Boeuf Braisé aux Carrots

When I'm in the mood for a rustic meal, I go straight to my bookshelf and pull out French Feasts: 299 Traditional Recipes for Family Meals and Gatherings by Stéphane Reynaud. It's a big, heavy book that's filled with large photographs, whimsical drawings, and stories. What's great is that there's a photograph for every recipe—and that's exactly what makes this book such a source of inspiration. I also like how the recipes are written in a loose style, so you don't feel bad if you want to improvise. 

I chose to make boeuf braisé aux carrots upon returning home after a ten day stay in Mexico, when New York City was still on the coattails of Hurricane Sandy. I knew that it was way more than a #singlegirldinner portion, but there was comfort in knowing that this pot would last me a few days. Leftovers never really bothered me. Braised dishes and stews always seem to get better and better after each day anyhow. The beef in this dish became impossibly tender and melty, starting on Day 1.

Below is the recipe, taken from the book, word for word. My own notes are in italics.


Stewing beef.....................................2 pounds 4 ounces
Pork belly...........................................7 ounces
Carrots................................................6
Red wine.............................................1 cup
White wine.........................................1 cup
Onions................................................6
Garlic...................................................6 cloves
Celery stalks......................................4
Bouquet garni....................................1
Concentrated tomato purée............1 tablespoon
Olive oil

--

1. Cut the meat into 1 1/2-inch cubes and brown the meat in a flameproof casserole dish along with the cubed pork belly and sliced onions. Deglaze the pan with the red and white wine, scraping up the bits on the bottom, and flambé.

Note: You'll probably have to brown the meat in batches. You don't want to crowd the pan. I wanted to follow this recipe as closely as possible, but I'd typically coat the beef chunks in flour before browning. If you don't have pork belly, you can try substituting with bacon, as I did. Also, I didn't flambé.

2. Add the crushed garlic, bouquet garni, cubed celery, and tomato purée to the beef. Cover with 4 cups of water and cook for 1 hour.

Note: I found that this was a lot of liquid that took forever to reduce. I told myself to try it with maybe 2 cups of water next time. I had to thicken it up a bit with some cornstarch.

3. Peel the carrots and slice them thickly on the diagonal. Add them to the casserole and cook an additional 45 minutes. Season and serve.

Note: I wouldn't have minded some more carrots! I used whole organic carrots, not the "baby carrots" that come packaged in plastic bags. The snipped chives were my own addition.

*I like to serve mine with potato purée, steamed rice, or a baguette. Topping it off with a dollop of horseradish creme fraiche makes it twice as nice.

 

Living In the Moment

Grilled shrimp Caesar salad for lunch in my hotel suite at Casa Velas, with the Twitter feed going nearby and CNN on the TV

This afternoon, when the hotel manager saw me perched on a sofa in the lobby, glued to the news and my Twitter feed for the second day in a row, he said to me, with a twinge of concern, "Señorita, you should go enjoy the pool or the beach while you're here." And, so, I present to you my 1% problem: On the one hand, I'm "stranded" at a beautiful Mexican resort. On the other, I'm hooked on CNN and Twitter for the hurricane updates back in New York. I feel like I'm being suspended in a netherworld--at least until Sunday.

At his suggestion, I headed down to the pool, fluffed out a fresh towel on a Bali bed, and set my things down. Una piña colada, por favor.  Birds were chirping. The pool water was as warm as a bath. I swam on my back and looked up at the sunlight slicing through the palm fronds. Sigh. I was relaxing. When I got back to my suite, I took a long hot shower and ordered room service for dinner.

Okay. I'm here now. 

Luck Be A Lady... Named Sandy

Casa Velas Beach Club in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

I was supposed to return to New York yesterday, but, due to the anticipation of Hurricane Sandy, my flight was canceled and re-booked for this coming Thursday. (However, that's starting to look like a shot in the dark now, too.) The publicist for Velas Resorts arranged accommodations for me at their other property: Casa Velas. It's a quieter and more intimate hotel, much like a traditional Mexican hacienda.

Everyone back in New York is dealing with the crazy madness that comes with natural disasters, and, here I am, spending the day on a Bali bed with a frozen margarita, wondering how the hell I got so lucky. It's a strange feeling, though, to feel lucky, lonely, worried, and guilty all at once. Here's sending good thoughts to my friends back home. Hoping everyone is safe and sound.