Thursday, December 29, 2016

Boeuf Bourguignon (Beef in Red Wine)

In my last post, I shared with you the traditional Danish Christmas dessert I made for our holiday meal in honor of my husband's father's family. Today I'm featuring what I made as our entree -- a traditional French dish called boeuf bourgignon, or beef in red wine, in honor of my mother's side of the family. 

My mother's father came to the U.S. from France and my mother's mother was also of French descent, so her cooking was very French-influenced. Mom would make boeuf bourguignon for special occasions such as Christmas. Even though I no longer eat beef, I wanted to make something special for my husband and his family. I actually found this meal very enjoyable to prepare -- and it was a connection to my mom, who passed away more than 15 years ago. I thought of her frequently as I made it

Mom always served boeuf bourguignon with egg noodles and buttered croutons. I followed suit, leaving off the croutons. Before the main course, I served a simple mixed green salad with homemade white wine vinaigrette which had two of the main dish's ingredients in it: shallots and parsley

Below are the recipes for both the beef and the salad dressing. My recipe for the beef is a simplified version of the original, which calls for rendering salt pork and cooking the onions and the beef in it. I use avocado or olive oil instead, which is both simpler and healthier. If I remember correctly, my mother would cook bacon and use the fat to brown the onions and beef. I believe she then added the crumbled bacon to the final dish.

I bought the best looking beef from Whole Foods. At $9.99 it's not inexpensive (but what do I, a non-meat eater, know about beef prices?). It is locally raised, grass-fed and hormone-free, and very lean. I thought it looked like very good quality -- good enough for a photo!

Boeuf Bourguignon

Avocado oil or olive oil
20 to 25 peeled white pearl onions, about 1 inch in diameter
3 tablespoons butter
1 lb. fresh white mushrooms, sliced
3 lbs. lean, boneless stew beef (pieces roughly 2 inches in size)
Bouquet garni (4 fresh parsley sprigs and 2 bay leaves, tied together
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot
1/4 cup very finely chopped carrot, peeled
3 tablespoons flour
1 cup hot beef stock (I used Rachel Ray brand)
2 cups red Burgundy or other dry red wine
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley

To ensure no one element of your boeuf bourguignon is overdone, cook the onions, mushrooms and beef separately before finally combining them. I made the beef two days ahead and refrigerated it. The day before, I cooked the onions and mushrooms and added them to the beef. The day of, everything simmered on the stove top an additional 20 minutes or so.

The onions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a heavy 8- or 10-inch skillet, heat a small amount of avocado or olive oil. Add the peeled onions and cook over medium to medium-high heat, turning them to brown them as evenly as possible. 

Transfer onions to a shallow baking dish large enough to hold them in one layer. Bake in the oven, uncovered, turning them once or twice, for 30 minutes or until tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife. Remove from oven and set aside.

The mushrooms
Melt 3 tablespoons of butter over medium heat in an 8- to 10-inch stainless steel skillet. When foam subsides, cook the mushrooms, stirring frequently for 2 to 3 minutes or until they are slightly soft. Add mushrooms to onions and set aside.

The beef
Preheat oven to 350. Heat some olive oil in a large skillet. Add the beef chunks, 6 to 8 at a time to avoid crowding the skillet. Turn each piece to brown on all sides.

Remove beef with tongs to a heavy 4- to 6-quart Dutch oven or casserole dish (one with a tight fitting lid). Repeat with remaining beef. Bury the bouquet garni in the meat.

After all beef is browned, add the chopped shallots and carrots to the skillet, adding oil as needed. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until lightly colored. Stir in the flour, adding a touch more oil if the mixture looks dry. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the flour begins to brown lightly, being careful not to let it burn (keep stirring). 

Pour in the hot beef stock, blending vigorously with a wire whisk over medium-low heat. Blend in the wine and tomato paste and bring to a boil, whisking constantly as the sauce thickens. Stir in the minced garlic, dried thyme, salt and freshly ground pepper. Pour the sauce over the beef and stir gently. The sauce should almost, but not quite, cover the meat. Add more wine or beef stock if needed.

Bring to a boil, cover with lid and place in lower third of oven. Let cook, regulating oven temperature so the meat simmers slowly, for 2 to 3 hours, or until meat is tender. Gently stir in the onions and mushrooms, cover with lid and return to oven for another 15 to 20 minutes.

Before serving, remove the bouquet garni. Taste and season as necessary with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with the fresh chopped parsley, if desired, and serve with egg noodles. Mashed potatoes would also be an excellent choice.

White Wine Vinaigrette

In a bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley, 1 tablespoon minced shallot and 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil. Season with coarse salt and pepper.

Wishing you and your family a very happy and healthy New Year!

Monday, December 26, 2016

Risalamande (Danish Rice Pudding with Cherry Sauce)

I hope you're having a wonderful holiday with family and friends. We had my husband's mother, sister and her husband to our house for Christmas dinner. My husband's father's side of the family is from Denmark, so when I discovered this traditional Danish Christmas dessert (that is also gluten free!), I knew it was going to be the perfect ending to our holiday dinner. Risalamande (rice pudding with almonds) is served cold and topped with a warm cherry sauce. The pudding itself has no sugar in it, but the whipped cream that gets folded into and the cherry topping are both sweetened. Overall, this is not a very sweet dessert.

The Danish tradition is to add a whole almond to the risalamande. Whoever gets the whole almond in their serving wins a prize. Since Paul and I were hosting, I served our bowls first to make sure we didn't get the almond. Then I buried it in one of the three remaining desserts. I had my husband, who wasn't in the kitchen when I did this, serve the dessert to our guests. My brother-in-law was the lucky winner of the prize -- a jar of Maine wild blueberry Champagne jam (little did I know, blueberry is one of his favorites!).

