It's Burgundy Week in London! This is when the British wine merchants launch their en primeur Burgundies, in this case the 2015s.
During these first weeks of the New Year there are many Burgundians disembarking from the Eurostar train from Paris at St. Pancras International, a splendid, red-brick, Victorian Gothic station. Winemakers from up and down the Cote d’Or, the Maconnais and Chablis, bump into acquaintances, share taxis or tackle the Tube together before they disperse to their various events. It’s a strangely apt place to arrive, although they may be unaware of that. As they take the escalator from the platform down to the arrivals hall, they are entering a cellar. Below the train shed, completed in 1868, and now once again painted “Barlow” blue, after the engineer who built what was then the largest single span structure in existence, is the station undercroft. This was used for storing freight, largely beer arriving from the famous Midlands’ brewers. The columns and girders are the same as in any nineteenth century beer warehouse with a basic unit of the length of a beer barrel.
Every January you can find at least 50 UK offers, with more than 25 by invitation tastings in London over two weeks. As the merchants make their determinedly up-beat pitches to customers, whether private clients, or restaurants, the commentators race around the Capital, eager to cover as many tastings as possible in order to find something interesting, or even controversial, to say.
SLOW COOKED BEEF IN RED WINE WITH BACON, LITTLE ONIONS AND GARLIC CROUTONS
Although no Burgundian harvest would be complete without this, it is a great winter recipe and makes a good party dish (quantities for 25 are given at the end of recipe).
FOR 6 PEOPLE
1 kg (2 lb) topside beef 125 g (4 oz) green streaky bacon in a piece
1 large onion 2 cloves
2 cloves of garlic
1 bottle Pinot Noir
a bouquet garni of fresh thyme, parsley, bay leaf
6 black peppercorns
12 small onions, optional (these are the kind that are used for pickling and not always available; shallots can be a good alternative)
lard, butter, duck or goose fat for sauté-ing
FOR THE BEURRE MANIÉ:
1 teaspoon butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon cornflour
FOR THE GARLIC CROUTONS:
French bread 1 clove garlic, peeled and cut in half
‘The most important thing,’ says Mme Imbert who for many years made this for the Leflaive pickers, ‘is to prepare the pieces of beef the previous day, marinading them in red wine (preferably a good one), onions stuck with cloves, thyme, bay leaves, a few garlic cloves, and not forgetting the lardons.’
Cut the meat into cubes about 5 cm (2 in) square, trimming off any gristle or extra fat. (French butchers sell suitable cuts as bourguignon, already prepared.) Remove the rind from the bacon and dice into lardons. Peel the onion and stick the cloves into it. Peel the cloves of garlic and tie the herbs in a bouquet with string. Put everything into a bowl with the wine, salt and black peppercorns.
The next day drain the beef and lardons, keeping the marinade. Dry the meat, including the lardons, carefully before sautéing in the fat. Brown all sides well. This must be done at a high heat - not a thing to do in your best silk shirt - so that the meat cubes are sealed ready for a long slow cooking. Chop the onion from the marinade and brown. If you are using the little onions, peel and brown them whole. Deglaze the pan with a ladleful of the marinade, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to be sure to incorporate the caramelised juices. Add the rest of the marinade with its herbs and garlic. It should just cover the meat - add water if necessary. Bring to the boil. Let it bubble for a few minutes, then turn down the heat, or remove to a slow oven, (aprox. 150 C/ gas mark 2/ 300F) and gently simmer, with the lid on, for about 2 to 2 1⁄2 hours. It must not go too fast or the meat will be stringy and chewy instead of tender. Test the meat with a fork after 2 hours.
Work the flour into the butter in a bowl for the beurre manié. At the last minute take a small ladleful of the sauce from the casserole and whisk into the beurre manié. When it is incorporated - a matter of seconds - add it all to the sauce and stir it in. Simmer for about 5 minutes until thickened a little.
Cut a slice of French bread per person - grill or bake in the oven - rub with the cut side of the garlic.
QUANTITIES FOR 25 PEOPLE
4 - 5 kg (9 - 10 lb) topside beef 750 g (11⁄2 lb) green streaky bacon in one piece 2 medium onions 3 cloves garlic 3 bottles red Burgundy
Increase the quantity of butter and flour for the beurre manié to dessertspoons. Double the number of peppercorns and use a bigger bunch of herbs.
Increase small onions to 25 if you wish, although when this is done in large quantities they are very often replaced by adding the marinade onions, chopped, and browned at the same time as the meat.
When browning the meat, do not put too much in the casserole at one time as it lowers the temperature of the fat, so that instead of browning, the cubes simply stew, which is not what is wanted at this stage. Better to do a few at a time and keep them on one side until all are browned and sealed and ready to cook in the wine.
If you cook the bourguignon the day before it is needed, you can easily remove any fat that has solidified on the surface.