Monday, March 4, 2013

Cookbook Margin: Boeuf Démodé

Alternate titles:

Vegetable Margin
Virtual Margarine
It's My Blog and I Can Cook if I Want To

I have a pretty decent cookbook collection. It's not huge, but that's only because I've resolved to actually cook from the ones I own instead of succumbing to the temptation of buying more. And how tempting they are. I'm a sucker for heavy hardcovers; 300+ glossy pages of food porn, full of hard-to-pronounce dishes with obscure ingredients you're embarrassed to ask about in the grocery store ("excuse me, I totally know what a kumquat is, but...where are they and what do they look like?").

So if I'm going to cook my way through my cookbooks (so I can then buy more, a continuous loop of samsara), I may as well blog about it. Cookbooks are books too! And finding good ones can be a challenge. You never know how a recipe is going to turn out until after you've paid $30 for the ingredients and dirtied an entire sink full of dishes.

First up is a dish from Dorie Greenspan's Around My French Table, which I bought over 2 years ago after reading about it at Bookslut. I made the very first recipe, for gougères, which turned out beautifully. The cookbook itself is gorgeous, with big glossy pictures that make you feel like you're in the kitchen of a French country villa, and not in your shitty apartment surrounded by empty Lean Cuisine containers. Every recipe is described in detail, with extra info about the dish's background in French cuisine, which is really interesting. You can tell Greenspan has thorough knowledge of every dish, and feel like you can trust her completely. But even so, I didn't break open the cookbook again until yesterday.

Emily Dickinson wrote "Tell all the truth but tell it slant," which I'd like to revise to "Cook the recipe, but cook it slant." I don't think I've ever followed a recipe 100% as written. I always change things around, which can occasionally cause kitchen catastrophes. But it's how my mom cooks and how my grandmother cooked, and they're the best ones I've ever known. So every recipe I share will be my version of it. Then I highly recommend you check out the original recipes from the books themselves.

Boeuf Démodé 
my version of Boeuf à la Mode from Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan

  • 2 lbs chuck, round or rump roast, cubed into 1 inch pieces
  • 1/2 large white onion, cut into large slices
  • 1 carrot, cut into chunks
  • 2 celery stalks, cut into chunks (save the leaves)
  • A bouquet garni -- 2 thyme sprigs, 2 parsley sprigs, and the leaves from the celery stalks, tied together with string, or in a piece of dampened cheesecloth
  • 1 750-ml bottle of red wine
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 2 anchovies, drained, rinsed and patted dry
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour

Be prepared: The beef must be marinated overnight, and will require a Dutch oven or covered casserole dish.

Put the beef into a tupperware container, bowl, or sturdy ziploc bag that can hold it, the vegetables, and the wine. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss in the onion, carrot, celery, and bouquet garni and1 tbsp of the olive oil. Pour in the wine until the contents is covered (save yourself a glassful of the wine if possible -- you're done for the night). Cover the container or seal the bag and put in fridge to marinate overnight.

The next day, strain the container over a bowl, reserving the liquid. Remove the beef from the vegetables and place on paper towels. Set aside vegetables and bouquet garni. Pour the liquid into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat until reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Add the beef broth and bring back to a boil, then remove from heat.

Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Have the Dutch oven or casserole with a cover at the ready.

Pat the beef dry using paper towels. Put a skillet over medium-high heat and pour in the last tbsp of olive oil. Working with a few pieces at a time, sear the cubes of beef on all sides, just enough to brown them and form a light crust. Transfer the beef to the Dutch oven.

Return the skillet to medium heat and toss in the drained vegetables. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables are softened and browned, about 10-15 minutes. Transfer the vegetables to the Dutch oven.

Once again put the skillet over medium heat. Pour in 1/2 cup of the wine-broth mixture and stir in the anchovies and tomato paste. Cook, stirring, until the anchovies break up and "melt," a matter of minutes. Pour in the rest of the wine-broth mixture and stir to blend, then toss in the reserved bouquet garni. Pour the contents into the Dutch oven.

Put the Dutch oven over medium-high heat, and when the liquid comes to a boil, cover the pot tightly with a piece of aluminum foil and the lid. Slide the beef into the oven and cook undisturbed for 1 hour.

Pull the pot out of the oven, and remove the lid and foil. Using a large spoon or ladle, remove approximately 1 cup of the broth and put into a medium bowl. Gradually add the flour, while whisking vigorously. Continue whisking until there are no clumps. Season to taste with salt and black pepper, and pour back into the pot. Taste the sauce again, and repeat the process if needed, adding more flour if too thin or salt and pepper if bland. Return the pot to the oven for another 30 minutes.

Remove from the oven and serve immediately, or store for a day or two covered in the fridge, which will only enhance the flavor.

Behold! The only cute bowl I own.

Feeling completely guilty for making such a carnivorous recipe, I also decided to make one from the cookbook Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World; I'm sure completely bewildering the guy bagging my groceries. It was supposed to be Vegan Coconut-Chai Cake, a version of Vegan Chai Latte Cupcakes with Vegan Buttercream Frosting from the book. It turned out horrifically, which I'm not sure is more attributable to the changes I made (pretty much just using a different kind of tea and making cake instead of cupcakes), or the fact that "Vegan" and "Buttercream" should never ever appear side-by-side in a sentence.

But it's okay. Now I'll be able to trade it in for a shiny new cookbook I can drool over.


  1. I think my favourite cookbook is "The Garden of Vegan," with "How it all Vegan" in a close second -- both compiled by Sarah Kramer and Tanya Barnard.

    My significant other makes cupcakes all the time, and they seem to work out deliciously! If you'd like to know where you may have gone wrong, I can ask her about switching the tea and making a cake instead... :)

    Also, have you read/considered reading Klosterman's "Downtown Owl"? I started reading it months ago, but I've yet to finish. Gosh darn school!

    (Speaking of which, I should probably get back at it.)

    Merry cooking adventures!

    1. I'm sure the cake turned out bad because I'm a terrible baker rather than it being the fault of the recipe. However I'm afraid I still won't be trying vegan baking for awhile. (frosting shouldn't look like cottage cheese, should it?)

      But I looked up both of chose cookbooks on Amazon, and they look really good! I'm really interested in finding some recipes for meatless/brothless soup, since those seem to be hard to find.

      I'll have to check out "Downtown Owl" -- I remember hearing a lot of good things about Klosterman's "Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs" a few years back, which I wanted to read for the title alone.

      Good luck with school!