Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Beating the Blahs

Every year, right around February, I start wishing I was anywhere but here. I don't even know how I got to work this morning, so lost was I in a fantasy about swapping my apartment for one in Barcelona. Let's see, a stylish, fully equipped and furnished luxury duplex with a sunny, private terrace overlooking Plaza Catalunya for my two bedroom filled with cat hair overlooking a gravel parking lot.  I don't think so.

That's when it's nice to be a cook. I pulled my copy of Patricia Wells' Bistro Cooking off the shelf, et voila, I was on my way to Provence. "For decades, this has been the Monday special at La Mere Besson, a traditional family bistro in the sun-drenched city of Cannes," Wells writes about the recipe for Estouffade Provencale, or Provencal Beef Stew. Take me there! Please!

Provided you plan ahead, this is the easiest recipe you will ever make.  For me, it began with a beautiful boneless beef chuck roast from Eight O'Clock Ranch

After cutting it into chunks, add a bottle of red wine--from Provence, of course. Go ahead, squander the
entire bottle on just one recipe.  After an entire month of tedium punctuated by boredom you will feel sort of wanton and extravagant and maybe even a little...French!

The meat, along with some vegetables, fresh thyme and bay leaves, "ripens" in the refrigerator for two days.  After that, you pull the pot out of the fridge, plop it on the burner, and allow it to percolate for 3-4 hours while you try to keep from fishing out chunks of it before its time. The best part is the orange zest you stir in right before serving--it turns this dark, delicious stew into something bright and a little exotic.

When it's finished, help yourself to a warm, satisfying bowl, and be sure to thank God for putting you exactly where you are.

Estouffade Provencale
From Bistro Cooking

2 1/2 lbs. stewing beef, cut into 1 1/2 inch chunks
2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 carrot, peeled and cut in rounds
1 celery rib, minced
salt and freshly ground pepper
2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 bottle of red wine, preferable Provencal
1 bunch fresh thyme leaves
3 imported bay leaves
1 strip of orange zest, about 2 inches, chopped

1.  Two days before serving the stew, combine all of the ingredients except orange zest in a large enameled casserole.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.
2.  The next day, bring the mixture to a simmer over low heat.  Simmer gently, until the meat is very tender, 3 to 4 hours.
3.  Allow the stew to cool down.  Refrigerate until the fat rises to the top and can be scraped off, about 12 hours.
4.  At serving time, reheat until meat is heated through, 10-15 minutes.  Adjust seasonings.  To serve, remove bay leaves and thyme; stir in orange zest.

Makes 8 servings

1 comment:

  1. As usual, this looks yummy. I'm ordering from Eight O'Clock Ranch tomorrow! You are an inspiration.