Modern Beef Burgundy + A Giveaway

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Beef Burgundy

Beef Burgundy Beef Burgundy

Roast onions and mushrooms Roast onions and mushrooms

Along with Camembert and white beans, boeuf bourguignon ranks high among the Frenchman’s all time favorite foods. I remember making it in culinary school–a two day process–and I’ve made it once a winter since, always from Julia Child’s recipe. It’s a lovely cold weather dish, but the truth is, it’s a pain–fussy and time consuming.

This year, the crux of fall coincided with a book in the mail: the inimitable America’s Test Kitchen’s latest, 100 Recipes: The Absolute Best Way to Make the True Essentials. It’s such a useful book, both for the novice cook (the best way to scramble eggs and poach chicken) and the more experienced (adding gelatin to meatballs for improved texture). The recipes are beyond well tested.

My copy is now a ticker tape parade of must makes–pho, focaccia, smoked salmon–but the recipe I was drawn to first was their modernized (read: less finicky) version of boeuf bourguignon. The process has been trimmed, but the results are just as rich and wonderful. And the recipe feeds a crowd, or a family of two for many meals. (It yields 3 quarts or 6 pints, which I portion and freeze, equating roughly to 10 meals for the Frenchman and me.) This is good news in our (new!) apartment.

This recipe was published with permission from America’s Test Kitchen. They’ve generously offered a copy of the book to give away to one lucky reader. Simply leave a comment describing your favorite classic recipe by January 5th.

Beef Burgundy Beef Burgundy

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Vanilla Rooibos Apple-Rum Punch

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Vanilla Roobios Apple-Rum Punch

The Frenchman’s been away since the hem of Monday morning. Almost a week alone has meant the submission of all leisure time to the alter of A Little Life, which I listen to on my commute in the morning, and again in snatches throughout the day when I should be working, and then all evening and night until I finally fall asleep way past my bedtime. It’s one of those books that takes over.

Presently we’re in a strange limbo: half our current–soon to be “old”–apartment is packed up. We’re selling off our furniture piecemeal. The new place has brand new shelves and wallpaper, but no bed. We leave for our honeymoon (in New Zealand!) on December 18th, so–somehow–we’ll find a way to wrap up our work projects, and haul our lives across the river before then. Right? Is there an alternative? I have a premonition I won’t take a deep breath until I’m on that plane.

And now something happy to listen to in the background while you brew this punch: I’ve long been a fan of the podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour. In a recent episode, Linda Holmes interviews Trevor Noah. I enjoyed the interview a lot; it’s thoughtful, funny, and smart.

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Vanilla Roobios Apple-Rum Punch Vanilla Roobios Apple-Rum Punch

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Spicy Ground Pork and Cabbage Bowl + Wedding Dress Blues

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The Orange

At lunchtime I bought a huge orange—
The size of it made us all laugh.
I peeled it and shared it with Robert and Dave—
They got quarters and I got a half.

And that orange, it made me so happy,
As ordinary things often do
Just lately. The shopping. A walk in the park.
This is peace and contentment. It’s new.

The rest of the day was quite easy.
I did all the jobs on my list
And enjoyed them and had some time over.
I love you. I’m glad I exist.

–Wendy Cope, from Serious Concerns

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Peach and Blueberry Coconut Crisp + a Giveaway!

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Until a couple months ago, I was living in the gymnastics dark, unaware I could participate in this–frankly, awesome–sport as an adult. (Thanks, Amelia!) And now that I know, I’m eager to make up for lost time.

I was competitive as a child, although my average skills never quite matched my intense love for the sport. I went to gymnastics camp and met Dominique Moceanu, though, and favored a burgundy crush velvet leotard and matching hair scrunchie–legitimizing qualifications if ever you heard them. And then I went away to school, and transitioned into flinging myself off of 1 and 3-meter diving boards instead. Later, in college, after a beverage or two, I liked to throw messy back walkovers on whatever surface was available to me: grass, or sometimes, hotel hallways. I am still a frequent handstand-and-cartwheeler in the sand, because life is short.

That brings us to the present. I have attended four classes now, and joy is the simplest way to describe it. Just walking into the gym–the primary colored mats and barrels, the expanse of trampolines, the foam pit–seems to dissipate stress.

My body is remembering front extension rolls (a series of which left me feeling terribly motion sick after my first class), back bends, kick overs, headstands, and almost back handsprings. Week to week, tangible improvements. I’m sore the next day (who knew the body contained so many distinct muscles?), but still I want to practice handstands against our apartment door: “You need to be looong,” instructs Rodrigo, pulling out the word to match his arms stretched high above his head. “Practice being looong.” So I do.

