Sunday, November 25, 2012

Flemish Beef Stew

I suppose with a blog entitled "Zou Bisou Beef Stew", I had to deliver a beef stew recipe sooner or later! Voila, my Flemish beef stew, or carbonade à la flamande as it is otherwise known. When the winter winds start licking underneath the doors and rattling the window panes as they did yesterday, there are few comfort foods I enjoy cooking more than this dish of tender, savory chunks of chuck braised in a rich burgundy-brown gravy spiked with a spicy and complex abbey-style ale.

Important tips - do not scrimp on the beer, and, make sure to get an extra bottle or two to sip with the meal! I recommend Ommegang's Abbey Ale. Enjoy!

Note: this picture is of leftovers; there is significantly more gravy in the initial go-round!
Flemish Beef Stew
Makes 3 servings

Recipe heavily adapted from a Saveur clipping; online copy here

*About 1 1/2 lb beef chuck roast, cut into 1 to 1 1/2 inch cubes
*1/4 cup flour
*1 teaspoon ground coriander
*Healthy pinches of kosher salt & pepper
*4 slices of bacon, cut into 1/4 inch lardons
*2 tablespoons butter
*5 cloves garlic, minced
*2 small yellow onions or one very large onion, halved and thinly sliced
*14-16 oz Belgian abbey-style ale (I always use Ommegang Abbey Ale)
*1 cup beef stock
*2 teaspoons brown sugar, divided
*2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
*A couple sprigs of thyme and parsley, plus one sprig of tarragon, tied together
*1 slice crusty country bread, preferably a day old, slathered with 1/2 teaspoon grainy Dijon mustard on each side
*1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
*Bread, mashed potatoes or egg noodles, for serving

Heat oven to 325. Combine the flour, S&P and coriander in a large ziplock bag. Add the cubed meat and toss the bag around until the pieces are lightly floured; remove and shake off excess flour. Meanwhile, cook chopped bacon over medium in a dutch oven until fat has rendered. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon, and then working in batches, add the meat and brown on all sides, about 5 minutes total per batch, adding a touch of olive oil if needed between batches. Transfer the meat to a plate and set aside. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter and add the onions. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of brown sugar and a pinch of salt over them and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until caramelized, about 20-30 minutes. Add the garlic, increase the heat back to medium and cook for another few minutes. Add half of the beer; cook, scraping at the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon, until the beer has slightly reduced, about 3 minutes. Return beef and any juices to the pot with the remaining beer, stock, the rest of the sugar, vinegar, bacon, bound herbs, paprika and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat, place the mustard-slathered bread on top of the stew and cover.  Braise covered in the oven for at least 2 1/2 hours, preferably 3. I usually stir half of the bread into the stew, depending on the thickness of the gravy, and then toss the other half (or let the cats lick it for a while).

You could also crockpot this sumbitch, if you so prefer.

Buttered egg noodles tossed with salt, pepper, and minced parsley is my favorite foundation for the stew, but pick your favorite starch to pair - just make sure that you have some extra crusty bread on hand as well!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Chicken Salad Wraps

I have to admit, I'm not too familiar with the quintessential "chicken salad". I may or may not have had chicken salad at some point in my life, but if so, it never made an impression on me. It certainly wasn't anything I thought about making myself! That is, until a number of months ago when I was browsing a really beautiful food blog, What Katie Ate, and came across her recipe for chicken salad. It sounded so tasty that I made it almost immediately after reading the recipe - and it was just as good as it sounded. Over time I've tweaked and prodded at the recipe, and this is my final draft - without knowing the ins and outs of your traditional deli-style chicken salad, I still think I can say with certainty that this is damn good chicken salad. If you have a secret ingredient that goes into your batch though, do share! There's always room for further perfection.

Chicken Salad Wraps
No. of servings vary - I usually get one big wrap's worth plus another sandwich/half sandwich out of this recipe

*1 chicken breast, butterflied or cut into a few strips
*1 tablespoon black peppercorns
*1/2 lemon
*1/2 stalk celery, very finely sliced
*1 heaping tablespoon golden raisins
*1/4 cup walnuts, lightly toasted and roughly chopped
*Leaves from one branch of tarragon, roughly chopped
*1 1/2 teaspoons cream cheese
*2 heaping tablespoons mayonnaise
*A couple passes over the microplane with a hunk of good Parm-Reg
*1 wrap skin or large tortilla, OR a couple slices of your preferred bread.

Fill a wide pan with a couple inches of water, enough to cover your chicken breast. Add the peppercorns and a sprinkle of salt along with the juice of half a lemon, and then cut the spent lemon half into a few pieces and throw them in too. Bring to a boil and continue boiling rapidly for a few minutes before adding the chicken. Turn the heat down to low, cover and poach the chicken for about 10 minutes or until just cooked through. Remove the chicken and shred when cool enough to touch.

Combine the celery, tarragon, raisins, toasted walnuts, mayonnaise, cream cheese, and chicken, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Grate in just a touch of Parm-Reg, stir, and then pop into a container and chill for a while. When ready to eat, assemble your wrap/sandwich, and enjoy!