Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Doldrums

The winter doldrums have hit here.  HARD.  I can usually make it through February if I know I have something to look forward to.  Like a trip to Mexico, or someplace warm.  Just anticipating it gives me the fortitude to make it through these subzero temps in Minnesota in February.  But we went last year and our name is not Rockefeller so there will be no warm escape this year.

And, as if to add insult to injury, I managed to pick up a cold post girls weekend which while not being debilitating has left me completely drained of energy.  I have retreated into bear mode and just want to hibernate the rest of the winter away.

Unfortunately, four active children prevent me from indulging in self pity, so I do what I normally do.  I cook.  I was inspired a bit yesterday when I watched Julie and Julia.  Although I do not have any of Julia Child's cookbooks, I do remember watching her on TV eons ago.  Maybe someday I'll try Julia's recipe for Beef Bourguignon, but yesterday I was running short of time so I went with my own made up version:  "Beef Stew with all the leftover wine from the previous week".   Yes, ok...I'm going to work on the title.

The other impetuous that spurred me on was a gift I received from my sister for Christmas:  a 9 Qt oval sunshine yellow Le Creuset dutch oven.   Oh, yes.  Mine IS bigger than Julia's.
altogether now...That's what she said.
My sister purposefully got me this size so that I can feed my tribe and still lift the pan.  She briefly considered the 13 Qt before realizing that I would have to have a fork lift to lift it out of the oven.  Wise decision.
I washed up the pot and braised my flour and spice coated chuck pieces, removing them as they browned.  When the last of the meat was in, I returned the meat, added a cut up onion and about 2 cups of Cab (and Sangiovese) and a qt of beef stock, two bay leaves and some fresh thyme, covered and let simmer for about an hour.  I then added about 1.5 lbs quartered red and white baby potatoes, about 1 cup of baby carrots, about a cup of sliced celery and let simmer about another hour or so.  I added some sliced mushrooms at the end and let them cook down and served it with a nice crusty loaf of bread.

And for some reason unbeknownst to me, although I think it harkens back to my high school days where certain lunches were always paired with certain desserts, I always make brownies when I make beef stew.  So that we are clear, brownies are always made using Bakers Unsweetened Chocolate and the recipe on the box for One Bowl Brownies.  I use walnuts instead of pecans, and because, my kids are not especially fond of nuts, I tempt them by adding chocolate chips to them, but really they are more than chocolaty enough without them.
As the brownies were cooling I suddenly remembered reading something about how to cut brownies without them ripping to shreds.  I binged "how to cut brownies" and sure enough there is a method to cutting brownies!  Who knew?  The key?  Cut them while they are still warm AND with a plastic knife.  Now, my knife was not sturdy enough to cut through the crunchy edge, but it slid nicely through the rest of the brownie, slicing them evenly without crumbling.

That's how we handle the doldrums in Minnesota.

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