Reny’s Birthday: Part 2
It is hard to cook for my husband.
It is even harder to cook for him on his birthday – you know, to get the meal “just right.”
The first time I attempted dinner I spent ALL DAY going to the grocery store, to the butcher, browning and braising short ribs, savoring that warm smell that fills the kitchen and anticipating his smile when he walked in the door and tasted what I had slaved over.
Except I used rosemary.
Reny hates rosemary.
Didn’t know that and I have basically never gotten over the stress of cooking for my (now) husband.
Sure, I make things and he eats them, but actually cooking for him, like on his birthday, stresses me (insert expletive) out.
That said, Reny is hardly, if ever, off on his birthday.
Last year was the big 3-0 and we spent the hours after he got home from work in a tizzy packing up for a flight to Hawaii the next day.
This year, however, his birthday fell on a Sunday and we had all day together!
I started out the day with my little helper making Pastelitos Guayaba y Queso, we hit up a local pizzeria for lunch (funnily enough, the night before I had jokingly told my dad that I’m sure all Reny really wanted to eat for his birthday was good pizza — do I know that man or what?), and I had dinner and dessert (basically) already made so we could just hang out and play all day!
The night before the “big day” I pulled out my new favorite cookbook: Simply Suppers by the fabulous and talented Jennifer Chandler, and decided to try her recipe for Boeuf Bourguignon. Basically, this tried and true recipe hasn’t changed much since the days of Julia Child but I’m in love with Jennifer’s book (Reny jokes that they will make a movie soon called “Gretchen and Jennifer”) and I knew her recipe wouldn’t fail!
(click on the Simply Suppers link and buy her book! I promise you it will become a new classic in your kitchen!)
4 lbs. boneless beef chuck roast, trimmed and cut into 2-inch cubes
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 slices bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 cup finely diced yellow onion
1 1/2 cups thinly sliced carrots
(I used at least 2 cups – Ren loves carrots!)
6 springs fresh thyme
3 bay leaves
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 can (14.5 oz) whole tomatoes with juice
1 bottle (750 ml) good red wine (burgundy or pinot noir)
2 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups button mushrooms, trimmed and quartered
1 1/2 cups frozen small whole white pearl onions
A good loaf of bread (you’ll want it to soak up all the yummy juice!)
Preheat the oven to 250˚
Pat the beef dry with paper towels (anyone see Julie & Julia?)
Generously season with salt and pepper
In a large dutch oven, warm the oil over medium-high heat
Cook the meat until browned, about 8-10 minutes
(do in two batches so you don’t overcrowd the boeuf!)
Transfer the meat to a plate and set aside
Add the bacon and cook until crispy (over med-high)
Add the carrots, onion, garlic, thyme and bay leaves
Stir and cook until the onions are soft (about 5 minutes)
Add the tomatoes, wine and stock
Stir to combine
Return the beef to the pot and season with salt and pepper to taste
Bring the mixture to a boil
Cover and place in the oven
Cook for about 2 hours, until the beef is tender
* If eating that night, place the dutch oven on the stove over low heat to keep warm
** If making ahead for dinner the next day, let cool completely and refrigerate until 30 minutes before you are ready to serve
Discard the bay leaves
Melt the butter over medium-high heat
Add the mushrooms and saute until soft and golden (about 4 minutes)
Add the onions and cook 2 minutes
Add the mushrooms and onions to the stew and bring it back to a boil
Adjust the seasonings as needed.
* Since the “hard work” of this dish can be done the day before, it is an ideal option for dinner guests!