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Beet Bourguignon

To cooks worldwide, she is known by her first name, Julia. She needs no introduction, as without her, much of what we take for granted (food-wise) would probably be very different in the U.S. and the world today.

Things are very different now compared to 1963 when Julia Child first came on to the scene. Today, we have a universe of different diets, from veganism, to raw-foodism, to gluten-free, to juice cleansing. Back then, Americans were experiencing an epiphany in French culture, the result of which led to a dramatic rise in interest in cooking and eating, travel and hospitality, not only in this country but abroad as well.

While Julia is best known for introducing the world of French cuisine to her fellow Americans, as well as succeeding generations, she is also responsible for opening our eyes to the world of the possible. One of my favorite quotes of hers comes from a 1990 interview where she declared that “…We should enjoy food and have fun. It is one of the simplest and nicest pleasures in life.”

Today’s offering was inspired by this post on beet bourguignon on one of my favorite food blogs, Green Kitchen Stories. I first stumbled upon the recipe several months ago, but alas at the time, beets were in short supply at our local farmers’ markets. It’s a dish that’s perfectly suited for winter, yet with a few tweaks, you can adapt it for just about any season. As with most stews, soups and braises, the flavors intensify after the first day. Although I paired it with Umbrian lentils (which is what I had on hand), I imagine that polenta would be a marvelous alternative.

Life is short. What better way to enjoy it, than with food?

Beet bourguignon, Umbrian lentils

Beet Bourguignon, served with Umbrian Lentils

This will probably become a regular part of my repertoire. I recommend following David’s and Luisa’s lead and using Chioggia beets, which in my experience “bleed” less than regular beets, the latter which is responsible for the overly red color pictured above.

The recipe below is adapted from the original and contains a few additional vegetables. As usual, feel free to tweak things based on whatever you might have on hand.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
8 small beets, trimmed, peeled & quartered (I used half golden beets, and half regular beets)
2 medium sized carrots, peeled and sliced in large pieces
1/2 fennel bulb, sliced
2 sprigs thyme
sea salt, to taste
freshly milled black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup red wine
2 cups vegetable stock
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons arrowroot powder, dissolved in 2 tablespoons water (optional)

2 cups Umbrian lentils, for serving
4 cups water
a pinch of sea salt

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup shiitake mushrooms, sliced
10 champignon mushrooms, sliced
8-10 small shallots, peeled and halved

Cooking the stew:

Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven or a large cast iron pot over medium heat. Stir in onions, fennel and garlic, sauté until soft. Toss beets, carrots, thyme and salt and pepper into the pot, cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the tomato paste, red vine, vegetable stock and bay leaves, let simmer on low heat for 40 minutes. Meanwhile prepare the lentils, mushrooms and shallots.

Preparing the lentils:

Rinse lentils under running water. Bring water to a boil, add lentils and lower to medium heat. Let simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, when almost done add salt. Set aside.

Searing the mushrooms and shallots:

Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Lower the heat and sear the shiitake mushrooms, champignon mushrooms and shallots, stirring occasionally, until tender and golden in color. Season to taste. Set aside.

Mushrooms and shallots

Finishing the stew:

Taste the stew, add more wine, stock or herbs if you like. If you prefer the stew a little thicker, add arrowroot mixture, but this is optional. Add mushrooms and shallots and simmer for 10 more minutes. To serve, spoon the stew over a plate of lentils and sprinkle with fresh thyme.

Time: About 90 minutes, including prep.

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