Boeuf Bourguignon with tagliatelle and a slice of polenta.
Having a background as a professional chef comes with some distinct advantages. For one, people who generally like to do the cooking in their kitchens are more likely to invite me in to lend a hand. Evelyne opened her kitchen to me from day one here at La Mothe, and I have been able to help in food preparation and learn form her on a daily basis.
Even so, I was surprised when she handed me some beef early this morning and told me I could make beef bourguignon for everyone. I’m confident in the kitchen, but I have to admit to feeling a little nervous making one of Burgundy’s most famous–and maltreated–dishes for a group of native Burgundians. When Didier handed me two bottles of Margaux to use I also knew how lucky I was. He said they had gone off, but a bad acidity was hardly discernible. Cooking with such a good wine is cost-prohibitive in the United States, and a cheaper wine is used unless you have money to burn.
I did my best to develop good flavor in the braise, taking all the time necessary to brown the meat well, and allowing it a slow and steady 3-hour cooking time. I feel good about the results–deep flavors from the meat’s caramelization, light smokiness from the lardons, the sweet vegetal element of the carrots and onions, all tied together by the mellowed and thickened braising liquid–and I think all the Burgundians taking second and third helpings was a good sign too. I made a lot, so the leftovers should be even better tomorrow.