How to feed the ‘sweating serfs’

Chateau Duffy is in France’s Limousin region, a rolling landscape of pastures and oaks dotted with centuries-old villages and soft brown cattle. Using local beef in a traditional French Beouf Bourguignon stew seemed an appropriate way to feed the sweating serfs.

Like any recipe, you are free to alter, adapt, or screw it up. The real trick is to let it cook low and long.

Bon appetit!

– Richard Paoli

Beef Bourguignon

Should serve 6, or 4 with nice leftovers

Thick cut bacon, 1/4 pound
Olive oil, about 1/2 cup
Small onions (often called boiling onions)
Stew beef, 2 pounds, uncut if possible — if not make sure the pieces are 1 1/2 inch cubes.
Flour, a cup
Salt and pepper
Bottle of a dry but inexpensive red wine
(Plus two more bottles of the same wine to drink with the meal.)
Carrots, 6 medium.
Peas, 1 pound, frozen will do nicely.
Bay leaf, 3 or 4.
Dried thyme, 1 1/2 teaspoons

Cut the bacon into strips so they resemble fat matchsticks.
Trim and peel onions.
Wipe mushrooms clean and cut into quarters.
Cut beef into 1 1/2 inch cubes
Peel, slice carrots into 1/4 inch rounds. Blanch for 5 minutes in lightly salted water, drain.
Put the peas in warm water to defrost and then drain.

You’ll need a cast iron or enameled 6 to 8 quart pot. Place the pot over medium heat (medium heat for all the following steps, too), add a tablespoon of oil and the bacon. Render the fat from the bacon and when the strips are just about to crisp, remove from pot with a slotted spoon and set aside in a big bowl. Toss the onions into the pot and saute until golden. Remove the onions with the same slotted spoon and add to the bacon. Add 2-3 tablespoons olive oil and saute the mushrooms, probably in two or three batches. This allows them to brown quickly. Add mushrooms to the bacon and onions bowl.

Place the cup of flour in a plastic bag large enough to hold the beef. Add add 1 teaspoon salt and 1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper to the bag and shake several times. Now add the beef and shake the bag, making sure the beef pieces are all evenly coated with flour. Add 2 tablespoons oil to the pot and, in batches, saute the beef, browning the pieces on all sides. The browned beef goes in the bowl.

Add a cup of red wine to the pot and scrape the bottom to loosen all the crusty bits. Then add the rest of the bottle and cook off the alcohol. Takes about 5-8 minutes.

Add the bacon, onions, beef, and the bay leaf and thyme. Cover. Cook over low heat (just simmering) for 3-4 hours.

About 15-20 minutes before serving, add the carrots and peas.

This stew can be served from the cooking pot at the table. Best served in a soup plate with sliced boiled potatoes, or wide egg noodles, or lots of crusty bread.


Photo: Liz Clutterbuck

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