* I assure you no kittens were harmed in the making of this stew.
We got a kitten! For those who know me, I really don’t like cats – but I love kittens in the same way that I love puppies. They are so cute and small and full of life and love. They are playful and sleepy at the same time, they have tiny noses and tiny paws. What is there not to love? So they grow up and become tired of us humans and they roam the house like they built it with their own four paws. I will deal with that reality when I come to it. For now… for the moment….for the time being, we have a kitten! We are still deciding on a name, I will let you know when she has one for certain. This has little to do with the making of a delicious beef stew but it took place on the same day and so in my personal narrative the whole thing makes sense. Onto the beef…
It rained most of last week so on the first sunny afternoon in awhile I left work, coffee in hand and walked with a friend to my favorite butcher, Basar Neto or ‘Just Meat’ in English. They are situated almost at the northern edge of the city and a good hearty walk from my house, so when I go there I expect to yield wonderful results. This visit proved no different. I ordered a couple kilos of stewing meat and watched as he carefully cut pieces of shoulder and top round, trimming and sculpting to perfection. He broke down some more cuts but I didn’t ask what they were – I just watched, payed and placed an order for some aged flank steaks that I was told they would have ready for me next week. What a dream.
The excitement of buying the meat was matched by a friend having brought us a hunk of candycolored speck while on a layover in Vienna. My people know what they are responsible to get when they travel abroad: cured meat, cheese, chocolate – these are priorities one, two & three (in that exact order). It was a sign from the meaty-gods that it was time to make my rendition of a Beef Bourguignon.
Classic dishes like Beef Bourguignon are pretty specific in their execution, and those eating a dish like it will come to the table with a certain level of expectation. It’s an expectation of how it should look, how it should taste, even how it should feel to eat it. Perhaps they have already experienced the beefy//wine that dribbles into the pile of mashed potatoes, or the soft chunks of meat that break apart easily and impart a kind of medieval relationship between you and your food. This is the type of classic cooking I find so interesting to do these days – to take something that exists perfectly as is and try to get there myself. The expectation is set – I know what I intend to achieve, it’s ingrained in the dish, I just have to find a way to get there.