Sibling Rivalry & Braised Beef Bourguignon

The long Columbus Day Weekend is coming up. With any luck we will enjoy a glorious three days. The sun will shine in a bright blue sky and the autumn leaves will astound us with a gorgeous display of red and gold. Anticipating the ice, sleet and snow to come, family and friends will gather for one last hike in the mountains or a final picnic on the beach.

When we were little, Columbus Day was not celebrated on the second Monday in October, but on the 12th. It commemorated the day Columbus first spotted land after his perilous voyage across the Atlantic. My sister’s birthday is October 12th. Every year Brenda tortured me by claiming that all of America took the day off to celebrate her birthday. And even though I did not really believe her, I was green with envy.

Yes, indeedy, throughout my childhood sibling rivalry was alive and well at our house. Or at least it was alive and well in my heart. I was sandwiched between my older sister and little brother. I was and still am the poor, pitiful middle child. Everything they tell you about middle children is true. Check our empty baby books; we’re lucky if our name and birthday are scribbled on the first page. Go through the family photo albums and just try and find a picture of us. Throughout our childhood, we wear hand-me-downs, ride our sister’s old bike and never, ever get to ride shot-gun. Yes, we are a pitiful lot.

About the time she became a teenager I decided my sister was perfect. Brenda, with her long, straight locks, never had a bad hair day. My curly mop was always out of control. She showed off her perfect gams with brightly colored mini-skirts. She wore black eye liner and pale pink lip gloss with cool confidence. She was in control. Heck, she had hurricanes named after her. They called off school every year on account of her birthday. She had a driver’s license. It seemed to me that if my teenage sister wasn’t perfect, she came pretty close. And it drove me nuts.

And then there was my brother. After seven years of basking in the glory of being the youngest, the baby, suddenly I had a brother. Well I guess not so suddenly, we were given about nine months warning. My brother was nowhere near as perfect as my sister, BUT, and it’s a big but, he was a boy. John was the charming, fair-haired son that every mother and father dream of having. Even when he was a tiny baby he was gregarious and funny and made everyone laugh. He was the God-loved-angel.

It took some time but I eventually forgave them their sins of perfection and of charm. I don’t just love my sister and brother, I really like them. Oh sure there are still times when I might want to throttle one or both of them. Heck, I’m sure there are lots of times when one or both of them want to throttle me. But I know that I can always count on them, as they can count on me.

I am looking forward to the long holiday weekend. If I’m lucky I’ll get to spend some time with my sister and brother and their families. We’ll take a walk through the woods or around the lake, share a meal and, with the elections less than a month away, maybe enter into a lively political debate.

However you spend the long holiday weekend, enjoy the autumn sunshine, foliage and the time you spend with family and friends.

Bon appétit!

Braised Beef Bourguignon
This delicious braised beef recipe removes many of the steps in a classic French Boeuf Bourguignon. It is still delicious; warm and comforting on a crisp fall evening. Try it out at your next family get-together and enjoy!
Serves 6-8

3 pounds thick-cut London broil
4 ounces thick-cut bacon, roughly chopped
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
3-4 carrots, peeled and chopped
4-5 stalks of celery, chopped
2 teaspoons herbs de Provence
1/4 teaspoon chili pepper flakes, or to taste
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup tomato puree
3-4 cups dry red wine
3-4 cups beef broth
1 bay leaf
1 pound mushrooms, sliced
1 pound frozen pearl onions
1/2 cup sour cream
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Garnish: fresh chopped parsley

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Cook the bacon in a heavy casserole over medium-low heat until crisp and brown. Remove the bacon and reserve. Pour off all but 1-2 tablespoons of bacon fat and reserve.

3. Brown the beef over medium-high heat 3-5 minutes per side. Remove the beef and add to the reserved bacon.

4. Reduce heat to medium. Add 1-2 tablespoons of bacon fat to the pot (if you run out of bacon fat, substitute with a little olive oil); add the onion, carrot and celery; sprinkle with herbs de Provence and chili pepper flakes and sauté until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and sauté 1-2 minutes more.

5. Put the beef and bacon back into the stew pot. Add the tomatoes, wine, beef stock and bay leaf. Cover the pot; transfer to oven. Cook at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

6. Sauté the mushrooms in a little olive oil over medium heat until lightly browned. Add the mushrooms, pearl onions and sour cream to the stew pot and stir gently to combine. Check for seasoning; add salt and pepper to taste.

7. Return the pot to the oven and continue cooking, covered, until beef is very tender about 1 hour. If the stew gets too dry, add more wine and/or stock. Remove the meat from the casserole and cut across the grain in thick slices. Garnish with parsley, serve with the vegetables and a little sauce.

This dish can be made 2 or 3 days ahead. Bring to a simmer on top of the stove and then transfer to a 350 degree oven and cook for about 30 minutes or until the meat is warmed through.

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Feel free to visit my other, cleverly named blog, Susan Nye’s Other Blog, or website www.susannye.com. You can find more than 200 recipes, links to magazine articles and lots more. I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. ©Susan W. Nye, 2010

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