It may be wishful thinking on my part, but I sure hope the cool mornings of the last few days are here to stay. Cooler weather means a change in menu at my table. Gone are the salads and lighter fare, it's time to put something substantial in the pot.
There is hardly anything more comforting than a big stew, and it's pretty easy to make. Julia Child made Boeuf Bourguignon trendy, but there are many more and less complicated recipes.
The basics are to choose good quality beef, taking the time for a good sear, aggressively seasoning, and having the patience to let the stew simmer for as long as three hours. Another hint that goes with any recipe that calls for wine, don't cook with a wine you wouldn't drink.
3-4 pounds chuck shoulder roast
2 chopped red onions
2-3 chopped carrots
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 bottle red wine (red Zinfandel or pinot noir)
2 cups whole tomatoes (best quality canned)
3-4 chopped cloves of garlic
1 bay leaf
Small bunch fresh thyme
Salt and pepper
Dry the meat, season aggressively with black pepper and a pinch of salt, toss in flour and shake off excess. Carefully and thoroughly brown in hot oil, when golden brown, remove and set aside. Add the onions, carrots and mushrooms and sauté for 5-6 minutes, add the garlic and cook 2 minutes more. Add the wine and simmer to reduce by half, add the tomatoes, bay, thyme and the beef (if the sauce does not cover the beef add beef stock), simmer for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, or until fork tender. Serve with crusty French bread.