Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Alchemy from Burgundy

Making beef stew from Burgundy is not cooking, it is alchemy. Quantity and quality. Quality - what meat, what wine to use. Quantity- salt, sweetness, acidity, a fight between cosmic forces. Beef stew from Burgundy is a quest through an alchemical process, a quest for harmony.

This quest took place at Løten, a Saturday two weeks ago. I had lost battle number one - these stews need texture, meaning tough meat with the necessary amount of fat and fibre. Fat to add taste, moisture and to cleanse our digestive system, fibre to keep the structure of meat through hours of cooking. These stews were originally made to use what was left of the carcass. But I lost the argument with Stian and Øyvind - used roast of beef - too good for alchemy....

If you expect a recipe here, I have to disappoint you. No recipe is required, only intuition. I had roughly 1 kilo/ 2 lbs of lean beef, good cut with the most brilliant ruby red colour, clearly visible as I diced the meat into 1 inch by 1 inch dices. I used, as every peasant from Burgundy would, any vegetable available. Two onions and one large carrot, diced, and celery cut into small pieces.

Do use an iron pan - as it will share the tastes from its former meals adding to the mystery of the process. Stians pan had been used for more than 50 years. Mystery!!!

Take a very generous amount of good butter - heat it until golden, and brown the one third of the meat, remove, then one third and at last the last third. Put aside.

Brown as much garlic as you want in the excess butter and then add onions, carrots and celery (in that order), one tbsp of flour and stir until well mixed. Then add 50 cl / 1 pint of good stock, 2-3 tbsp tomato pure, and any herb you may have in your garden. I picked fresh sage, rosemary, thyme, and organo and added a bay leaf. Then 1-2 glasses of red wine. Put the browned meat back in the pan and let the alchemy commence.

A word of caution. If you are tempted to consider using anything but your favourite wine in your cooking - reconsider. Use the wine you love in you favourite food. Bad wine does not get any better if you use it to cook with. I used the table wine from the Wine Brothers, a wine I was served and appreciated, a rich blend of merlot and cabernet sauvignon.

As the alchemy started, I was alarmed as I tasted the stew the first half hour, tasting nothing but the acidity of the wine, and then added sugar and pepper in small quantities as it simmered. Through the hours the stew grew milder as all the tastes developed. At this point I added the necessary amount of seasoning to enhance the flavours of the ingredients.

And now the moment of transformation. After three hours on low heat, I removed all the meat from the stew, and poured the vegetables and sauce into a liquidizer and blended until smooth. Then I poured the mixture back into the pan, added the meat and allow to simmer for another hour.

By now, all the flavours had infused further and blended into the most beautiful mix derived from the best from all ingredients.

Transmutation!! Gold from base metals.

What to eat with it. Mashed potatoes or even better - try baked potatoes.


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