Boeuf Bourguignon

As Eddard Stark would say, winter is coming. Here in Montreal  I can already feel a winter chill in the air and it's always around this time of year that I start to crave warm, hearty dishes like this one. This dish is inspired by a version of the French classic Boeuf Bourguignon that we used to do when I worked at Globe. We braised beef cheeks in red wine and served them over fingerling potatoes with sauteed mushrooms and bacon.
   Beef cheeks are absolutely amazing when braised until they are fork tender, but they can be pretty hard to find, even at a good butcher shop. For that reason, I use a different cut in this recipe: flat iron steak. This cut can also be a bit hard to find, but it's gaining popularity. It's inexpensive and is perfect for braising. Ask your butcher to trim off the white membrane and then cut it into 1" steaks. If you can't find beef cheeks or flat iron steak, go with short ribs. They are a bit more expensive, but are a very flavorful cut.
   To call this recipe boeuf bourguinon is a real stretch because the only thing it actually has in common with the classic French stew is that the beef is braised in red wine. Really, I just love the texture of  braised beef, but I find it so much more satisfying to have one hulking piece of meat on my plate. You'll find that the melting texture of the beef goes perfectly with the creamy roasted garlic mashed potatoes from my previous post. The beef takes 3 hours to cook, so I suggest you try putting it together on a Saturday night while making that night's dinner and then warm it up the following day in the braising liquid for a lazy Sunday dinner. A braise like this also works well for a dinner party. You can prepare it early in the day and then when your guests arrive all you will have to do is reheat everything and serve.

Serves 5, prep time 30 minutes, cooking time 3 1/2 hours

1 kg flat iron steak, cut into 5 steaks
3 white onions
2 cloves garlic
450g (1lbs) carrots, peeled
1 bottle red wine, cabernet sauvignon
3 tablespoons tomato paste
225g (1/2lbs) extra fine green beans
900g mashed potatoes
vegetable oil, salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 450F
1. Cut the onions and garlic in half. Roughly chop half the carrots and reserve the rest for garnish. Put the vegetables on a baking tray and drizzle with oil. Roast in the oven until golden brown. About 15 minutes. When the vegetables are done, lower the oven to 350F.
2. While the vegetables are roasting, start searing the steaks. Season the steaks with salt & pepper. Heat a small amount of oil in a large frying pan on high heat. Add the steaks and lower the heat to medium high. Sear the steaks until nice and brown on both sides, about 5 minutes per side. Don't overcrowd the pan or the steam coming off the steaks will keep you from achieving a good sear. You will probably have to fry the steaks in 2 batches.
3. Combine the vegetable and the beef in a large pot and add the red wine, tomato paste, black peppercorns & bay leaves. Add enough water to cover everything and cover the pot with a lid or aluminium foil. Place in the oven at 350F. Check the meat after 3 hours. It should be easy to pull apart with a fork. If the meat is not tender enough after 3 hours, return the pot to the oven and then let cook for another 30 to 60 minutes. Braising beef is a patients person's game. For extra succulent results you can try braising the beef overnight, for 12 hours at 250F.
4. When the meat is cooked, strain the liquid and remove the vegetables discard them. Return the beef to the pot and let simmer on the stove until the braising liquid is thick enough to coat the meat. About 10 minutes. Season with salt & fresh ground pepper.
5. While the sauce is reducing, cook the remaining carrots and the beans in salted boiling water. Heat the mash potatoes, put a mound of potatoes on each plate and top with the beans and carrots, followed by the beef. Drizzle the remaining sauce over each plate.


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