Two large snowstorms on adjacent weekends are likely noticed with a bit of concern even in Maine. First, we had the whiteout and then less than a week later another layer of snow with sleet glazing everything with a thick layer of ice. Icing on a cake is the final touch to enhance a delicious product, but a layer of ice that requires chopping with a shovel to remove the snow below is only bound to enhance frustration.
For the cook, such days are designed to be spent in the kitchen. They are ideal for rediscovering old recipes for slow cooked dishes to perfume the warm kitchen. Stews of all types come to mind with their hearty flavors to warm anyone, whether they have been battling the elements or just watching the swirling ice crystals outside from a window. Thumbing through my old, yellowed copy of Fernande Garvin’s “The Art of French Cooking” (1958), another recipe caught my eye, somewhat similar to the more familiar Boef Bourguignon, but with the added flavors of salt pork or in my slightly modified version, bacon.
Boef ‘en Daube’
Prepare the vegetables by slicing 2 medium onions, 2 medium carrots sliced in 1-inch pieces, and 2 chopped garlic cloves.
Cook 3 slices of thick bacon in a pan, remove at only partially crisp stage and place in the bottom of a Dutch oven or a heavy baking pot with a tight lid. Layer the vegetables on top of the bacon.
Pour off most of the fat from the pan and quickly brown in batches, 1 and 1/2 lb sirloin tips cut in 1 and 1/2-inch pieces. Layer the browned meat on top of the vegetables, sprinkle with 1 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, 1 tsp thyme and add 1 bay leaf.
Scrape the browned bits from the pan with 2 cups dry red wine and pour over the meat. Cover tightly and bake at 350 degrees 2 hours.
While the meat is baking, slice 4 oz fresh mushrooms and fry them in 2 tbsp butter, seasoning with salt and pepper. After two hours baking, uncover the meat, add the mushrooms, and stir in 2 tbsp tomato paste dissolved in 1/3 cup red wine. Cover the pot tightly again and continue to bake for an additional 30 minutes. Serve hot with flat noodles or potatoes. This dish can be prepared in advance and reheated or frozen, with enhanced flavors upon reheating.
To keep our dinner plates colorful, our flavorful beef was accompanied by fresh green beans paired with shiitake mushrooms and crisped shallots.
String beans with shiitake and shallots
Trim, wash and cook 3/4 lb green string beans in salted water for 3 minutes. Chill in ice water to crisp.
Heat 2 tbsp grapeseed oil in a large pan and fry 2 thinly sliced large shallots to crisp. Remove from the pan, add 2 tbsp butter and fry 4 oz sliced shiitake to brown 3-4 minutes without turning, stir mushrooms and season with salt and pepper and 1 tbsp lemon juice. Reduce heat, add 2 more tbsp butter and the beans. Toss the beans with melted butter and mushrooms to heat, sprinkle with 1-2 tbsp red wine vinegar. Remove from heat and toss with the shallots. Serve sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds.
It surely may be cold outside, but the developing fragrances of a slow-cooked meal are sure to permeate the whole house and will chase away the chill with a most savory dinner.
(I. Winicov Harrington, of Waldoboro, is the author of “How to Eat Healthy and Well for Less Than $5.00 a Day: The Smart-Frugal Food Plan.” For more information, go to winicov-harrington.com.)