Though our menus are diverse, it’s always good to branch out. Given our emphasis on eating our own food while buying minimal off-farm ingredients, combining these two goals leads to some creative innovation in adapting world recipes to our farm-based pantry. Here’s a great example.
Last week Scott over at Show Me Eats posted a thorough recipe for Beef Bourguignon, something I’ve always heard of but never tried. I figured it would be a good candidate for trying something new, and for adapting to our supplies. For example, I’m not about to go buy beef just to make a recipe when I have tens of pounds of farm-raised and -butchered goat meat in the freezer. Moreover, goat is particularly well-suited to braising, as it is somewhat tough when cooked quickly but becomes wonderfully tender when marinated and slow-cooked. So here’s my adaption for Chevon Bourguignon, with notes on our substitutions (we made a half-recipe compared to Scott’s).
1.5 cups dry red wine (Stone Hill Norton)
1 cup broth (frozen goose broth from Thanksgiving)
2 T bourbon (recipe calls for brandy, which I don’t have)
1 large onion, chopped (ours)
1 cup thin-chopped potatoes (ours, replacing the recipe’s carrots)
3 cloves garlic, minced (ours)
1 T dried parsley (ours)
1 t fresh oregano (ours, replacing thyme)
1 T fresh chopped rosemary (ours)
2 whole cloves
2 juniper berries (used in place of allspice berries)
1 t allspice powder (see above)
1 bay leaf
2 lb goat meat, chopped into 1/2″ chunks (ours, butchered fall 2008)
1/4 lb bacon (organic from local JJR Farms)
2 T unsalted butter (organic)
1 T olive oil
(used no tomato paste; see note at bottom of recipe and we don’t buy it anyway)
1/2 lb pearl onions, skinned (very small onions saved from 2008 harvest for such purposes)
(used no mushrooms as we don’t have and Joanna doesn’t like)
1 T flour
Combine wine, broth, liquor, chopped onion, potatoes, garlic, herbs, spices, and meat and stir well to combine. Marinate at least overnight (this ended up sitting for three days in our case).
Preheat oven to 275F. Chop bacon, boil in water for 3 minutes, then saute in butter and olive oil until crispy, using a large (oven-safe) pot or Dutch oven. Set aside.
Separate meat from marinade and brown in the bacon fat/oil/butter. Pour off extra fat if desired (I didn’t; goat is very lean).
Strain marinade and add non-liquid ingredients to meat, cooking over highish heat for at least 5 minutes. Add marinade liquid and place pot in oven for at least 3 hours.
When two hours have passed, place pearl onions in shallow skillet and just cover with water, adding a thick pat of butter, the sugar, and some salt & pepper. Bring to a rapid boil and simmer until liquid is about cooked away. This will reduce into a thick, buttery, oniony sauce. When the liquid is gone, continue to pan-cook the onions, stirring as they caramelize to golden (these taste fantastic at this point). This process should take quite a while, and will coincide fairy well with the timing of the oven-cooking stew.
Pull the stew from the oven and add the onions. Simmer on the stovetop, adding a bit of flour to thicken whatever sauce is left. The consistency should be fairly thick.
We served over a bed of white rice. The meat comes out flavorful and meltingly tender, while the caramelized buttery onions are divine. I’m sure this violates many aspects of the true French approach, but it was very good for what it was and I’m grateful to Scott for inspiring me to try it. And, I think it goes to show that almost any recipe can be adapted to ingredients at hand. Replacing beef, carrots, and brandy with goat, potatoes, and bourbon still turned out a very nice meal (leaving out mushrooms hurt it, but you can’t win them all. Joanna doesn’t like mushrooms, I don’t like asparagus. C’est la vie). So don’t be intimidated, just go for it with whatever you’ve got at hand. The spirit of a good recipe is more important than the letter.
NOTE: if you want to learn more about the dish, this article from Fine Cooking magazine is a must-read. Lots of detail and history with many useful tips, such as avoiding tomatoes because the acidity can break down meat gelatin and ruin the thick sauce.