If you follow me along on Instagram you’ve probably put together a few things by now. Hopefully high on that list is that I am a seasonal gal, at heart. As much as I claim ‘summer forever’ I truly believe I need each of the seasons for very specific reasons and with the winter one approaching (ok, ok, I think it’s here) I’ve started to reflect on what this season brings to me.
Sure there is the obvious: hibernate in flannel by the fire with red wine. Yet a lovely friend born and raised in the always sunny oh so perfect California provided such an interesting perspective for me. She claimed that it’s the cruel Midwestern winters keep her family together.
I’ve never experiences not having seasons so I don’t know any different. Yet what she said struck a chord with me that I may have not have put together on my own. Summer, naturally, is amazing but so much of summer is going here and there and everywhere because….it’s amazing. In the most chaotic of ways. Time slips away at the pool and friends homes and baseball fields and barbeques and so on and so forth.
And then winter hits and it hits hard. Fast. Dark. Cold. Those aren’t ideal conditions for gallivanting out and about with friends until the (late) sunset. You’re sort of become stuck together. Staring at each other at 4:50PM in the darkness thinking, well, now what?
That ‘now what’ is where it all happens. It forces you to slow down, a bit. To connect. To stay home.
I’ll never forget a cozy intimate dinner party with our dear friends and neighbors last winter. It was a bitter cold day followed by the prettiest of snowfalls. I had, thankfully, done all my grocery shopping at Heinens the prior day so that morning still in pajamas I texted my friend ‘your home tonight? I’ll bring the beef bourguignon.’
They were in. And I got to slow cook the most amazing of winter dinners all morning. Chopping, searing, sauteing, roasting, braising. All the good stuff, right? So many noises and flavors and textures, and that smell. Lingering in your home throughout the whole day, almost taunting you until dinner time.
As the evening approached and the sun slipped down into a snowy horizon we all piled into the mudroom to bundle up. We were going a mere 20 feet but the present conditions required snow boots, scarves, hats, winter coats. Ten minutes later we were set and we all stepped out into the perfect winter night together. It almost felt magical. The fresh snow was still falling and seemed to almost glitter. The beef bourguinoon staying nice and warm in my trusty red pot. The whole moment had a ‘over the river and through the woods’ nostalgic vibe. And just like that it hit me.
Although the temperature would suggest otherwise with the sharp wind hitting my face, the warmth that evening brought is like no warmth summer could ever give us. And while we all may frown upon the approaching harshness that the Midwestern winters can bring, I’m relishing in the fact that our weekends are home, together. Not in two separate directions for two different baseball games on fields near and far.
So stay in, invite over some neighbors (bonus if they don’t even have to drive) and serve this beef bourguignon. I am happy to say I have tested many recipes over the years and this hands down has been the absolute best. Have your butcher prepare your meat for you (I like to leave a small amount of fat on for flavor). Don’t skip roasting the vegetables. As far as the wine to cook it with, I was recommended this one by the oh so knowledgeable wine guy at Heinens and it worked perfectly.
Lastly, this is the classic winter dish to entertain with as you can make it ahead and then staying warm in a low oven (200ish) until dinner time. I serve mine over egg noodles tossed with chives and butter along with a light spinach salad, crusty bread, and obviously….red wine.
So cheers to weekends in, to slow cooking, to neighbors over, to savoring all that yes, even the amazing season of summer, can’t provide. Winter will never be my favorite but there is something to be said for enjoying exactly what it is.
- 8 ounces bacon, coarsely chopped
- 3 pounds well-trimmed boneless beef chuck, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes (have your butcher do this)
- 1/3 cup all purpose flour
- 1 1/4 pounds frozen pearl onions, defrosted on the counter just a bit
- 3/4 pound large carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
- few TBS balsamic vinegar
- olive oil, salt, and pepper
- 12 large garlic cloves, peeled (left whole)
- 3 cups canned beef stock
- 1/2 cup Cognac or brandy (I used Brandy)
- 1 bottle red Burgundy wine (see above photo for good recommendation)
- 1 1/4 pounds mushrooms
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh thyme
- 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Set carrots and onions on large rimmed baking sheet and toss with some olive oil, salt, pepper, and a few glugs of balsamic vinegar. Roast in the oven until nice and browned, roughly 20-25 minutes.
- Lower oven to 275. Sauté bacon in heavy large Dutch oven over high heat until brown and crisp, about 8 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels, leaving the grease behind.
- Season beef generously with salt and pepper; coat with 1/3 cup flour, using all of flour. Working in 3 batches, brown beef in same pot over high heat, about 5 minutes per batch. Transfer meat to large bowl.
- Add garlic and sauté 1 minute. Transfer to the roasted vegetables.
- Add 1 cup broth and Cognac to pot; boil until reduced to glaze, scraping up browned bits, about 8 minutes. Meanwhile, in a separate pan over medium high heat, saute the mushrooms in a few TBS of butter until nice and browned.
- Return all meat and vegetables, including mushrooms, and their juices to pot. Add in some of the bacon too, if you'd like. (I used about half).
- Add in the wine, thyme, sugar, tomato paste and 2 cups broth. Bring to boil for just a moment, stirring occasionally. Cover pot and place in oven. Cook until beef is tender, about 3 hours.
- Ladle liquid from stew into large saucepan. Spoon off fat. Boil liquid until reduced to 2 3/4 cups, about 40 minutes. (This simply helps thicken the sauce). Season with salt and pepper. Pour liquid back over beef and vegetables. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.) Rewarm over low heat before serving.