Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Beef Burgundy

Here’s a tale I’ve never told: Beef Burgundy. When I was in the Navy and living at 8240 McCloy Road in Norfolk, I always had two roommates. The people changed a bit over the about four years I lived there as people got out of the Navy or transferred, but we were always a very close group. We were friends first and roommates second. We had a bank account for the “house” and we each payed into that account each month. If I recall the numbers correctly, our rent was $100 a month (those WERE the good old days) and we each put in $100, so we had a budget of $300 a month. After paying rent and utilities, we had over a hundred bucks for groceries.

When I cooked I liked to make casseroles. They make an easy, one dish dinner, and everything was done at once since there was only one dish. I had a “Campbell’s Soup” cookbook and, naturally, every recipe was based on their soup. There was a meatloaf that had Tomato soup and a tuna casserole with Cream of Mushroom. But the pièce de résistance was my Beef Burgundy. It used two cans of soup, Beef Broth and something else that I don’t recall now.

It was a complicated recipe. You would slice the beef into cubes. You would fry some bacon and then brown the beef in the bacon fat. It had small potatoes, carrots, onions, and garlic, plus maybe some celery. Ultimately the whole mixture went into a large casserole dish and was baked for some time. I think it served about 12. That was OK, as left-overs were another thing that three single guys would appreciate. Plus, sometimes, we had guests.

I think the dish was quite popular with my roommates, but I’ll wait for some of them to comment and respond in their own words … assuming any of them remember the dish. But this is the story I really want to tell:

I was home on leave … or it could even be after I got out of the service. Anyway, I was going to make the dish for my mom and dad. I had it all prepared and in the oven cooking when my dad commented that it smelled very garlicky. I explained that it had garlic in it, two cloves. My dad picked up the little empty cardboard box from the counter that had contained the garlics. He said, “Where’s the rest of the garlic.” I said, “I put both of the cloves into the dish.” He then explained that the little box had contained two bunches of garlic and that each bunch had about a dozen cloves. He was a grocer and an excellent cook himself, so he knew the difference between a bunch of garlic and a clove. Apparently I didn’t. Well, I was only twenty-something years old and not a great cook … obviously, so I didn’t know the difference. I had put something like 20 or 30 cloves into a recipe calling for only 2.

The good news is that the extra garlic seamed to just cook out of the dish and, other than tasting very, very Italian, the Beef Burgundy was OK. At least it was all eaten up. Just as a good airplane landing is any that you walk away from, a good dish is any that people will actually eat.

So that’s my story. I haven’t made Beef Burgundy since then … it is a lot of work. But I have recreated some of my other dishes from the “Campbell’s Soup Cook Book.” Come over some time when I’m cooking and check for garlic in the air.

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