BitterSweet

An Obsession with All Things Handmade and Home-Cooked


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Unfussy French Food

Hunkering down, deep within the thick folds of a well-worn comforter that has served its time for over a decade of hard winters, even that soft fortress can’t block out all of the invading icy air. Slipping in through the cracks, falling like the snow itself and covering everything in an invisible weight, there are few ways to fight off this attack. Drawn to warmth like a moth to light, inevitably, I find myself standing in the kitchen, blankets cast aside, in search of something to thaw me from within.

I know, I know, yet another post about being cold! I promise I’ll stop complaining from here on out, but the truth of the matter is that winter is here and there has never been a better time for a seriously robust, restorative stew. Ironically enough, this particular red wine-soaked play on the classic French Boeuf en Daube started life as little more than photography fodder way back in the revitalizing, sunlit days of spring. Searching desperately through the archives for this soothing stew, a rich and hearty melange of savory mushroom essence, salty olives, and gentle spices, I found that the formula was mysteriously missing in action. How could it have been withheld for all this time? To tease that image and not share a recipe is downright cruel, and for that terribly oversight, I’m very sorry!

Plenty of “beefy” stews exist out there, so this is far from ground-breaking material, but trust me: This is the last recipe you’ll ever need. Simply prepared, easily frozen and saved for later, and of course, that complex, intensely savory flavor that can only come from layers of quality ingredients, care, and time. This is what comfort tastes like, steamy enough to cut through any deep chill.

Non-Boeuf en Daube

2 Cups TVP Chunks or Soy Curls
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Large Yellow Onion, Finely Diced
5 – 6 Cloves Garlic, Finely Minced
1 Cup Peeled and Diced Carrots
3/4 Cup Pitted Kalamata Olives
1 14-Ounce Can Fire-Roasted, Diced Tomatoes
1/4 Cup Dried Porcini Mushrooms, Finely Chopped
4 – 5 Sprigs Fresh Thyme
3 Small Bay Leaves
1 Cup Dry Red Wine
1 Cup Mushroom Broth
2 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
1 Tablespoon Date Molasses
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
Pinch Ground Nutmeg
1/4 Teaspoon Liquid Smoke
Salt and Pepper, to taste

Cooked Rice or Pasta, to Serve (Optional)

Bring enough water to cover the TVP or soy curls (about 2 1/2 – 3 cups) to a boil and let stand for 30 minutes. Once your protein of choice has fully rehydrated, drain the excess liquid thoroughly and set aside.

Coat the bottom of a large pot with the oil and set on the stove over medium heat. Add in the onions and garlic when the oil begins shimmering, and saute for 4 – 5 minutes until golden brown. Introduce the carrots and olives next, cooking for another 3 minutes or so before incorporating the diced tomatoes, including the liquid they’re packed in, and dried mushrooms. Give the mixture a good stir and it come up to a steady simmer.

Go ahead and add in all of the remaining ingredients at this point and reduce the heat to low or medium low, keeping the stew at a very gentle simmer. Continue cooking until the carrots are meltingly tender and the liquid has significantly reduced. This could take anywhere from 2 – 3 hours, so be patient! The resulting nuanced depth of flavor cannot be rushed.

Remove the bay leaves and sprigs of thyme right before serving. Ladle over your favorite starch for maximum enjoyment.

Makes 6 – 8 Servings

Printable Recipe


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Chili for Chilly Weather

I don’t mean to alarm you, but there is a very real threat to the whole northeastern area right now, encompassing hundreds of miles and countless souls. Snow, the frozen menace that has become the bane of my existence, has re-entered the conversation after months of blissful warmth. No longer can mere sunshine keep us safe from that fluffy white terror, as current predictions indicate a chance of flurries at any point this week. Sure, it’s nowhere near a definitive statement of fact nor are the conditions expected to be severe, but the mere suggestion has set me on high alert. Glancing up at the sky tentatively every hour or so, just to make sure that nothing is falling out there, I feel a bit like Chicken Little, having histrionics about an absurd implausibility.

Truth be told, the basic concept of snow is actually quite enchanting, especially the first snow of the year, lightly dusting the world like confectioner’s sugar atop a dense, dark bundt cake of earth. This vision of gentle elegance prevents me from hating it thoroughly and unconditionally. An intolerance of cold hits much closer to the heart of my vitriol- Visible, tangible flakes in the air are just easy scapegoats when the going gets tough and the temperatures plunge. Whether or not those ominous clouds decide to open up and let loose a wave of frozen precipitation, one this is certain: It will be cold.

A forecast that promises highs of no greater than 40 degrees at the most is my call to arms. Fighting off that assault is only possible by warming oneself from the inside out and thus, I return to the kitchen for ammunition. Only the heartiest, most rib-sticking dishes need enlist for the task. At times like these, nothing but a big bowl of chili will do.

Contrary to my usual approach of going heavy on the vegetables, this wicked red brew is a real meat-lover’s delight, made with vegan sensibilities of course. It also happens to be the easiest, quickest chili I’ve ever slapped together, thanks to the convenience of ready-to-eat spicy Andouille-style “sausages.” Not even beans are invited to this party this time, creating a rich, ultra-meaty chili that I’d like to think would make a pure-bred Texan proud. Packing in the heat with every fiery bite, it’s impossible to feel one degree of winter chill with this fortifying stew on your side.

Easy, Meaty Vegan Chili

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 Large Red Onion, Finely Chopped
3 Cloves Garlic, Minced
2 14-Ounce Packages Artisan Tofurky Adouille Sausages
2 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
2 Tablespoons Chili Powder
1 28-Ounce Can Crushed Tomatoes
2 1/2 Cups Mushroom Broth
Salt and Pepper

Toss the olive oil and chopped onion into a large soup pot over medium heat on the stove. Saute for 4 – 5 minutes, until the onion has softened and is fragrant, before introducing the minced garlic. Cook for another 4 – 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the aromatics are lightly browned.

Meanwhile, place the “sausages” in the work bowl of your food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped, much like chunky ground meat. If you have a smaller machine, you may want to do this in two (or even three) batches. Be careful not to overdo it, since “meat” puree is definitely not what we want here! Once properly processed, add the “sausage” crumbles into the pot along with the vinegar, chili powder, tomatoes, and 2 cups of the broth. Stir well to combine.

Turn down the heat to low and let simmer gently for 45 – 60 minutes, allowing plenty of time for the flavors to meld. Stir every 10 – 15 minutes to make sure that nothing is sticking and burning on the bottom of the pot, and add in the remaining broth when it begins to look too dry. Season with salt and pepper to taste before serving.

Makes 6 – 8 Hearty Servings

Printable Recipe

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