Beef Stew

You can usually differentiate between a weeknight meal and Shabbat dinner by what’s cooking in the kitchen.  On a Friday afternoon there is the hint of yeast from freshly baked challot, mingled with the spicy smells of some kind of side dish (often made with large amounts of garlic), and the scent of slow roasting beef or chicken.  Sometimes there is the subtle but definitive aroma of chicken soup simmering on the stove.  Somehow all of this sets the mood for Shabbat, like a forshpeis (appetizer) for the senses.  For me Shabbat dinner means being with family or friends, and good food and wine always enhance the experience.

We recently spent Shabbat at the beach house of our friends Sheila and Alan.  Arriving on Friday afternoon,  the first thing you noticed was the wonderful smells coming from the direction of the kitchen.  Something, yet unknown to me, was cooking but you could identify the red wine, garlic and beef.  It was Beef Stew, a version of Boeuf Bourguignon, a daunting dish to prepare, mainly because of its long association with Julia Child, and then more recently with the movie, Julie and Julia.  It is a dish I have never attempted to make in this traditional French method, mainly out of fear that it could never meet my own expectations or anybody else’s.
And here is the beauty of preparing Shabbat dinner for friends.  It affords you the opportunity to stretch yourself in the kitchen.  If you are going to spend hours cooking, you want the end result to be equal to the effort.  This dish met our expectations and more, especially in light of the fact that Sheila doesn’t eat beef, she couldn’t correct the seasoning or enjoy the dish herself.  Her reward was simply seeing the smile on the faces of her guests.  Shabbat Shalom.

Boeuf Bourguignon

Sheila adapted a recipe by Ina Garten.  Her suggestion was to use a  REALLY, REALLY good bottle of  Cabernet.

2 1/2 pounds chuck beef, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes

1 bottle Cabernet

3 whole garlic cloves, smashed

3 bay leaves

2 cups all-purpose flour

salt and pepper to taste

olive oil

2 yellow onions, chopped

1 pound carrots, peeled and cut in 1 1/2-inch chunks on the diagonal

1/2 pound white mushrooms, thickly sliced

1 pound small potatoes, halved or quartered

1 tablespoon minced garlic  (3 cloves)

2 cups chicken  broth

1 large piece of fresh rosemary

1/2 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 10-oz package frozen peas

Place the beef in a bowl with red wine, garlic, and bay leaves and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, preheat the oven to 300 degrees.  In a bowl, combine the flour with 1 tablespoon each of salt and pepper.   Lift the beef out of the marinade with a slotted spoon, discarding the bay leaves and the garlic, but saving the marinade.  In batches, lightly dredge the cubes of beef in the flour mixture.  Heat 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large Dutch oven and brown the beef (only half the beef at a time so it browns well) over medium heat for 5 to 7 minutes, turning to brown evenly.  Remove beef and set aside in a bowl,  and continue to brown the remaining beef, adding more olive oil as necessary.

Heat another 2 tablespoons of oil to the Dutch Oven and add the onions, carrots, mushrooms, and potatoes.  Cook for 10 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally.  Add the garlic and cook for 2 more minutes.  Remove and set aside.  Add 2 1/2 cups of the reserved marinade to the empty pot and cook over high heat to de-glaze the bottom of the pan, scraping up all the brown bits with a wooden spoon. Remove liquid.  Add the beef back to the pot and cover with vegetables.  Add the chicken stock, rosemary, sun-dried tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, 1 tablespoon salt, and 2 teaspoons pepper.  Pour the sauce over the meat and vegetables and bring Dutch Oven to a simmer over medium heat.  Cover the pot and place it in the oven to bake it for about 2 hours, until the meat and vegetables are all tender, stirring once during cooking.  If the stew is boiling rather than simmering, lower the heat to 250 or 275 degrees.

Before serving, stir in the frozen peas and season to taste.

Note: A perfect dish for a Rosh Hashana meal.