The New Year’s Vow to Eat Less Meat introduces a Meat Lover’s Dream recipe.
As New Year’s resolutions go, the one about eating less meat in 2020 has a lot of traction. And for good reason. Not only is it good for you, but it’s also good for the planet. As the sign said in Lisbon last summer “There is no Planet B”. Melissa Clark of The New York Times seems to have taken the vow very seriously. She devoted an entire Wednesday Food feature to “The Meat Lover’s Guide to Eating Less Meat”. She extolled the virtues of chickpeas and tofu, of quinoa and vegan sausages and she even made use of the wildly controversial plant-based “meats” to make meatless meatballs. She did, however, caveat her ingredient choice by stating “There’s no denying how processed most vegan meats are, loaded with unidentifiable ingredients,” before conceding “they do scratch the itch for burgers and meatballs”.
A grand assortment of Mushrooms take the place of Meat in this French Classic
The Melissa Clark meatless recipe that resonated with me was one she called “Mushroom Bourguignon”. The traditional elements–onions and carrots–are there. The meat is replaced by Mushrooms. Mushrooms are great for meat-eaters because they have the bulk and the bite of meat and they’re great carriers of other flavors—red wine and…don’t kill me…beef stock. For purity’s sake, Mushroom or Vegetable stock can be used too. In this recipe, you have your pick of whatever mushrooms are available to you— portobello, cremini, white button, shiitake or oyster—but make sure it’s a mix. And you will top the stew with thinly-sliced crisp brown Chanterelles or Oysters. The choice of wine is important to the flavor of the dish. Ideally, it should be Burgundy red: Pinot Noir or Gamay are the top recommendations. You can find decent bottles for $10.00 to $14.00. This is not really an occasion to skimp on the wine: it’s the foundation for the flavor of the dish. As to cooking time, I cooked my version a lot longer than Melissa called for. It only added to the flavor and I highly recommend you do the same.
The Original Recipe took what was Peasant Fare and landed it in Fine Dining Restaurants all over the world.
Beef Bourguignon has a long history in its native France and is right up there with Ratatouille and Coq au Vin in the pantheon of French food served the world over. The dish hails from Burgundy, one of the most beautiful parts of La Belle France. It began as a peasant dish in the middle ages when slow cooking was popular as a safe and thorough way to cook tougher cuts of meat. Cheap and filling, it could feed a lot of people. Traditionally, it was cooked over a two-day period which tenderized the meat and increased the flavor. There was no written recipe for Bourguignon until the “King of Chefs”, Auguste Escoffier, wrote one in 1903. Escoffier’s seal of approval meant this “peasant food” found its way to the most expensive of restaurants in Paris and London. In 1961, Julia Child revolutionized the dish by using cubed beef instead of the single piece of meat Escoffier’s original recipe used. Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” (Alfred A. Knopf). Julia described it as “certainly one of the most delicious beef dishes concocted by man” and it became one of her most popular recipes.
If a recipe with roots in France can be called “Hygge”, this is it.
On a recent Sunday afternoon, I put Melissa’s for Mushroom Bourguignon recipe to work. It did its requisite job or making the house whatever the French equivalent of what hygge is, that wonderful Scandinavian feeling of comfort and coziness. A wonderful smell wafted up from the pot. And when we sat down to dinner, there on a bed of the creamiest, most buttery mashed potatoes this lovely dish was so satisfying the last thing we missed was meat. Here’s the recipe along with some other mushroom dishes that are well-worth considering to keep your New Year’s resolution alive and well.
Melissa Clark's Mushroom Bourguignon
This rich robust stew gets its flavor from a Burgundy Red wine...the longer it cooks, the more flavor it has.
- 6 tablespoons butter or extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
- 2 pounds mixed mushrooms, such as portobello, cremini, white button, shiitake or oyster, cut into 1-inch chunks (about 10 cups)
- 8 ounces peeled pearl onions (2 cups), larger ones cut in half
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 large leek or 2 small leeks, white and light green parts, diced (1 1/2 cups)
- 2 carrots, thinly sliced
- 3 garlic cloves (2 minced, 1 grated to a paste)
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 2 ½ tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ cups dry red wine
- 1 ½ cups beef, mushroom or vegetable broth
- 1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce, plus more to taste
- 3 large fresh thyme branches or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 3 to 4 ounces chanterelle or oyster mushrooms, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
- Smoked paprika, for serving
- Polenta, egg noodles or mashed potatoes, for serving
- Chopped flat-leaf parsley, for serving
- Step 1 Add 2 tablespoons butter or oil to a large Dutch oven or pot and set it over medium heat. When the fat is hot, stir in half the mushrooms and half the pearl onions. (If it doesn’t all fit in the pot in one layer, you might have to do this in three batches, rather than two.) Without moving them around too much, cook the mushrooms until they are brown on one side, about 3 minutes. Stir and let them brown on the other side, 2 to 3 minutes more. Use a slotted spoon to transfer mushrooms and onions to a large bowl or plate and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Repeat with another 2 tablespoons butter and the remaining mushrooms and pearl onions, seasoning them as you go.
- Step 2 Reduce heat to medium-low. Add another 1 tablespoon butter or oil to the pan. Add leeks and carrot and sauté until the leeks turn lightly golden and start to soften 5 minutes. Add the 2 minced garlic cloves and sauté for 1 minute longer. Stir in tomato paste and cook for 1 minute. Stir in flour and cook, stirring, for 1 minute, then add wine, broth, 1 tablespoon tamari, thyme, and bay leaf, scraping up the brown bits at bottom of the pot.
- Step 3 Add reserved cooked mushrooms and pearl onions back to the pot and bring to a simmer. Partly cover the pot and simmer on low heat until carrots and onions are tender and sauce is thick, 50 – 60 minutes. Taste and add more salt and tamari if needed. Stir in the grated garlic clove. If you have time, you can cook this even longer at low heat for even more flavor.
- Step 4 Just before serving, heat a small skillet over high heat and add 1/2 tablespoon butter or oil. Add half of the sliced chanterelles or oyster mushrooms and let cook without moving until they are crisp and brown on one side, 1 to 2 minutes. Flip and cook on the other side. Transfer to a plate and sprinkle with salt and smoked paprika. Repeat with remaining butter and mushrooms. Serve mushroom Bourguignon over polenta, noodles or mashed potatoes, topped with fried mushrooms and parsley.