I knew I was coming down with something last night - was it the faintness after shopping, the chill in the air, the brooding grey sky, the frozen toes? As soon as I woke up, I craved chile peppers in soup. I managed to pull together a hasty red pepper and udon noodle soup for breakfast, but I knew what I really needed - this classic French red wine and beef stew, fragrant with bacon, thyme, merlot, and beef, balanced with a touch of garlic and salsa.
Although I normally eat almost vegetarian, there are times when the deep flavors of meat and wine with herbs can resurrect me like nothing else. Forget the pre-Thanksgiving jitters, the memories of my father on Thanksgiving, the silent phone, the bleached grasses just before the snow, the tension that November brings. The hours of the wine blending with the beef make for an extraordinary experience. This is, indeed, Slow Food at its best. This is the one stew I don't add carrots and onions to, because it's perfect, just as it is. There is a deep robustness to this stew, that is unlike any other I've made.
So throw a log on the fire as the pot bubbles, and take joy in this day.
a pound of stewing beef
4 strips of bacon ( I use thick cut), sliced into slivers
3 cups merlot, or other robust red wine
olive oil and unsalted butter for the saute ( about 2 T. each) butter is optional.
2 cups beef bouillion
2 T. good salsa (I use Green Mountain Gringo, from Vermont)
3 cloves mashed garlic
1 t. thyme
salt and pepper
Place beef on paper towels and blot until dry.
Put bacon in a skillet and cook until brown. Remove to paper towels.
Add olive oil and butter to the skillet and brown, about five pieces at a time, the beef chunks. Remove beef when browned, reserve, and continue to brown beef until all the chunks are done.
Place browned beef in an oven-proof dish or pot.
Drain the fat from the skillet, then add the merlot and beef bouillon, and the thyme, garlic, salt and pepper, and the salsa. Simmer for a few minutes, scraping up the browned bits.
Pour over the beef, then add the bacon bits.
Cover and place in a 325F oven for two hours.
Taste the stew and adjust seasonings, then serve with good bread and butter, or buttered noodles.