There’s always a lot to do at Samhain. There are public rituals, coven rituals, private and personal rituals. I put on ancestor dinners and rework altars. Samhain is a busy time for The Witches Next Door. On Samhain night itself, before anything else gets underway, we’ll be sitting down together to enjoy a Samhain supper for two.
Samhain Supper For Two
So what’s on our Samhain Supper menu? It’s a perennial favourite. Julia Child’s Beef Bourguignon, warm,crusty bread, and a full, deep, dark bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon. Julia’s recipe isn’t the most hip or the most convenient to make, but it’s a recipe that pretty much perfect in every way. I’ve tinkered with it over the years, but basically I come right back to the original. There’s something particularity fitting about cooking the stew the same way Julia did, especially at Samhain. It’s like I’m paying homage and remembering a cookery ancestor.
It’s likely I’ll make the bread from scratch. I have a sourdough starter, named Pablito. Pablito came from a dear friend and mentor of ours. His sourdough starter is called Pablo. Making this bread connects us to the microbes in our environment and to our friend’s house, where we’ve sat an enjoyed many magickal meals.
And the Cabernet is a gift from this land we call home. The wine is sumptuous and velvety and black as ink. Drinking the wine together connects us to all the times we’ve stared into each other’s eyes, over a candlelit table, and just made googly eyes at each other. A secondary connection is to the high priestess and high priest of our coven, fast friends, beloved, magickal co-conspirators, and fellow oenophiles. Drinking wine reminds us of many a “cakes and ale” with our coven, and a wonderful celebration in the Napa Valley.
The whole meal connects us to the living and the dead and to this very moment that we’re sharing, right now.
Samhain Supper For Two Ingredients
- 1/2 pound bacon, chopped
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 pounds lean stewing beef (cut into approximately 2″ chunks)
- 1 carrot, sliced (or 10-15 baby carrots, coarse chopped)
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 3 cups full-bodied red wine
- 2 – 3 cups beef stock
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 2 cloves garlic, smashed
- 1/2 teaspoon thyme
- 1 crumbled bay leaf (optional)
For the brown-braised onions (Oignons Glacés à Brun)
- 1/2 bag frozen white pearl onions, defrosted and patted dry
- 1 1/2 tablespoons butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 cup beef stock or beef broth
- Salt and pepper
For the sautéed mushrooms (Champignons Sautés au Beurre)
- 1 pound mushrooms, quartered
- 4 tablespoons butter
- Salt and pepper
Samhain Supper For Two Directions
Gather and prepare your ingredients prior to cooking. Chop the bacon, chop the beef, chop the veggies, smash the garlic… Preparing your ‘mise en place’ will help things go smoothly once you’ve fired up the stove.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Arrange the beef chunks in a single layer on a tray lined with paper towels. Use additional paper towels to thoroughly pat the beef dry.
In a large dutch oven pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook for several minutes, until the bacon is browned and has released most of its fat. Use a slotted spoon to remove the bacon, leaving the fat in the pan.
Over medium/medium-high heat, brown the beef in the bacon fat for a minute or two on each side. Do not overcrowd the pan. The beef should quickly develop a nice caramelized brown on the surface. Turn the beef to brown on all sides, then remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Repeat until all of the beef has been browned.
Once all of the beef has been browned, add the carrots and onions to the pan. Cook for a few minutes until they develop a golden brown color. Then, carefully pour out the excess bacon fat, leaving the veggies in the pan.
Add the beef and bacon back into the pan. Toss with salt and pepper. Then, sprinkle the flour over the mixture and toss again. Place the pan, uncovered, on the middle rack of the preheated oven for 4 minutes. Toss the mixture, then cook for 4 more minutes.
Remove the pan from the oven and reduce the heat to 325 degrees.
Add the wine*, beef stock, tomato paste, garlic, and thyme. Add just enough beef stock to barely cover the beef.
Bring to a simmer on top of the stove. Then, cover the pan, and place it in the oven. Cook, covered, for about 3 hours. Adjust the temperature slightly, if necessary, so that the liquid maintains a gentle simmer throughout the cooking time.
While the beef is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms.
For the onions:
Heat the butter and oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook for about 10 minutes, occasionally shaking the pan to allow the onions to roll around in the pan and brown on all sides. Then, add the beef stock. Bring to a simmer, then lower the heat. Cover and simmer slowly for about 15-20 minutes. Check the pan towards the end of the cooking time. Most of the liquid should have evaporated and formed a brown glaze around the onions. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
For the mushrooms:
Heat the butter in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
Season with salt and pepper, then set aside.
Once the beef has finished cooking, carefully pour the mixture through a sieve or strainer. Allow the sauce to collect in a large measuring cup (the 4-cup kind) or glass bowl. Return the beef and bacon to the dutch oven pan. Discard the carrot and onion pieces.
Arrange the brown-braised onions and sauteed mushrooms over the beef.
Allow the sauce to rest for a few minutes. The excess fat will rise to the surface as it rests. Use a spoon to collect and discard the excess fat. Repeat until much of the excess fat has been discarded.
You should have about 2 – 2 1/2 cups of sauce. If you have much more than this, pour the sauce into a small saucepan and simmer uncovered until it’s reduced a bit. It should be quite flavorful and thick enough to lightly coat the back of a spoon. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, as desired. Pour the sauce over the beef, mushrooms, and onions.
Serve over boiled potatoes.
Full Transparency, rather than retyping this recipe from start to finish, I “borrowed” this recipe from The Gourmand Mom.