It’s been one month since I returned home from the hospital with a 7 pound redhead, a newly minted carseat, and a sheet of paper entitled, “Instructions for your Newborn.” To be fair, I should tell you the sheet was double-sided and typed in small font. There was a surprising amount of useful information on it. However, I didn’t read it. That would have been a sensible approach and I was certainly not in my right mind. Instead, I struggled on my own to read the signs, expressions and cries of this strange little being. Only recently did I find the instruction sheet as I was searching about looking for Maeve’s immunization record. And, in reading it, I was sort of relieved. Yes, the fussiness is normal. Yes, the baby acne is to be expected. Yes, your child will cry for all sorts of reasons at all sorts of hours.
However, I’m not going to tell you that it’s all butterflies and rainbows around here. That would not be true. I will say life gets easier everyday. I will also say that I couldn’t be more in love with this darling girl whose smiles and cuddles brighten every moment of my day.
I am also learning lots about her, with or without the use of an instructional handout. For example, my little bun takes after her parents. She doesn’t like to be holed up inside the home. No, being housebound is just about the worst thing. She loves walks, fresh air, and riding around in a baby-carrier. This makes our lives so much more fun. Weekends are wondrous again. Indeed, last weekend we managed to hit the park, the beach, and a museum. There were no tears and, apart from a diaper disaster at the museum requiring both parents to coordinate efforts in the women’s restroom, it was relatively blissful.
I’m feeling quite grateful, but I know it’s not this easy for everyone. Certainly, this post is not intended to suggest parenthood is at all easy. In fact, it’s the hardest thing I can imagine, but it’s also the most rewarding.
And, in case you were wondering, I am managing to cook on a more regular basis. While I originally thought I couldn’t cook a thing, I now realize it’s all about the timing. Maeve rests frequently. Although I am unable to predict when those naps will occur, I find I can scramble about the kitchen in those quiet moments and prepare food for dinner. Or, on the other hand, K entertains Maeve with lots of questions and kisses while I cook.
Over the weekend, in addition to our outdoor activities, we managed a wonderful meal. This is admittedly a meal that was long overdue. If you’ll recall, I made two resolutions last year. First, I wanted to make a baby and, second on my agenda, was to attempt Julia Child’s classic Beef Bourguignon. I only managed to make good on one of those resolutions in 2010. So now that we find ourselves squarely in the new year with a baby in tow, it only seemed right to fulfill last year’s final resolution.
So I did it and now I have no unfulfilled resolutions or regrets. Beef Bourguignon is absolutely wonderful. The flavors are full and deep. The richness is unimaginable and makes you feel like you should be waltzing around in red velvet with a crown on your head. It’s the perfect dish for this cold snap when you’re indoors for hours and you have the time to attempt a more complex dinner affair. But don’t get me wrong. The complexity of this dish is due to the time it takes to cook and the preparation involved. The techniques are neither difficult nor laborious. In fact, with a helper in the kitchen, this is an easy meal to prepare for your family. Just be sure you have time on your hands to wait for the meat to cook slowly. You won’t be sorry. The slow cooking process is what allows all the flavors to really come together.
I certainly hope you do find the time to attempt this Beef Bourguignon recipe. The reward is superb. The meal will impress even your snobbiest foodie friends and the leftovers will feed you for days. And, while this isn’t your easy mommy meal, it’s certainly possible with a little time and patience. I swear.
6 oz. uncooked smoked bacon
3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
3 pounds lean stewing beef, cut into 2-inch cubes
1 carrot, sliced
4 medium sized yellow onions, ( 1 sliced and the remainder cut into 1/2 inch chunks)
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons flour
3 cups red wine, young and full-bodied (like Beaujolais, Cotes du Rhone or Burgundy)
2 1/2 to 3 1/2 cups beef stock
1 tablespoon tomato paste
3 cloves mashed garlic
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme
A crumbled bay leaf
3 1/2 tablespoons salted butter
Herb bouquet (4 parsley sprigs, one-half bay leaf, one-quarter teaspoon thyme, tied in cheesecloth)
1 pound mushrooms, fresh and quartered
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Fry bacon in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a flameproof casserole over moderate heat for 2 to 3 minutes to brown lightly. Remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon.
Dry beef in paper towels; it will not brown if it is damp. Heat fat in casserole until almost smoking. Add beef, a few pieces at a time, and sauté until nicely browned on all sides. Add it to the dish with the bacon.
In the same fat, brown the sliced carrot and 1 sliced onion until tender. Pour out the excess fat.
Return the beef and bacon to the casserole and toss with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
Then sprinkle on the flour and toss again to coat the beef lightly. Set casserole uncovered in middle position of preheated oven for 4 minutes.
Toss the meat again and return to oven for 4 minutes.
Remove casserole and turn oven down to 325 degrees.
Stir in wine and 2 to 3 cups stock, just enough so that the meat is barely covered. Add the tomato paste, garlic, and herbs. Bring to a simmer on top of the stove. Cover casserole and set in lower third of oven. Regulate heat so that liquid simmers very slowly for 3 to 4 hours. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.
While the beef is cooking, prepare the remainder of the onions and mushrooms. Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons butter with one and one-half tablespoons of the oil until bubbling in a skillet. Add onions and sauté over moderate heat for about 10 minutes, stirring them so they will brown as evenly as possible.
Add 1/2 cup of the stock, salt and pepper to taste and the herb bouquet. Cover and simmer slowly for 40 to 50 minutes until the onions are tender and the liquid has evaporated. Remove herb bouquet and set onions aside.
Wipe out skillet and heat remaining oil and butter over high heat. As soon as you see butter has begun to foam, indicating it is hot enough, add mushrooms. Toss and shake pan for 4 to 5 minutes. As soon as they have begun to brown lightly, remove from heat.
When the meat is tender, pour the contents of the casserole into a sieve or strainer set over a saucepan.
Wash out the casserole and return the beef and bacon to it. Distribute the cooked onions and mushrooms on top. Skim fat off sauce in saucepan. Simmer sauce for a minute or 2, skimming off additional fat as it rises. You should have about 2 1/2 cups of sauce thick enough to coat a spoon lightly.
If too thin, boil it down rapidly. If too thick, mix in a few tablespoons stock. Taste carefully for seasoning. Pour sauce over meat and vegetables. Cover and simmer 2 to 3 minutes, basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce several times.
Serve in casserole, or arrange stew on a platter surrounded with potatoes or noodles. Or, enjoy with a good crusty bread. Garnish it with parsley.
Adapted* from Julia Child.
*Adapted? Yes! Although my little one likes to go to the store, her mama likes to make one trip and must be satisfied with the ingredients available to her at the local market and those inside her cupboards.