Friday night I had dinner club at my house. Now, my dinner club is a wonderful thing. Six women get together once a month to….well, eat of course! We’ve been doing it for ten years or so and we don’t miss a month. Our event has evolved to become much more than sharing recipes. Shoot, we don’t even bring our recipes along anymore. Six friends just sitting around eating appetizers, drinking wine, gossiping and discussing, eating more food and planning our next event. It just doesn’t get any better….
One obstacle that I have to overcome twice a year when I host the dinner club is the decision on what to make. You can imagine that we’ve tried quite the variety of foods, so it is a challenge. The host decides on the main course and then we diffy up the rest—an appetizer, two sides, dessert and, of course, the wine and cocktails. But the main course kind of sets the tone of the evening. We’ve gotten pretty good at coordinating our dishes and there has never been a time when dinner club has been disappointing (we won’t talk about the December when we chose to do all appetizers with a gift exchange and had four different kinds of baked brie). At any rate, my dilemma was actually solved when I went to see the Julie/Julia movie over the summer. I have been dying to make Beef Bourguignon ever since.
Now you would think that Beef Bourguignon is very fancy, very expensive and very hard to make. Well, let’s keep the fancy part, just because. But really, when it comes down to it, Beef Bourguignon is French for beef stew. Very, very tasty beef stew, I might add. And this, by far, is not the most expensive meal I’ve ever made.
I loosely followed a recipe in The New Basics Cookbook. Most of the Beef Bourguignon (that word kills me—it is so hard to spell—and I majored in French, lol) recipes that I found were very similar, so I just picked one. Here are the ingredients I used:
½ pound of thick sliced bacon, diced
3 pounds of chuck roast, cubed (I bought stew meat since it was on sale and already cubed for me)
1 cup chopped onions
Salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons flour
3 cups dry, good quality red wine
3 cups beef stock or broth
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons dried thyme (the original recipe used fresh rosemary leaves, but I didn’t have any—I think the recipe would have been even better with fresh herbs)
3-4 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 cups white pearl onions
8 oz fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 tablespoon butter
First you have to check out my official LeCrueset pot.
Pete bought a whole set of Le Crueset for me the first Christmas we were together--30 years ago. I'll bet the cost of this one pot today would have bought the whole set back then.
Preheat the oven to 350 ° F.
In an oven proof casserole dish or dutch oven, sauté the bacon until crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels (the recipe never mentions the crisp bacon again--I just saved it and used it in a salad the next day).
Meanwhile, pat the meat dry with paper toweling.
Pour off all but one tablespoon of the bacon drippings. Over medium-high heat, sauté the beef a few pieces at a time until browned on all sides.
Add the onions to the beef, and sprinkle with salt and pepper and the flour. Cook over high heat, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes.
Add the wine, stock, tomato paste, and thyme (I also added 3 bay leaves) and bring to a boil. Cover the casserole, transfer it to the oven and bake until the meat is tender, about 2 hours.
While the beef is in the oven, prepare the vegetables. Bring a small pot of water to boil. Drop in the carrots and boil until tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Drain, rinse under cold water, and drain again. Reserve.
Make a small X in the root end of each pearl onion. Drop them in the boiling water and cook for 5 minutes. Drain, rinse under cold water, and drain again. Peel and reserve.
Sauté the mushrooms in the butter for about 10 minutes on medium heat. Set aside.
When the meat is cooked, transfer the casserole to a burner, and add the carrots, onions and mushrooms. Heat through, about 7 minutes.
You will have to excuse some of the pictures---the lighting wasn't ideal.
My friends also brought some delicious food to accompany the main course. Jennifer brought a beautiful cheese appetizer, some French bread and some good olives. Amy made a terrific soda bread to sop up the gravy.
Jane brought a gorgeous Salade Niçoise, made with a bit of chicken instead of tuna.
And the grand finale was Patricia’s dessert: Crème Brûleé!
Altogether an outstanding meal!