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Basque Beef Bourguignon

It's all about the flavour. This is a recipe that you'll never see in another cookbook. Its Basque-chef Roger Dufau's version of the traditional wine-soaked braised beef that is on countless menus but which constantly disappoints. There is one very unusual technique which differentiates this dish - and raises it above all the others. The wine is 'burned'. To do it, one really needs a good gas cook top or even a high powered side burner on an outdoor gas grill. And you must be careful! The flames from the burning wine are higher than when one flames brandy.

  • 1 ½ lbs (625 g) lean stewing beef (preferably meat from beef shanks)
  • 1 - 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) dried thyme
  • ½ tsp (2 mL) black pepper
  • 1 - 750 mL bottle dry red wine

Cut the stewing beef into serving sized chunks and place in a glass or stainless bowl. Add the diced carrots, celery, garlic, onion, thyme and pepper. Pour half the bottle of wine over, reserving the remainder for the stew. Stir the mixture well; cover and refrigerate for 3 days.

  • ¼ cup (60 mL) chopped parsley
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ½ cup (125 mL) all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup (75 mL) canola oil
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) dried tarragon
  • 1 ½ cups (375 mL) canned diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup (250 mL) beef stock
  • 1 - 1 ½ tsps (5 - 7 mL) salt
  • ½ tsp (2 mL) cayenne
  • 2 oz (56 g) bittersweet chocolate
  • ¼ lb (100 g) lean bacon, chopped
  • 1 - 1 ½ lbs (450 - 675 g) cremini or Portobello mushrooms

Chop parsley and garlic together finely; set aside.

Remove the meat from the marinade; reserving the marinade. Heat the oil in a large heavy pan - cast iron is perfect. Dredge the meat in the flour, shaking off excess. Sear it in batches till dark brown. When it is all richly coloured, return it to the pan in which it's been browned and stir in half the parsley-garlic mixture. Cook briefly and pour in the reserved marinade with the vegetables, the tarragon, tomatoes, beef stock, salt, cayenne and chocolate.

In a separate pot with a good handle, heat the reserved wine over high heat, holding the handle of the pan with a kitchen towel or oven mitt in order to quickly remove it from the stove if needed. Swirl the wine till it begins to boil. It will catch fire on its own if the heat is high enough. Remove it from the stove if the flames are too high for your home kitchen. This step could be done outdoors on the side burner of a barbecue.

As soon as the flames die down, pour the wine into the stew. Stir well and bring the stew to a boil, uncovered, simmering gently for 2 to 2 ½ hours until meat is tender. Add water, as needed, if it becomes too thick

About 30 minutes before the stew is finished, sauté the bacon until beginning to brown. Drain any excess fat and add mushrooms with the remaining parsley-garlic mixture till it begins to brown; stir into the stew.

Serve immediately or let cool and refrigerate for 1 to 2 days. Makes 6 to 8 servings

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