Autumnal weather is swinging through Ireland: the northwest wind is blowing, and the temperatures have dropped hard from the Indian-summer range we’ve been experiencing for the past couple of weeks. Last night was the first frost. So today there’s a fire in the fireplace, and the beef stew recipe below (properly, it’s a daube) is on the stove.
The recipe dates back to a time early in the last decade when I stumbled into that mysterious and useful French information system, Minitel. What brought me to the National Tripe Butchers’ site, I have no idea. But there I found two super things: a recipe for heart with garlic and red wine that produces the only genuinely delicious — indeed, the only genuinely edible — beef heart I’ve ever had (three days’ marinating in that harsh red wine and some balsamic vinegar seems to do the trick; when Queen Prezmyra says “O, I could eat their hearts with garlic!”, that was the recipe she had in mind…), and this recipe.
I translated it, installed it in my copy of the (now-defunct) Meal Master program, and set it loose on the Net some time back in MM format, posting it (I think) to rec.food.cooking. Then various disk crashes and restores caused my various MM databases to become less than complete, and the recipe went missing. Today, though, I went hunting for it and found it (stripped of all attributions) at a Chef2Chef resource that’s now defunct. No matter: I recognized my own recipe-writing style, and at least I found the thing again…
MMMMM----- Recipe via Meal-Master (tm) v8.05 Title: Shin of Beef Stewed in Red Wine Categories: Beef, French, Meat, Stew Yield: 6 Servings 6 oz Smoked bacon or salt pork 1 ea Large onion 1 tb Olive oil 5 lb Shin beef off the bone 2 ea Cloves garlic 1 ea Bouquet garni 8 oz Red wine (or more) 1 ts Salt 8 oz Beef stock or water Cut the bacon or salt pork into small cubes and put them, with a tablespoon of olive oil, into a heavy and fairly wide iron or earthenware pot. When the bacon fat runs, add a large sliced onion and stir about until slightly brown. On top, arrange the shin of beef, off the bone, into thick pieces. Add the cloves of garlic, crushed but not chopped, and the bouquet garni (either one of the "instant" ones, or a small bunch of parsley, thyme and bayleaf, tied up with a string). Pour in a large glass of red wine (about 8 oz) and let all come to a fast boil for 4-5 minutes. Add about the same amount of beef stock or water, and allow to boil again. Add salt. Cover the pot with paper or foil and a well-fitting lid. Transfer to a very slow oven, 290 degrees F or gas mark 1, and in about 3 hours it will be cooked. Or you can half-cook it one day, remove it, and finish it the next. Serve with potatoes or rice to soak up the sauce. (Egg noodles also work well if you thicken the sauce slightly.) This dish can also be simmered *very* slowly on top of the stove. MMMMM
This is a recipe for which the French verb mijoter was invented: that lowest simmer, at which the surface of the steaming liquid merely trembles and only the very, very occasional bubble rises to trouble it. After three hours, the meat has reached a tenderness that still has texture. But for this it really helps to have shin beef, which stands up best to the long cooking. If your butcher can’t get you shin beef for this, and you can’t locate a butcher who can, regular stewing beef will be fine. It just may go a little more to pieces when it cooks… but this won’t impair the flavor.