of beef broth. Add the beef back to the pan along with any juices that have collected. Chop the bacon into a very fine dice (or crumble it with your fingers) and add that, too. I used 2 small bay leaves, dried marjoram and dried thyme. The recipes seem to call for the fresh versions of the herbs but I didn't have them on hand and they were really expensive at Publix. Dried herbs can be our friends. I added a bit of kosher salt and some pepper but not too much on the theory that I had time to correct the seasoning later. And here again, the recipe calls for sauteed mushrooms, but since my people just pick them out I skipped this. Julia Child calls for tomato paste, but I left that out, too. Cover the cast iron pot with a tight-fitting lid and bake at about 325F for...well, for awhile.
I put a couple of sweet potatoes into the oven at the same time, having scrubbed them and poked them lightly. After all, a roasted sweet potato, as we've discussed here, is just flat good for you and needs very little help to be ready to eat. So. Easy. And I had fresh green beans so those went on the stovetop to simmer with a couple of peeled, quartered potatoes and one of the extra slices of bacon, to make the peeps happy. Seasoned with a little kosher salt and a lot of pepper, these pretty much cooked themselves. I keep a blend of basmati and brown rices on hand always, because the basmati has that lovely popcorn fragrance as it cooks and the brown rice lends a warm, slightly nutty flavor. After the meat had been cooking for about an hour, a big handful of baby carrots when into the gravy to simmer and I put the rice on to cook. Dylan finished the meal with a few rolls - they were frozen (Alexia focaccia rolls) but pretty damn good. The final plate is what you see above.
There's the heart of Eat Here Eatery, my loves: had we a real restaurant, this is what we'd have plated up for you tonight. We'd have had a vegetarian option, and perhaps a non-red-meat option, but this would have been the blue plate special, as it were. But don't worry: there are leftovers on the stove and it's early, yet.