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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Two Things I Don't Usually Do

I don't usually get too excited about recipes from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.  I also don't usually defrost meat in the microwave.  Today I did both.

I don't have anything against the Post Gazette.  I just want to make that clear at the beginning.  It's just that the recipes don't usually light my fire.  I'm not sure why.  That's just the way it is.  But today there was a really interesting article about Elizabeth David, a cookbook author who first became popular 60 or so years ago.   Apparently she has been called the Julia Child of Britain.  How had I never heard of her?  Featured in the article were several recipes, all of which sounded really good and I was intrigued.

I don't really have anything against the microwave either.   My general view is that the microwave is good for only a couple of things, among them making popcorn, quick steaming vegetables, and tempering chocolate.  We mostly have a microwave because if we didn't neither of my kids would be able to "cook" for themselves.  But today I used the microwave for defrosting a couple of pounds of stew meat I had hidden in my freezer.  A happy coincidence -- the recipe and the microwave.

So, let me tell you about this recipe.  Beef and Wine Stew With Black Olives, or, if you want to be fancy and French, you can call it Boeuf a la Gardiane, is deceptively simple and calls for a very few ingredients.  It cooks for 3-1/2 hours and that's what makes it so meltingly delicious.  It doesn't hurt that it has three of my favorite ingredients in it -- olives, red wine, and brandy.  What could be bad?  In short, it was divine. It was much lighter than a winter stew, probably because it really just relied on the wine and the brandy and a lot of hours to give it its flavoring.  I could go on but instead I'm going to urge you to try this.

I do want to tell you one more thing.  I'm definitely going to be on the lookout for Elizabeth David's new cookbook, At Elizabeth David's Table:  Classic Recipes and Timeless Kitchen Wisdom.  And I'm definitely going to read the Post Gazette's food section a little more closely from now on.  You just never know.

Recipe:  Beef and Wine Stew With Black Olives (Boeuf a la Gardiane)
Elizabeth David, At Elizabeth David's Table:  Classic Recipes and Timeless Kitchen Wisdom, 2011)

*  Note:  The directions from the original recipe were a little vague so I have written the recipe as I prepared it.  I served the stew over buttered egg noodles.


2 pounds top round stew meat, cut into 1-1/2 inch cubes
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons brandy, heated
1 cup red wine
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fresh thyme, Italian parsley, and bay leaf, tied into a bouquet
1 strip or orange peel
1 large clove garlic, crushed
1 cup pitted Kalamata olives


Heat the olive oil and the butter over a medium heat.  In a large dutch oven, brown the meat on all sides. Pour the warmed brandy over the browned meat, set it to light, and shake the pan until the flames go out.  (The flaming will burn off the excess fat in the pot.)  Add the red wine and scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon.  Season with a small amount of salt and pepper, add the orange peel, bouquet, and garlic.  Lower the heat to a very low simmer, place two sheets of parchment paper over the stew, and cover with a tight fitting lid.   Cook for 3-1/2 hours.

Once the stew is done cooking, add the olives, adjust seasonings, and garnish with thyme sprigs.  Serve hot.

Read the article about Elizabeth David at:

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