I woke up this morning to the all too familiar dark grey clouds of a chilly autumn Nordic morning. Yesterday was The Final Day of Summer, and if you weren’t outside enjoying it here in Copenhagen, you might’ve been the only one. Every street I aimlessly roamed was filled with beaming moment-seizers, devouring ice cream cones and beers in as little clothing as humanly possible. Last ditch effort at vitamin D absorption, no doubt.
But alas, Copenhagen’s familiar face is back, and I imagine she’ll be sticking around awhile. You may never catch me admitting this in public, but I’m pretty excited about fall. Rainy days and grey mornings mean “hygge” to me, as much as I consciously long for sunshine when it’s absent. They also mean finally getting things done that I put off in favor of basking in the sunshine all summer long, and dinner parties, and slow-cooked stews expelling delicious aromas that permeate your entire building.
During the summer I can’t bear the idea of eating warm things, and more importantly cooking warm things in an already hot kitchen. But truth be told, I’m desperate to add them back to my meals by about mid-August. I think this might be a body constitution thing – heavy and warm foods ultimately feel grounding for me (for you Ayurvedic Dosha fans out there, I’m indeed a textbook Kapha). Conflicting with this need was the desire to have more sun, and so I strategically planned a trip to Seattle to visit family and old friends for the last two weeks of August in order to get an extension on my summer. And extend my summer did, but what I also got was an extension on my wanton need for stew.
When seasons change I tend to have this pulsating need to follow suit. While you’re lucky enough to not be in my head right now, I’ve already rearranged my entire apartment and organized my attic in my mind. These are the sorts of things that happen when I become anxious, and feel the winds pick back up again – a typical reaction to seasons changing. It’s at these moments that I subconsciously acknowledge that now is a good time to spend a day in my kitchen. And what a better way to come back to earth than the earthy aromas of bœuf bourguignon?
I have always associated bœuf bourguignon with France. Until this morning, I had actually never dared attempt it myself, sure that it would never match the expectations set while sitting in a 400 year old home in the Champagne region of France as my good friend’s husband – a chef – made a pot of it over a real fire in the chimney in a dutch oven that looked like it might’ve belonged to his great grandparents it was so used. He let it simmer there for eight hours, during which we explored the region, caught up on each other’s lives over an old wooden farm table, played with their children, reminisced about the days working at Château de Nitray and about how long ago 21 years old feels now. I remember thinking then that there was no way I’d ever be able to duplicate that moment, or those flavors, ever.
But this weekend I was determined to try. I spent my afternoon yesterday at one of my favorite Copenhagen places, Torvehallerne, absorbing all of the delectable things on display set out specifically to tempt every passer by. I restrained from buying more figs, because I’ve eaten them already four times this week. Already sure a stew was in my future, I eventually ended up at Kødbilen to see what was on order. After a friendly conversation about the muscle fibers in the hind legs of a cow versus those in the front, I walked away with 2.5kg of grassfed Angus for 250kr and a plan to finally attempt the “impossible.”
While I was certainly not transported back to France, I have to admit that this stew served every purpose I intended it to. Upon the first bite I felt my feet land back on the ground. I (momentarily, at least) have stopped reorganizing and rearranging and have come back into the present, ready for the wind, rain, chilly mornings, and dark afternoons having coffee or wine over “hygge” (candles) with friends I never knew I was missing until I found them.
This recipe was inspired by Gordon Ramsay.
BŒUF BOURGUIGNON with MASHED CELERIAC
- 3 tsp rendered goose fat
- 1kg Angus shoulder beef, cubed
- 125g lardons (or thick slices of bacon)
- 350g shallots, peeled and quartered
- 250g whole chestnut mushrooms
- 3 garlic cloves, sliced
- 1 bouquet garni (I used 4 leek leaves, 4 thyme sprigs, 5 bay leaves, an unpeeled carrot and some black peppercorns)
- 1 tbsp tomato purée
- 750ml Bourgogne
- 600g celeriac, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- rosemary & thyme sprigs
- 2 bay leaves
- a couple pinches of cardamom
- salt & pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 160 degrees (C). Heat goose fat in a large dutch oven or other oven-proof casserole over medium heat. Add the beef, seasoning with salt and pepper, turning until all sides are browned. You may need to do this in multiple batches – I had to do it in three. Once your first batches of meat are browned, remove from heat and strain over a bowl, reserving any drained juices.
Once the meat has finished and has been removed from the casserole, add lardons (bacon), shallots, mushrooms, garlic, and the bouquet garni. Stir until everything is slightly softened and golden, and then add the tomato paste, tossing to coat. Add the meat back to the mixture along with the drained juices.
Add the wine and about 100ml of water to the stew – the liquid should not cover the ingredients. Bring to a boil and use a wooden spoon to scrape up the caramelized fats on the bottom of the casserole. Cover the Dutch oven with a cartouche of aluminum foil (should fit the inside of the Dutch oven perfectly, leftovers trimmed) and place in the oven, cooking from 3-4 hours (meat should be very tender).
To make the mashed celeriac, heat the olive oil in a large and deep frying pan. Add the cubed celeriac, seasoning generously with salt and pepper. After about 5 minutes, add the thyme and rosemary, bay leaves, and cardamom, as well as 200 ml of water. Turn heat to low, partially cover, and steam for 30 minutes on low heat.
Remove herb sprigs and bay leaves and mash the celeriac with a potato masher and finish with a dash of olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon the bœuf bourguignon into bowls and add a spoonful of mashed celeriac on top.