I just love traditions! I would be happy to have risalamande every year for Christmas dessert, and the game of finding the whole almond and winning a little gift is quite fun. 

Here is the recipe for those of you who would like to make this dessert next Christmas, whether you are of Danish lineage or not. You can always make risalamande at other times of the year as well. In fact, I think it would make a nice New Year's dessert.


1 cup short-grained white rice (I used arborio rice)
1/2 cup water

4-1/4 cups whole milk
2 vanilla beans, scored lengthwise and seeds scraped
Pinch of salt
5 ounces almonds, blanched and coarsely chopped (set aside one whole almond)
2 cups whipping cream
3 tablespoons sugar

1) In a saucepan, combine the rice and the water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer for 2 minutes, stirring as needed.

2) Add the milk to the rice and bring to a boil, stirring. Add the vanilla bean seeds and pods (the pods will add flavor and will be removed later) and salt. Reduce heat to a simmer. Cover the pot with a tight lid and let cook for about 35 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning.

3) Remove pan from heat. Remove the vanilla bean pods and discard. Transfer the pudding to a large bowl and let cool. Stir in the chopped, blanched almonds. The pudding up to this point can be made a day or two ahead and refrigerated.

Note: If you bought almonds already blanched, consider yourself lucky. I had to blanch mine and it was quite a chore. According to directions I found online, you are to put the almonds in a bowl and cover them with boiling water. Let sit a minute or two, then drain. Supposedly the skins should come right off when rubbed between your fingers or a paper towel. Well, mine didn't. I stood there for I don't know how long peeling skins from the almonds. Sometimes I would get lucky and a large section would peel off (see below). Eventually my hands starting cramping so I gave up. I am estimating I used about 4.5 to 5 ounces of almonds. If you have a method for easy almond blanching, please share!!! Just click on "comments" at the bottom of this post.

4) Before serving, beat the cream with 3 tablespoons sugar until soft peaks form. Gently fold the whipped cream into the pudding. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Cherry Sauce

The sauce can be made ahead and reheated in a saucepan just before serving.

1.5 lbs. frozen dark sweet cherries (buying them already pitted will save you lots of time)
1 cup sugar
2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (or the scraped seeds from 1 vanilla bean)
3 tablespoons pure cornstarch (I use Argo brand)

1) In a medium saucepan, combine the cherries, sugar, water and vanilla over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and let cook about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2) In a small bowl, dissolve the cornstarch with a enough water to make a thin paste. Slowly add it to the cherry sauce and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens. Serve warm over the risalamande.


Friday, December 23, 2016

Merry Christmas

Hello there. Sorry, I have been remiss about posting to the blog as of late. This is a busy time of year, as you know. I had hoped to share some tasty cookie recipes (like the yummy flourless chocolate cookies I made) and show some scenes of the bungalow decorated for Christmas, but I just didn't have the opportunity until now.

Check out this adorable mini milk bottle vase holder that my manager gave me for Christmas. My husband brought home some fresh greenery that he clipped this morning while walking the dogs. I needed to refresh the Advent wreath on the dining table (photo below). I thought some branches would look pretty in these cute vases. They add a nice Christmas touch to the mudroom.

Here is this year's Advent wreath with fresh evergreens and holly berries. This will be the centerpiece for Christmas dinner. When all the candles are lit, they really put off a lot of light. I also bought three bunches of grocery store white mums and daisies for a few vases that I'll put around the house.


Last but not least, the Nativity scene with some texture added this year: fake snow that I bought at Pottery Barn years ago. My husband noted the snow wasn't realistic, so I replied, "Pretend it's straw." This Nativity scene by Willow Tree is one of my favorite things about Christmas. It's grounding and reminds me every day of what the season is all about.

Wishing you and your loved ones a peaceful and happy holiday.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Butternut Squash and Kale Stew with Quinoa

It's beginning to feel a lot like winter. Colder temperatures put me in the mood for homemade soups and stews. This warming stew combines healthy ingredients such as butternut squash, a good source of vitamins A and C; kale, high in vitamins A, C and K; and quinoa, a plant-based protein that is an excellent source of the B-complex vitamins and minerals such as iron, manganese and others. A tomato base and spicy red pepper flakes round out this hearty stew.

Tip: I sometimes buy butternut squash pre-diced and packaged. I think it's a bit more expensive, but a huge time-saver and eliminates the hassle (and risk) of cutting and peeling a butternut squash. I store the diced squash in the freezer and let it thaw before using in a recipe.

Butternut Squash & Kale Stew with Quinoa

2 tablespoons avocado oil (or olive oil)
1 large onion, diced
2 cups cubed butternut squash
3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (for less heat use 1/4 tsp.)
1 Tablespoon Champagne vinegar
1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes
4 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup dry quinoa, rinsed
2 to 3 cups kale, torn into bite-sized pieces
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper


1) In a Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the diced onion and a pinch or two of coarse salt. Cook, stirring, until onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Add the butternut squash and another pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the minced garlic, cumin, coriander and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Add the vinegar and stir.

2) Add the diced tomatoes, broth and quinoa, and a little more salt. Cover and let simmer over low heat until squash is tender and quinoa is cooked, about 30 to 40 minutes.

3) About 5 to 10 minutes before stew is done cooking, add the kale and stir. Taste, season with salt and freshly ground pepper and taste again. This stew is good served with a sprinkling of grated Parmesan cheese on top. Next time I will try adding a 15-ounce can of Navy beans during step 2 for some added protein and texture.

Adapted from Love & Lemons.
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