We are excited to share our first Notes from the Kitchen blog written by Andrea and Mitchell Hirsch - passionate wine connoisseurs and foodies living in CT - who also happen to be extended family:)
Now that we’ve made it through Sober January (phew!) and most of February, we’ve reached the dreariest gray days of late winter. Though the weather here in the northeast has been unusually (ominously) mild, we’ve hit the point where we’ve grown weary of brown grass and bare trees and long for a little color in our lives.
One sure way to bring a bright and comforting hue to a gloomy winter’s evening is with a special red wine, and nothing fits the bill better than a bottle of Mas d’Espanet’s Eolienne red. Just the first glimpse of the wine in the glass is heartening, its glowing garnet tone deepening to a rich purple. The fragrant bouquet brings to mind all the promise of spring— – plump dark berries glistening on the vine, aromatic wild herbs, and the delicate hint of wildflowers—all balanced by a stony, mineral backbone.
As beautiful as the wine is in the glass and as lovely as its nose, from the first sip we recognized that we were tasting one of the best reds from the Languedoc we’ve ever had (and we’ve had a lot!). This is a classic, but unusual Languedoc rouge from 60-year-old vines, consisting of a blend of 50% grenache and 50% carignan. Carignan is a very old variety, often disregarded and underappreciated to the point where many carignan vines were pulled up long ago. But this variety of grape brings a smoothness and rich, but not heavy, mouthfeel that is simply delicious. The result is an exceedingly palate-pleasing wine that grows even more luscious as it breathes and delivers a satisfying mouth-watering finish.
There’s no surprise in the meal we paired to complement this extraordinary wine. A dank February day was well spent watching college basketball while a classic beef stew simmered on the stove. The Elionne red was the perfect accompaniment to the fork tender beef and vegetables and the silky umami of the gravy. Add to that a loaf of crusty French bread and you have all the ingredients for a heartwarming and memorable dinner on a cold winter’s night.
Hearty Beef and Red Wine Stew
2 lbs. boneless beef ribs (cut into 1.5” chunks)
1 large onion (sliced)
2 lbs. Yukon gold potatoes
2-3 large carrots (sliced half-inch thick)
6 oz. frozen peas (thawed)
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
3 Tbsp. flour
1.5 cups beef stock
1.5 cups dry red wine (preferably Mas d’Espanet Eolienne red)
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and black pepper
Small handful of fresh thyme sprigs, tied together
Heat a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add a few tablespoons of the olive oil and heat until just shimmering. Add beef chunks in batches, browning for a few minutes on at least two sides each. Remove browned chunks to a bowl, season lightly with salt and pepper, and brown the next batch until all the beef is browned, removed, and seasoned.
Add another tablespoon or two of olive oil to the pot until heated and add the onion slices. Stir with a wood spoon and cook until translucent. Lightly season the onion slices as they cook.
Add the tomato paste, stir, and cook for a minute or so. Then add the browned beef chunks and any juices from the bowl to the pot. Sprinkle the flour over the beef and onions and stir it all with the wood spoon several times while it all cooks for another two minutes or so. When the flour loses all its white color, turn the heat up to medium-high and add the red wine. Stir and bring to a light boil. Stir, using the wood spoon to scrape up the good browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Cook for a minute or two to reduce slightly. Then add the thyme and the beef stock. Bring to a light boil, stir, then reduce heat to a low simmer. Cover the pot and let it simmer for an hour.
After one hour, add the sliced carrots, stir, cover the pot again, and simmer for another 30 minutes.
Peel and cut the potatoes into 1.5” chunks. When the 30 minutes is up, add the potatoes to the pot, stir, cover again, and simmer for another 30 minutes.
Remove the tied thyme sprigs and discard. Add the peas, cover, and simmer another 5 minutes or so until cooked. Remove the lid, raise the heat a bit, and let the stew simmer uncovered a few minutes to thicken the sauce. Remove from the heat, let sit a few minutes. Serve in warmed bowls or plates with good crusty bread.