In the northeast, February is consistently the coldest and most tantalizing month. Although the days begin to feel noticeably longer, the heaviest snowfalls arrive, and it’s also at the end of winter, meaning we all are itching for spring.
Something that helps me get through the winter is to remember the Scandinavian concept of “hygge” – roughly translated to “cosiness”, or the feeling one gets from sitting by the fireplace with a warm blanket and a cup of tea, possibly while also in the company of close friends and family. Once you hear the definition, it’s nice to know that a simple five-letter word can sum up this feeling!
For me, “hygge” means lighting candles; curling up with a good book; drinking plenty of tea and hot cocoa; and enjoying the company of people you trust and value. And, of course, when the belly begins to rumble…plenty of bowls of piping hot stew. All of these lovely things help me get through the darkest days of winter and reflect/restore before spring arrives, which I really think is the true purpose of winter.
Sometimes, soup can feel too watery to me, especially when my body needs extra fuel to keep warm. So, once upon a weekend, I decided to try my hand at a hearty beef stew (or beef bourguignon), using this recipe from Once Upon a Chef. If you’re in the mood for something to warm you from the inside out and to keep you warm, this is definitely it. Please head to her website for the complete recipe, and enjoy the photos below of my own cooking adventure 🙂
As Jenn mentions in her blog, the most important aspect of this recipe is using a well-marbled cut of meat. I was lucky enough to find some well-marbled beef chuck on sale at Whole Foods while shopping to make this dish!
In addition to the meat, you’ll need garlic, parsley, onions, and baby yukon potatoes from the produce section. From your spice cabinet/pantry, you’ll want to pull out some salt and pepper, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, tomato paste, all-purpose flour, dry red wine, 1 bay leaf, dried thyme, and white sugar.
Start by patting the beef dry and seasoning with salt and pepper. Supposedly the best way to do this is to rub it in with your bare hands….
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat in a large, oven-safe pot. Brown in small batches to give each batch sufficient room to breathe; turn with tongs every so often to brown all sides. Set aside for later.
At this time, preheat your oven to 325 degrees with the rack in the middle.
Add onions, garlic, and balsamic vinegar and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add tomato paste and stir in, then add beef with juices back in and sprinkle with flour. Stir everything until evenly coated.
Add wine, beef broth, water, bay leaf, thyme, and sugar; stir again and bring to a boil before covering pot with lid. Transfer to preheated oven and braise for 2 hours.
*I think I would change the timing on this recipe actually the next time I make it. The meat was just slightly overcooked and the veggies a little undercooked. Would perhaps only braise for 1.5 hrs or 1 hour 45 min.
Remove pot from oven and add carrots and potatoes. Cover and place back in for *60-70 minutes more. Check the vegetables and meat around that time to make sure they are cooked the way you like them.
Taste and adjust seasoning. When serving, add some parsley for taste and garnish.
And…voila! Enjoy this delicious French-inspired dish and make sure you share some with your loved ones 🙂