Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Pour Mon Chou...

If he reads this, he will smile as I write about romanticizing even the act of cooking French cuisine. Still, I shall assert that caramelizing onions and watching them turn until they reach a light golden hue, shaving bits of a creamy and nutty Gruyere cheese and a few stranded pieces from the grater melting in my mouth as I taste, and hearing the sound of pinot noir splash into a bowl atop vegetables and meats to soak all night and develop their flavors as I prepare to make a romantic dinner for him is, indeed, quite romantic.

I took advantage of the weather this past Sunday, hopefully one of the last cool, rainy days this spring here in New York, to make a Sunday night dinner consisting of French comfort food. The menu: French-style “pizza”, beef bourguignon, mashed potatoes with scallions, and sautéed green beans. The wine was a George DuBoeuf Pinot Noir, which I thought was a nice burgundy for the meal considering how inexpensive it was.

The dinner itself was good, but the company was better. We sat at the table for two hours, and as much as I enjoyed cooking this meal, I forgot about it when I sat down with him. Enjoy...

French Style Pizza (Courtesy of Moi)

- Pizza dough from pizza parlor
- 3 slices of bacon
- 5-6 medium yellow onions
- 2 tablespoons sweet, unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 cups of shredded Gruyere cheese
- dash of nutmeg
- dash of fresh pepper

Method: Slice the onions thinly and melt the butter in a large skillet. Add the onions and cook until they caramelize, 30-40 minutes, stirring often. Remove from heat and set aside. Par-cook the the three slices of bacon in a small skillet (do not overcook, it will crisp in the oven). Cool the bacon and cut into bite sized pieces. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spread pizza dough on pan and cover with caramelized onions, bacon, and cheese. Add a dash of nutmeg and pepper on top. Cook until the dough is a golden color and the top becomes bubbly and crisps.

Beef Bourguignon (Courtesy of Merrilees Parker)

1 kg / 2.2 lbs of good quality beef or Charolais beef *I used regular stewing beef*
For the Marinade:
1 bottle of Burgundian wine e.g.Pinot Noir
2 large sticks of celery roughly chopped
2 fresh bay leaves
pinch of fresh thyme *I used dried*
2 large carrots roughly chopped
2 large onions peeled and quartered
1 bulb of garlic, unpeeled and cut horizontally
1 tablespoons of whole black peppercorns
For the sauce:
2 oz / 50 g of butter
2 tablespoons of olive oil
8 oz / 200g of smoked bacon / pancetta / lardons chopped into small dices
4 shallots peeled and roughly chopped
3 tablespoons of Dijon mustard
a little water
salt and pepper
1.Place the beef in a large bowl and add all the marinade ingredients. Cover and marinade for at least 8 hours or preferably over night. *I recommend overnight*
2.Drain off the liquid from the marinade and reserve. Remove the peppercorns, onions and garlic. Separate vegetables from the meat. Dry the meat thoroughly on kitchen paper.
3.Heat heavy based saucepan. Add the butter and oil, then tip in the beef. Cook over a high heat until sealed all over, then remove from the pan and keep warm.
4.Now cook the lardons for 3-4 minutes until golden. Add the shallots and cook until they just begin to soften, stir in all the marinade vegetables, and cook for a further 3-4 minutes until sealed. 5.Return the meat to the pan and season generously with salt and pepper and stir in the mustard until all the ingredients are coated generously. Pour in the reserved marinade liquid and bring to a gentle bubble.
6.Cover with a lid and cook for 1 ½ - 2 hours when the sauce should be thick and the meat tender, you may need to add a little water half way through the cooking process.

I served this with mashed potatoes and green beans sauteed with garlic.