Every winter for the past five years, my dearest friends and I have escaped our jobs, our responsibilities, or whatever we've needed to escape in that moment, and traded them all in for a few days in the mountains of Gatlinburg, Tennessee. We rent a big, cozy cabin, pack up our cars, and drive up into the Smoky Mountains to do...absolutely nothing.
For the few days we spend in the shelter of our cabin, we feel secure, comfortable, safe. We are accepted by each other just as we are, and there is no need to put on a face, but rather, we can simply let go of any previous hindrances. In the mornings we sleep late, then enjoy stacks of pancakes and thick syrup. We curl up in the cracked wooden rocking chairs on the porch with mugs of steaming coffee, letting the hot liquid warm our icy throats. We spend most of the day lost in conversation, strengthening friendships, confiding in each other our dreams and aspirations. At night we are back on the porch, the men smoke cigars and drink whiskey while I'm in the kitchen, doing what I enjoy most- cooking for the people I love.
|At a moonshine tasting. Only in Tennessee!|
This year, I decided to cook one of my favorite recipes ever for our last night in the cabin- boeuf (beef) bourguigon. I even lugged my beautiful turquoise Le Creuset dutch oven up to Tennessee just for the occasion (I was not going to cook such a beautiful meal in any old pot!) Sure enough, the stew was a success. I ladled big spoonfuls of the stew into deep bowls, we passed around pieces of Country bread and dipped large hunks into the stew. And of course, we enjoyed it with a bottle of Burgundy (there is an entire bottle of this red wine in the dish, so a glass of it while eating compliments it perfectly.) Even after the bowls were empty, we spent hours telling stories, laughing at silly (and at times a bit off-colored) jokes, living fully and completely in the moment.
|My prized Le Creuset dutch oven.|
|My dear friends and me in Gatlinburg at a local German restaurant. Adam being goofy as always.|
1 tbsp olive oil
8 ounces bacon, diced
2 pounds beef chuck cut into 1-inch cubes
1 pound carrots, sliced
1 yellow onion, sliced
2 cloves chopped garlic
1 bottle good dry red wine
2 cups beef broth
1 tbsp tomato paste
4 tbsp unsalted butter, divided
3 tbsp flour
1 carton mushrooms, stems discarded and sliced
Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven (I use a Le Creuset). Add bacon and cook over medium heat for 8-10 minutes, until lightly browned. Transfer to a large plate.
Dry the beef cubes with paper towels and sprinkle with salt and pepper. In single layers, sear the beef in the same oil for about 2 minutes on each side. Transfer cubes to the plate with the bacon and set aside.
Toss the carrots, onions with a little salt and pepper into the fat of the pan and cook over medium heat about 10-12 minutes, until the onions are lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook another minute. Put the beef and bacon back into the pot along with any juices that have accumulated on the plate. Add the wine, beef broth, tomato paste, and a couple sprigs of thyme. Bring to a boil, cover with lid, and cook in the oven about 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until the meat and veggies are very tender. Remove from oven and place on the stove.
Combine 2 tbsp of butter and flour and stir into the stew. In a medium saucepan, heat the remaining 2 tbsp of butter over medium heat, add mushrooms, and saute for about 10 minutes. Add to the stew. Bring stew back to a boil, then simmer on the stove for about 15 minutes. Season to taste.
Enjoy with a fresh loaf of country bread or a French baguette, along with a glass of Burgundy and the company of loved ones.