When I first moved out of my childhood home to live on my own, I knew very little about cooking. While my mother was a perfectly good cook, she never really taught me how to make anything other than pancakes, scrambled eggs, grilled cheese and french toast, and so it was that I actually lived on those few things for about a month. Hot dogs, hamburgers, spaghetti, soup and frozen pizza eventually rounded out my menu that year. Finally growing sick of those things and determined to cook something more wholesome, I progressed to 'the instructions are right here on the box, just add this packet of gunk' prepacked items like Shake & Bake, Hamburger Helper and bagged Pot Roast.
Truth was, I would have liked to eat real food, but any time I looked at a cookbook I was intimidated by ingredients and terminology I wasn't familiar with, and assumed only actually cooks could make those things.
It wasn't until my then mother-in-law gave me a fantastic book called "Best Recipes from the Backs of Boxes, Bottles, Cans and Jars" that I actually attempted to cook something from scratch. Luckily, it was a very simplistic cookbook. It told you exactly what the products were that you needed, and used brand names I recognized, and that was where the revelation took place. It was specifically saying 'Holland House Red Cooking Wine' in a recipe for Beef Bourguignon. I always wanted to cook with wine, but not being a drinker and knowing nothing about them, I didn't dare try it. Cooking wines...I had seen them in the store, but never realized I could use them. And so...it became the very first real recipe I tried to cook, and after achieving spectacular results, I positively went insane and made everything in that book.
I make my Beef Bourguignon a little differently now, based on my personal taste, but I will still credit Ceil Dyer's book for the basic premise underneath. It's a great book to give to someone who lives in grilled cheese. However, since this is actually my own recipe now, I give to you:
Jodi's Beef Bourguignon
- 1 lb of stew meat (or plain old top round..chopped into bite sized chunks)
- 6 slices of bacon - cut up
- 1 small onion diced
- 2 beef bouillon cubes (or 2 tsp beef bouillon powder) - dissolved in 1 1/2 c hot water.
- 1 small can tomato paste
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp thyme
- 1 tsp pepper
- 2 tsp crushed garlic (that stuff in the jar)
- 2-3 tsp flour
- 1 1/2 cup Red cooking wine
- Dash of Worcestershire sauce (optional)
Toss this bacon into a deep pan, add in the garlic and onion and fry on medium high heat. While that's going on, coat your beef chunks in flour and throw them in the pan as well. Beef fried in bacon grease with garlic and onion smells incredible. Husbands will peek in your kitchen and mention they love you. Strangers will stare longingly at your home from the street. You'll have it going on like that!
Stir this all occasionally until the beef is browned and the bacon is at least semi-crisp. Then add the red wine, bouillon, tomato paste, sugar, pepper and thyme (and the Worcestershire sauce if you like it,) and mix it all together well. (See..it's just this kinda stuff...nothing scary.)
Reduce heat and cover. Let simmer for three hours, but you want to check on it and give it a stir every hour or so.
The ideal thing is for the bottom to get ever so slightly burned and stir that in, because that is part of what gives this its amazing flavor. (Just my opinion, as I like that burned flavor, but of course, if you don't...don't...do that..) This is tender enough to eat at the 2 1/2 hour mark if you're in a hurry, but to really get the 'fall apart in your mouth' beef, go the full three hours. The sauce will be nice and thick by the time it's done.
Serve over egg noodles or white rice! Delicious!