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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Beef Bourguignon and Buttermilk Biscuits

I only ate foods that begin with B tonight.

Two excellent recipes to share with people today! First, the beef bourguignon recipe from Ina Garten's The Barefoot Contessa on the Food Network. I've never made this dish before, but if you like hearty beef stew this is the recipe for you. I'd never cooked with this much red wine before, and would use a lighter dry red next time. My wine, which was frozen in the freezer from a previous cooking project, was a bit too tangy. Maybe it'll mellow out tomorrow; I can't even remember what kind of wine it was. The best part of this recipe was setting cognac on fire. Having never made a flambe before, I was nervous. But it's easier than it sounds, and even if hte flames touch you a bit it doesn't hurt because alcohol doesn't burn that hot.

The buttermilk biscuits are a Deborah Madison recipe. As always, yummy and quick. Madison has a knack for writing recipes. I've said it before, but I'll say it again. Her recipes don't usually require anything particularly exotic, but they yield surprisingly delicious results. Additionally, her recipes don't look very long, but they're very detailed and leave little uncertainty. She doesn't just assume that you know what she's talking about the way a lot of cookbook writers do. Some say this makes her books elementary or boring; I say it's helpful. The ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour (I used 1 cup all-purpose and 1 cup whole wheat pastry)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons very cold butter, cut into cubes
  • 1 cup buttermilk (I used lowfat)

Preaheat oven to 400 degrees (some say 450). Sift the dry ingredients togther, and cut butter in until you form a coarse meal. I mash flour into the butter with my fingers until there are no big pieces left and it looks like a coarse meal. I might have gone a bit overboard this time. You don't want it to look like a fine meal, there should still be pieces of butter in there maybe a third the size of a green pea. At this point, you can add half a cup of cheese, or half a cup of chopped onions. I used one chopped up leek this time, white and light green parts only. Cheddar works well.

Using a fork, stir in the buttermilk until the dough just comes together and there's no dry flour left. I try to use a gentle folding motion. You don't want to knock all the air out of the flour or you'll bake hockey pucks. Dump the dough onto a lightly floured surface, and form it into a ball using floured hands. Be gentle and don't knead it too much or you'll get a stick mess. You just want the surface to be floured so it's dry and workable. You don't want to be kneading more and more flour into it. Form the dough into a disc and gently flatten it until it's about 3/4" thick. Also try to gently press out any cracks in the dough at this point. Make cutouts with a 3" round cookie cutter. An emptied tuna can or wine glass works well; I used a heart shaped cookie cutter because that's what I found first. You can work the dough a second time, but no more than that. I took the last scraps and gently formed them into a ball, just to not be wasteful. It'll be good for dunking even if it's not light and airy.

Place rounds on a slightly greased (or sprayed) cookie sheet about an inch apart. I need to research what distance is most conducive to rising. There's a scientific reason, like closer together=more steam=more rising (I think). Bake for 10 minutes, or until slightly browned on top and very brown on the bottom (left). You might need up to 15 minutes if you've added extra ingredients like cheese or onions. Hot, moist, buttery, airy biscuits in under half an hour. I prepared and baked these while waiting for the bourguignon to finish on top of the stove.

Perhaps because I simultaneously rushed (hungry!) and dawdled (left the mix sitting while attending to the beef bourguignon, allowing the butter to heat up on the counter), these biscuits didn't rise as much as they have in the past. This Washington Post article has pretty good guidlines and explanations for what makes a biscuit rise.


jo said...

thanks for the recipe. i remember eating these in DC when Claire made them. mmmm soo good.

Claire said...

There was an article in the Post the other weekend about how people don't cook any more, and so recipes are written more explicitly. They used the example of adding eggs, which apparently was something you didn't need to explain 30 years ago. Huh? There are many ways to add eggs - one at a time, beaten and all at once, etc. I think it's always good when a recipe gives more details. Even great cooks may forget something or think a step's not that important if the recipe is really bare bones. And you remember things better when you know the reasons for them, and those details also help you when trying to improvise.

Claire said...

Here's the link if you're interested.

Lisa said...

Hey, can you send me the stew recipe? The link has expired. Thanks!

Lily said...

My friend was planning to make Beef Bourguignon for her French class two weeks ago. However, there were some drawbacks, so she had to go with something ordinary like pastries. Actually, I think she went with French bread and a lot of people brought that. I was like "hmm...Beef Bourguignon." The name sounds so smooth.

I see the heart-shaped biscuit. I seriously thought it was a cookie. ^__^

Do you happen to make "fitness" drinks? haha