A few weeks ago I sent out Fall Feast invitations to some old and new friends. Since I love to cook and fall is my favorite season, I enjoy celebrating by making a huge seasonal dinner. I realized today that what I’ve been calling a “Fall Feast” is really my own version of “Friendsgiving,” which is just like Thanksgiving but with friends, as the name so obviously implies.
My hand written invitation. I had to blur out my address, for fear of stalkers.
No turkey at my Friendsgiving, though. This year I put a twist on traditional fare and made Boeuf Bourguignon (Beef Stew with Red Wine).
With the menu planned, I shopped the day before at all my local spots. I made a special stop at Fromage: A Cheese Boutique to buy something spicy and smokey and chat with Christopher, the owner. He told me about his travels, made me an Americano, and suggested some good local beers and wine. While admiring the glossy crema on my Americano, I was struck with a pleasant thought–buying ingredients at local shops makes preparing for the Fall Feast (or any dinner) a fun experience, instead of a chore.
The “fun” continued throughout the cooking process, so by the time Fall Feast evening rolled around, I was a happy girl. Everything was a success! The beef simmered in red wine, the brussels sprouts roasted and browned, the beet salad with goat cheese was a perfect first course, the apple crisp AND chocolate cake with local pumpkin ice cream were gobbled up by satisfied friends.
While successfully planning and pulling off a dinner party for ten is enough to make me smile, the best parts of the evening included laughs, games, and lots of happy conversations.
Thanksgiving, Fall Feast, or Friendsgiving–call it whatever you want, I’m just thankful for local ingredients, fall’s bounty, and the blessing of friends.
Fall Feast Memories
Fall Feast Beef Stew with Red Wine
(Inspired by Anthony Bourdain’s Boeuf Bourguignon. I doubled the recipe below for 10 people.)
3 pounds beef shoulder, cut into 1-1/2- inch pieces (you can also use stewing meat you find at the grocery store)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 bouquet garni – five sprigs of fresh thyme, a handful of parsley, and two bay leaves tied together with kitchen twine (for easy removal from the pot when cooking is finished)
1/4 cup of olive oil
4 onions, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 cups red Burgundy
2 cups beef stock
6 carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
Salt and pepper
A little chopped flat parsley
Dry each piece of meat with a paper towel before seasoning generously with salt and pepper. This helps it to brown better.
In a Dutch oven, heat the oil over high heat until almost smoking. Now work in batches to sear the meat on all sides until well browned. If you put it in the pot all at once, it will steam and turn gray. The meat needs to be a nice brown color, leaving yummy bits in the bottom of the pot. This is key for good flavor.
Don’t overcrowd the pot!
Sear the meat a little at a time, removing it and setting it aside as it finishes. When all the meat is a nice, dark brown color and set aside, add the onions to the pot. Lower the heat to medium-high until the onions are soft and golden brown (about 10 minutes). Sprinkle the flour over them. Continue to cook about 4 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the red wine, scraping all the good bits off the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon. Bring the wine to a boil.
Return the meat to the pot and add the carrots, garlic and bouquet garni.
Ready to simmer
Add the beef stock so that it covers the meat by one-third, meaning you want a ratio of 3 parts liquid to 2 parts meat. This is usually about two cups for me. If I need more liquid I add more wine. The liquid will reduce but since it’s a stew, you want enough liquid for the final product to be ”soupy.”
Bring to a boil, reduce to a gentle simmer, and let cook for about 3 hours, or until the meat is tender (break-apart-with-a-fork tender). Make sure to check the dish every so often. Skim off any foam, scum or oil from the top if needed.
I make this a day ahead, because it’s so much better the next day. Make sure to let it cool down and remove the bouquet garni before refrigerating. Just reheat at medium low on the stove until ready to eat. Then chop up some fresh parsley for the top of each portion.
Serve with roasted potatoes–heat oven to 400 degrees, cut new red potatoes in half, toss with plenty of olive oil, kosher salt and pepper, add a couple tablespoons of fresh thyme leaves if you have it. Place in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes until potatoes are fork tender and brown.
Enjoy with friends.
For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food, for love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.
Ralph Waldo Emerson