|The healthiest part of this dinner, and the only part that really would photograph well.|
I followed the recipe more or less as written, though readers of this blog know that some exceptions are certainly following. The first of these was that I did not begin with salt pork; I used an equivalent amount of butter and a little salt instead, cooking the onions and shallots in butter, and transferring them to a bowl. I then added the lightly-floured cubes of beef (store-bought organic -- our farmers-market source for local beef is gone for the season) in two rounds.
While the aromatics and beef rested in the bowl, I broke out the cognac for deglazing, and in that moment realized what it is -- the use of any cool liquid in a hot pan to break up the bits that are stuck -- in a sugary glaze -- to the bottom. This is the beginning of many sauces, and as someone who loves the charred bits stuck to any pan, a very welcome step. Using a bit of cognac made it even more satisfying! From The Reluctant Gourmet, we learn that those bits on the bottom are called fond -- not because I am fond of them, but because this is the French word for bottom, like fundamental, foundation, and so on.
So this stew -- like other French beef stews we have made -- is as much a vehicle for sauce as anything. The use of cognac in deglazing was just the start. The Dijon made the sauce rich and flavorful, without a mustardish edge. I was curious about the second suggested mustard -- Pommery. A substitution post on Chow Hound taught me two things: 1) any whole-grain mustard would do in a pinch (we did not have any, and I was not going out again); and 2) this specific recipe is a popular use of Pommery mustard.
The final touch was a red wine, and regular readers will not be surprised to see that I used a small amount of Malbec, reserving the rest for a brilliant pairing. Together with some freshly-baked biscuits, we enjoyed this stew immensely. Our cognac should last until the next time we prepare it, and we have time to pick up that grainy mustard!
Oh right: the double deglazing! I almost neglected to explain the title. Our weekend galley has an electric stove, which I am trying very hard to learn how to use. My initial simmer on medium instead of low started scorching the stew before I knew what was happening. I moved the pan off the heat, scooped most of the contents into the large bowl that was on hand, and put it back on the heat with another splash of cognac. The back of the spoon liberated a second round of fond, perhaps making this even better than it would have been.