I’m not a naturally gifted athlete, and I would rather shop for tomatoes than go on a hike, but for some reason this gymnastics business has become a highlight of my week. It quiets all the overwhelmed, busy thoughts in my head.

Last week, we front flipped. With each turn, I stared down the alley of floor in front of me and in that suspended moment, nothing mattered except the anticipation alive in my fingertips. With each turn, I slid into a long-strided run, just before the mat pike-punching hard to launch my body upward with everything I had. It’s an act of faith, really. A hard tuck, willing mind and body to follow in a neat circle through the air, hoping that–this time–I’ll land on my feet.

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Raspberry + Italian Plum Walnut Crisp

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“You cannot be really first-rate at your work if your work is all you are.

So I suppose the best piece of advice I could give anyone is pretty simple: get a life. A real life, not a manic pursuit of the next promotion, the bigger paycheck, the larger house. Do you think you’d care so very much about those things if you developed an aneurysm one afternoon, or found a lump in your breast while in the shower?

Get a life in which you notice the smell of salt water pushing itself on a breeze over the dunes, a life in which you stop and watch how a red-tailed hawk circles over a pond and a stand of pines. Get a life in which you pay attention to the baby as she scowls with concentration when she tries to pick up a Cheerio with her thumb and first finger.

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Turn off your cell phone. Turn off your regular phone, for that matter. Keep still. Be present.

Get a life in which you are not alone. Find people you love, and who love you. And remember that love is not leisure, it is work.

Get a life in which you are generous. Look around at the azaleas making fuchsia star bursts in spring; look at a full moon hanging silver in a black sky on a cold night. And realize that life is glorious, and that you have no business taking it for granted.

It is so easy to waste our lives: our days, our hours, our minutes. It is so easy to take for granted the pale new growth on an evergreen, the sheen of the limestone on Fifth Avenue, the color of our kids’ eyes, the way the melody in a symphony rises and falls and disappears and rises again. It is so easy to exist instead of live. Unless you know there is a clock ticking.

frozen raspberries and Italian plums

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Softest, Slow-Cooked Scrambled Eggs

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Lately, I am paralyzed by recipes. I think this is connected to the relentless cold and darkness of the current inexhaustible winter. Recipes come banging into my head–bœuf bourguignon, swordfish in lemon-butter sauce with white beans and radicchio, banana cream pie–and I am immediately exhausted. The kitchen table is cluttered, I am choosing junky television over books. My attempts at productivity feel shallow, murky.

I had lofty, multi-course ambitions to share with you for Valentine’s Day. But the more I thought about it, and the more recipe notes I jotted down, the more overwhelmed I felt. In the end, the Frenchman got a(n under-salted) pot of bœuf bourguignon a week before Valentine’s Day; a Chocolate, Blood Orange, and Candied Brioche ice cream (which I did not make myself, but traded for this cake) on the day; and just the promise of Chanterelle Mushroom Soup at, um, some unspecified point in the future. Read more »

Everything Carrot Cake + Swiss Cream Cheese-Mascarpone Frosting

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Inspiration

I am tired of the tundra of the mind,
where a few shabby thoughts hunker
around a shabby fire. All day from my window
I watch girls and boys hanging out
in the dark arcades of desire.

Tonight, everything is strict with cold,
the houses closed, the ice botched by skaters.
I am tired of saying things about the world,
and yet, sometimes, these streets are so
slick and bold they remind me of the wet

zinc bar at the Café Marseilles, and suddenly the sea
is green and lust is everywhere in a red cravat, Read more »

Tomato-Poached Monkfish + Shrimp with Garlic and Broccolini

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There is a second hand shop in our neighborhood whose opening hours are impossible to predict. An aged proprietress lives above the store and opens only when the mood strikes; she is selling the mismatched detritus of her life. “I always loved buying things,” she tells me in a Brooklyn-tinged warble, “But now?” Her eyes rove strings of colorful beads, a crystal decanter, a wicker lamp. “What am I going to do with all this?”

I have unearthed many a gem in her store, usually sold for a song–a heavy pitcher winking with bright red roses, a set of six, flared champagne coupes. I particularly loved a juice glass, mottled with ivory and canary yellow flowers. It was a small but distinct pleasure–to fill that glass and watch the flowers pop. Read more »