August 1, 2009
Beef Burgundy and Sweltering
The weather this summer is really just unfair. It’s been over 100 degrees for more than 40 days this summer here in Austin, and that’s just miserable, unless you’re a huge bug. And believe me, when it’s this hot for this long, the huge bugs love it — and they’re so excited about it that they want to bang on your sliding glass door to tell you about it. One massive roach was so insistent about getting in — I really think it was trying to slide the door open — and the noise was so aggressive that I wanted to go out and kill the damn thing, but I don’t own a gun. Meanwhile, it hasn’t broken 90 degrees in New York, where it should smell of braised urine by now, but it’s instead been cool (but rainy). It’s like the Northeast has sent all of their degrees down here. I love cool weather. To me, 68 degrees is perfect. Hell, give me 60 degrees and I’ll bust out the sweaters. But 106? Not pleasant. I hate sweating. It’s awful for my hair. I now understand why most of our Austin friends vanish from town for the summer. We need to figure out a way to do the same next year.
The weather has done some interesting things to the light outside. Everything turned pink a few nights ago at dusk. I couldn’t quite capture the pink, but here’s a shot of the sky.
When it’s this hot, the deer all seek shelter under the trees in our back yard. The other day, there were no fewer than 10 deer in our yard. This shot only captures six of them, but you get the idea. We love the deer.
Sometimes they peer longingly into my air conditioned studio.
On the music front, I’ve been working on the trombone concerto, but most of it is still just “background processing.” Part of the problem is that I do my best work when I go running outside, but it’s too hot to do that right now. I go running on the treadmill at the gym, but the rhythmic noise of the treadmill is too distracting to do any real composing.
I did get some administrative work done this week. This tends to be a very busy time of year, with directors placing their orders for early fall, and fortunately, that trend is continuing this year. I was worried that with the awful economy, nobody would order music, but so far, so good, although admittedly none of these orders are coming from the broke state of California. I’ve added the confirmed performances to the Performance List.
Earlier this week, AEJ and I made beef burgundy, or, if you’re being all chichi-la-la, Bouef Bourguignon. (What’s better, when it’s 106 degrees outside, than beef stew?) We’ve made this several times using the recipe in the Cooks Illustrated cookbook, but this time we tried Ina Garten’s recipe from her cookbook.
We love Ina Garten’s recipes. We’ve probably made a half-dozen now, and every one has been just delicious and reasonably easy, unlike, say, Alton Brown’s mac & cheese recipe, which calls for tempering an egg — WTF, Alton? — and ends up tasting like onion-flavored stinky cheese.
Ina’s recipe for beef burgundy is supposed to cook for much less time than the one from Cooks Illustrated — 75 minutes vs. 3 hours — but in truth, we had to cook it for two hours to get the beef tender enough. Whereas the Cooks Illustrated recipe uses a bouquet garni (the chichi-la-la term for “bag full of vegetables and herbs that you remove prior to serving”), Ina leaves everything in the pot so you can actually eat it. I prefer it this way, since not much is tastier than carrots that have cooked in wine and beef juice for two hours. Here’s a shot of the carrots and onion, browning in beef and bacon fat. (Again, how could this not be good?)
Ina’s recipe also calls for cognac.
Before adding a full bottle of red wine (burgundy is the intended wine, since that’s the name of the recipe, but at $30 for a cheap bottle, we used something less fancy-pants), you first add the cognac — and you light that bitch on fire. “Stand back!,” Ina warns in the recipe, and she isn’t kidding. The flames shot up probably two feet.
It burned for a surprisingly long time. You can see that some of the onion is slightly charred from the cognac flames.
Here it is after braising for two hours. The onion slices had almost entirely disintegrated into the gravy. (Pearl onions are added at the end in their place.)
Here’s the finished dish, served atop AEJ’s mashed potatoes (using the recipe from Union Square Cafe in New York — I swear to you, these are the best mashed potatoes I have ever had. You need a potato ricer, but the flavor and texture is insane, and how can it not be with a stick of good butter, a half cup of organic heavy cream, and a half cup of organic whole milk?).
What to cook next? Well, tomorrow is Sunday, so I think pancakes are in order. I hope AEJ is reading this, since she’s the one who makes the pancakes… Hint… hint…