For me, there is always a correlation between classical music and classic recipes. While it may be argued that the music of Lully or Bach or Saint-Saëns simply reflected the trend of the moment, the sheer longevity of classical music sets it apart. Modern music trends come and go, but music composed with solid technique and a dash of genius is played and loved for centuries.
Sometimes we overlook classic dishes, thinking they are outdated. Yet each country in the world has food pairings and recipes that have been around for centuries. These combinations of food that were regional, seasonal and absolutely perfect are still in the culinary repertoire centuries later.
With my leanings towards French provincial cuisine, I can’t go past two dishes that share the same mother. A main event and a second dish to use up the leftover sauce – the great bœuf bourguignon and its little sister, oeufs en meurette.
I like to cook mine in the style of “pièce de bœuf à la bourguignonne”, where I braise a piece of beef in the oven and slice it and sauce it, as opposed to cutting the meat into chunks and stewing it on top of the stove. I then assemble the sauce with all its classic accompaniments and thicken it with the carrot puree. The meat is best served with mashed potato and crusty bread. There should be enough sauce left over to enjoy with poached eggs on toast and a tart green salad. It’s the perfect little lunch snack for later in the week, while you’re enjoying a lunchtime concert on the wireless.
– 125ml grapeseed oil
– 1.5kg wagyu neck of beef (preferably wagyu but any braising beef, such as rump, topside or chuck steak, is fine)
– 2 carrots, halved lengthwise and sliced
– 2 celery stalks with leaves, halved lengthwise and sliced
– 1 leek, halved lengthwise and sliced
– 1 onion, chopped
– 500ml red wine
– 250ml beef or veal stock
– 10 thyme sprigs
– 3 bay leaves
– salt and pepper
– 300g kaiserfleisch, cut into lardons
– 300g button mushrooms
– 60g butter
– 5 French shallots, halved
– 5 carrots
– 1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Preheat your oven to 150ºC.
Heat half the oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan over medium-high heat. Brown the beef on all sides. Remove the beef from the pan, leaving the oil, and add the carrot, celery, leek and onion. Sauté for five to eight minutes. Add the red wine and boil for a couple of minutes, then add the stock. Bring to the boil again.
Place the beef in a deep baking dish. Pour over the sautéed vegetables and liquid. Stir in the thyme and bay leaves. Season with salt and pepper and cover with a layer of baking paper topped with foil. Place the baking dish in the oven and cook until tender, about four to five hours.
While the meat is cooking, heat a heavy-bottomed frying pan and sauté the kaiserfleisch until coloured. Remove from the pan onto some kitchen paper, then sauté the mushrooms until nutty brown. Season and set aside. Melt the butter in the same pan, add the shallots and cook over a gentle heat until tender. Set aside.
Meanwhile, prepare the carrot puree by boiling the carrots with salt until just soft. Puree.
When the meat is cooked, remove from the cooking liquid and keep covered and warm. Strain the liquid and remove as much fat as you can from the cooking liquid and place it in a heavy frying pan. Add the kaiserfleisch, mushrooms and shallots, bring to the boil and then add the carrot puree.
Slice the meat onto some creamy mashed potato and then ladle over the sauce. Sprinkle liberally with chopped parsley.
Oeufs en meurette
For each oeufs en meurette serving, place a piece of grilled/toasted bread in the bottom of a shallow bowl or plate with high sides. Place two poached eggs on each slice of bread. Spoon the sauce over the eggs and around the bread. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley and/or a few sprigs of fresh thyme.
Serve with a simple, bright green salad, and extra grilled bread to soak up the sauce from the bowl.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Jun 22, 2019 as "Hooked on classics". Subscribe here.