Blue Mountain Bistro… a Fort Davis favorite

PRINTED WITH THE PERMISSION OF THE ALPINE AVALANCHE

A few nights ago, I had dinner with friends after a Friends of the Jeff Davis County Library board meeting at the Blue Mountain Bistro located at the beautiful, historic Limpia Hotel in Fort Davis. Locals know that the Bistro is the go-to place in town, and not just because it has the only bar in town, although that doesn’t hurt.

Having already eaten a very late lunch/early dinner before my meeting that I knew would run through dinnertime, I wasn’t terribly hungry. I was looking forward to visiting with the ladies and getting to know our new Library Director Gwin Grimes. I figured I’d get something light, like a salad or soup, just to be social.

More often than not, when Mr. Johns and I dine at the Bistro, he orders the Boeuf Bourguignon (Beef Burgundy) and ends up taking some of the delicious beef stew home for later. I can usually manage a bite or two of his savory dish, but am normally too wrapped up in my own meal to want more of his. As I perused the familiar menu, my appetite grew and I decided to order the Boeuf Bourguignon for myself. I could take him the leftovers, since he would likely be hungry when I got home.

As hot as the summer has been, the last thing I’ve wanted to cook at home is stew, and looked forward to eating my very own bowl of this tender beef and flavorful vegetables drenched in hearty gravy-like wine sauce that nearly melts in your mouth, with layer upon layer of flavors… especially since it was prepared in someone else’s hot kitchen.

I can’t help but use my best impression of Julia Child when talking about and even ordering Boeuf Bourguignon, as she was the person to first bring those words to my vocabulary. This recipe was the first one she shared on her cooking show, The French Chef, and highlighted in a movie a few years back about a food-blogger cooking her way through “The Art of French Cooking” – a cookbook in my vast personal collection along with a dozen or so written by Julia’s dear friend Jacques Pepin, one of my all-time favorite chefs.

French beef stew in a red wine sauce with little pearl onions, carrots and mushrooms. It doesn’t get much better than that. Mr. Johns is extremely lucky he ended up with leftovers, because it was only by sheer determination that I put down the spoon when I’d eaten half of the large serving.

Boeuf Bourguignon is somewhat labor-intensive, but the pure delight that comes with every bite of the finished product makes the effort completely worthwhile.

Blue Mountain Bistro in downtown Fort Davis is open for dinner from 5-8 p.m. every day except Wednesday, and open until 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, with extended hours for the bar. Reservations are helpful – call (432)426-3244 to reserve your table.
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Boeuf Bourguignon
(Inspired by Blue Mountain Bistro)
2 tablespoons plus 2 cups dry red wine
4 thick bacon slices, cut into 1-inch-wide strips
3 1/2 pounds boneless beef cross-rib roast, trimmed, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons tomato paste
3 large fresh thyme sprigs
3 large fresh sage sprigs
3 large fresh rosemary sprigs
2 bay leaves
3 cups (or more) canned beef broth
12 ounces pearl onions
3 bunches baby carrots, trimmed, peeled
12 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, quartered

Cook bacon in large pot over medium heat until brown, about 10 minutes. Transfer to paper towels. Pour drippings into small bowl. Return 2 tablespoons to same pot; reserve remainder. Increase heat to high. Working in batches, add beef to pot and brown, about 7 minutes per batch. Using slotted spoon, transfer meat to large bowl.

Reduce heat to medium-low. Add chopped onion and chopped carrot to pot; sauté 5 minutes. Mix in flour. Return beef and accumulated juices to pot. Stir in tomato paste. Add herb sprigs, bay leaves, and 2 cups wine; simmer 15 minutes. Add 3 cups broth. Cover; simmer 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. Uncover; simmer until meat is tender, stirring occasionally, about 1 1/2 hours longer. Discard herb sprigs and bay leaves.

Cook pearl onions in large saucepan of boiling salted water for 2 minutes. Using 4- to 5-inch-diameter strainer, transfer onions to medium bowl; cool slightly, then peel. Return water to boil. Add carrots and cook until tender, about 4 minutes. Drain. Transfer to bowl of ice water to cool. Drain. (Bacon, stew and vegetables can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover separately and refrigerate.)

Heat 2 tablespoons reserved bacon drippings in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms; sauté until golden brown, about 6 minutes. Add pearl onions to mushrooms; sauté until onions are golden, about 4 minutes. Add carrots; cook until heated through, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Bring stew to simmer, thinning with more broth, if desired. Stir bacon and 2/3 of vegetables into stew. Transfer to large bowl. Top stew with remaining vegetables.

Slow-cooker Method: Stir the beef cubes and vegetables together in the slow cooker with 1 teaspoon of salt. Tuck the sprigs of herbs and the bay leaf into the mixture. Pour the stock and the remaining wine over the beef and vegetables — the liquid should come about 3/4 of the way to the surface of the ingredients.

Cover the slow cooker and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours. When finished, the beef should fall apart easily with a fork.

Serves six. Leftovers taste even better.

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