Celebratory Fare

This weekend it was my Dad's birthday and to celebrate he invited a few pals round for a warming feast.  He was keen to prepare a boeuf bourgignon according to the recipe of a chef he resembles in looks somewhat (or so I and at least one other person think!), Anthony Bourdain who owns NYC restaurant Les Halles.  His cookbook presents many a wide range of French classics, hence the boeuf bourgignon and he's got chutzpah to spare when it comes to describing his dishes and writing on the restaurant trade.  A nourishing read not only in the food realm.
Anyhoo, I was designated dessert designer.  My friend Sal let me in on her family's recipe for Chocolate Fondant.  They are experts in the food department and run a catering company themselves, based in Shepparton, Victoria.  Plus, Sal is a great cook and fellow foodie so I trust her recommendations.
Suffice to say the fondant was a hit - gobbled up and when presented even elicited some Ooo's and Ahh's.
To accompany this chocolately treat I fancied trying my hand at some homemade ice cream.  I love chocolate and berries together so as a last minute thought I added a couple handfuls of frozen blueberries along with my vanilla bean.
So this post will be a trifecta.  Not so much in terms of entrée, main and dessert, but main, dessert and extra dessert - yum!

First off, let's tackle le boeuf:  because it will need to stew for at least 2 hours.  I would even recommend preparing it a day in advance, storing in the fridge and then popping it on the stove when ready to devour.  This will enhance the flavours; allow the juices to really seep into the meat, while preserving the shape and form of the carrots and beef.

Your ingredients:
900g beef shoulder but into 4cm / 1.5inch pieces
salt and pepper
1/4 cup extra virg. olive oil
4 onions
2 tbsp / 28g plain all-purpose flour
1 cup / 225ml red Burgandy
6 carrots
1 garlic clove
1 bouquet garni
Some chopped flat-leaf parsley

Heavy bottomed dutch oven, wooden spoon and a ladle

Begin by seasoning your meat with S&P (salt & pepper ;-)

Heat oil in dutch oven over high heat until it is sizzling.  Add the meat in batches.  The pieces will need room to move so they can be seared on all sides.  I'd recommend long-sleaves or an oven mitt when you're turning the meat.  Let the meat brown/caramelise on all sides, remove and repeat this process for your next batch.

Chop your carrots into 1inch / 2.5cm pieces

Once your meat is all done and resting on the sidelines lower the heat to medium high and add your chopped onions.  Let them golden (approx. 10 minutes).  Sprinkle over flour and cook for a further 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Then add your red (wine) and bring the mixture to boil.

Once it is boiling add your meat back to the pot along with the carrots, garlic, and bouquet garni.  Add just enough water to cover the meat by a third - it is meant to be a stew so still retains liquid even post- reduction and simmering down stages.  If you have any demi-glace in your pantry do add two big spoonfuls of this to enhance the depth and richness of this dish - oh baby!

Let it all come back to the boil and then move to a lower heat and simmer gently for about 2 hours or until the meat is tender.  Keep in mind that checking on this dish about every 20 minutes - giving it the odd stir - is to your benefit so that your ingredients get a good move around the pot and avoid anything sticking to the bottom or scorching.  While you're at it, you can skim off any foam or "scum" that forms on the top.

Et voilà!  With your boeuf done and ready to serve you can ladle onto your plate, garnish with chopped parsley.  Lovely additions are butter lettuce with a . . . 
 . . . simple vinaigrette (1 tbsp dijon mustard, 1 crushed garlic clove, 50ml Champagne vinegar, 200ml olive oil, 1 tbsp chopped parsley shaken round together in a firmly sealed jar or whisked in a bowl). . . 
. . . and potatoes done in a way that you love.  I adore a gratin.

Ahhh, the perks of cooking a slow-cook meal: perk no.1- it's delish and perk no.2 - this allows time to prepare your dessert.

OK.  So Dad did take on the task of the main.  But let's get on with dessert, anyhow...
Firstly, homemade ice cream = always impressive and for your own personal pride, sans ice cream machine  = even more so (I think)!
Ice cream is like frozen custard . . . pretty much.  But then you can add whatever you like to give it your own personal touch.  I followed this custard recipe.  It is rich but the coolness of temperature makes is refreshing at the same time.  For this I adapted a recipe from Bill Granger:

half to 2/3 cup sugar (according to taste)
1.5 cups milk
1.5 cups cream
6 egg yolks
1 vanilla bean, split
2-3 handfuls of blueberries

Before you get going, have a shallow baking dish chilling in your freezer.

In a saucepan heat sugar milk and cream over medium heat, stirring mixture occasionally until it is hot (not bubbling or boiling) and the sugar dissolved.  While it heats up bit the egg yolks in a bowl until light and thick.  You can use either your raw horse power or an egg beater.  (Hmm, I would go with egg beater next time.) Gradually add hot milk mixture, beating all the while.
Return all this to a clean saucepan and stir over a medium-low heat and stir with a spatula or wooden spoon until the liquid thickens to a custard.  This process can take patience.  Have faith, your custard will thicken so hang in there and keep stirring*.
*Grandma's tip: stir in a figure 8 to help it along.

Once thickened, scrape the tiny pods from your split vanilla beans plus the bean itself.  Then transfer this to a bowl in an ice bath.

When the mixture has cooled slightly you can toss in your blueberries and stir round.
Eventually your ice and cold water will become tepid at which point they can no longer be cooling agents.  That's when it's time to move your mixture onto bigger and cooler things such as your frosty baking dish.  Return dish with custard to freezer and leave for 45 minutes.

Your concoction will take at least 3 or 4 hours to become ice cream.  For optimum texture it is a good idea to visit it once every half hour to 45 minutes to give it either a thorough whisk or vigorous stir round with a spatula.  I used an electric egg beater as memories of my sub-par hand whisking came to mind . . . 
So repeat this process, returning to the freezer after each visit until your 3 hours are up.  At this point, you can leave your ice cream to sit in the freezer until ready to serve.  For example, like so:

Now for le fondant.  Preheat the oven to 140degrees celsius.

You will then need:

200g butter
200g dark chocolate (70% or more, preferably)
2 heaped tbsps good quality cocoa powder
4 egg yolks
4 whole eggs
2/3 to 1 cup sugar
1 rounded tbsp of plain all-purpose flour

Prepare your ramekins first off by greasing the inside of them with butter and then dusting over with cocoa powder.  You should be able to get about 4-6 depending on the size of your ramekins.  I used several larger and a couple smaller ones and got 6.

Next have some water boiling in a saucepan with a stainless steal bowl resting on top.  Melt your butter in the bowl.  Once melted, add the chocolate broken in chunks and when this is melted stir in your tbsp of cocoa powder.

Turn off your stove and leave to rest over the warm water.  
While the chocolate rests, combine your egg yolks and eggs using an electric beater.  Proceed to add your sugar gradually while the beater's still going.  Once all is mixed in, take your choc mixture and fold it gently into the egg mix.

Fill each ramekin with the gooey batter, being sure to leave at least a cm or half inch still visible at the top.  (These babies will rise!)
Pop in the oven for 12-15 minutes and when they're nice and round on top they are ready to be gobbled.
Pictured here is the baby guinea pig of the batch as I was otherwise a fondant-baking virgin and wanted to make sure that I'd followed Sal's recipe correctly.  And guess what . . . ?

. . . They worked a treat!  So pretty, don't you think?
You can take your spoon, plunge it into the middle of the fondant, admire the gooey goodness, take a mouthful and make room for any additional toppings.  The blueberry vanilla ice cream was a perfect accompaniment, but a dollop of cream would also be lush.


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